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Norma Arrostito, la Gaby (2008)

Documentary about Norma Arrostito, an Argentine political activist and leftist militant.
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Norma Arrostito ...
Herself (archive footage)
Ricardo Díaz
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Documentary about Norma Arrostito, an Argentine political activist and leftist militant.

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November 2008 (Argentina)  »

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Featured in ¿Qué fue de tu vida?: Julieta Díaz (2011) See more »

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The life and death of a militant.
12 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On September 1955, populist Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón was ousted and exiled by a military coup. The junta that took power tried some half-hearted gestures of reconciliation with the defeated Peronists, but it was displaced in November by another junta headed by General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu. Peronists were implacably persecuted; the mere mention of the name "Peron" in public would land you in jail. Aramburu did not hesitate to place the leaders of a failed Peronist uprising in front of a firing squad in 1956, an act of barbarism unseen in Argentina since the civil wars of the 1820s. Workers' rights, many achieved under Perón, were rolled back and labor leaders jailed.

After 1955, Argentina's governments were either military (installed by a coup) or "democratic", coming from elections where the Peronist party was not allowed to participate, even with a candidate other than Perón. The economy was run to the ground by all governments alike, in an orgy of incompetence and corruption. This gradually restored luster to Perón's past achievements. He was living in exile in Madrid, banished from Argentina but planning his political comeback.

In 19th century Argentine history, "montonero" denotes a member of a squad of armed insurgents. The name was taken up by a left wing Peronist group that acquired size and weight in the 1960s. They condemned the fake democratic processes of the time and chose armed struggle instead. They were supported by Perón. Their violent actions and those of other urban guerrilla groups were followed by brutal counteractions by the police and the military. This created a climate of insecurity that finally convinced the military to allow the Peronist party to participate in elections. With Héctor José Cámpora as presidential candidate the party won by a large margin in 1973. Cámpora allowed Perón to return and new elections were called in September 1973 with Perón as a candidate. Perón won handily but his government was short lived; he died in July 1974. Power passed to the Vice President, Perón's third wife. She was ousted by a military coup in 1976.

Esther Norma Arrostito was born in 1940. Coming from a Communist background, she joined Montoneros in the late sixties and took the nom de guerre Gaby. She was instrumental in the kidnapping, trial and execution of ex-dictator Aramburu in June 1970. She and her surviving comrades were granted amnesty by the Cámpora regime and Arrostito became staff supervisor of the governor of Buenos Aires Province. The organization fared badly under Perón; on May 1974, in a public speech, Perón disowned Montoneros and all but expelled them from the Peronist fold. The group was formally proscribed after Perón's death and passed to clandestinity, ruthlessly hunted down by the security services especially after the military takeover in March 1976. Arrostito was reported shot and killed after a firefight with an army patrol on December 1976, but was in reality taken alive with the purpose of forcing her to inform on other members of Montoneros. To her credit, she endured torture and humiliation without betraying a single comrade. She was murdered on January 1978 by her frustrated captors. Her body was never found.

This documentary consists mostly of interviews with some of Arrostito's fellow Montoneros (very few survived) and with historians familiar with the dark period of Argentine history of which she was an important component. Some episodes are reenacted on screen.


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