Remarks by President Obama and President Macri of Argentina at Parque de la Memoria
Buenos Aires, Argentina
10:50 A.M. ART
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning. It’s humbling to join President Macri at this poignant and beautiful memorial in honor of the victims of the Argentinian military dictatorship, and the suffering their families have endured.
This park is a tribute to their memory. But it’s also a tribute to the bravery and tenacity of the parents, the spouses, siblings, and the children who love and remember them, and who refuse to give up until they get the truth and the justice they deserve.
To those families -- your relentlessness, your determination has made a difference. You’ve driven Argentina’s remarkable efforts to hold responsible those who perpetrated these crimes. You are the ones who will ensure that the past is remembered, and the promise of “Nunca Más” is finally fulfilled.
It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past. Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people -- that can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.
Today, we also commemorate those who fought side-by-side with Argentinians for human rights. The scientists who answered the call from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to help identify victims in Argentina and around the world. The journalists, like Bob Cox, who bravely reported on human rights abuses despite threats to them and their families.
The diplomats, like Tex Harris, who worked in the U.S. Embassy here to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared. And like Patt Derian, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for President Jimmy Carter -- a President who understood that human rights is a fundamental element of foreign policy. That understanding is something that has influenced the way we strive to conduct ourselves in the world ever since.
There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past. Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for; when we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights. And that was the case here.
But because of the principles of Americans who served our government, our diplomats documented and described many instances of human rights violations. In 2002, as part of a two-year effort, the U.S. declassified and released thousands of those records, many of which were used as evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Today, in response to a request from President Macri, and to continue helping the families of the victims find some of the truth and justice they deserve, I can announce that the United States government will declassify even more documents from that period, including, for the first time, military and intelligence records -- because I believe we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.
A memorial like this speaks to the responsibilities that all of us have. We’ll cannot forget the past. But when we find the courage to confront it, when we find the courage to change that past, that’s when we build a better future. That’s what the families of the victims have done. And the United States of America wants to continue to be a partner in your efforts. Because what happened here in Argentina is not unique to Argentina, and it's not confined to the past. Each of us have a responsibility each and every day to make sure that wherever we see injustice, wherever we see rule of law flouted, honest witnesses, that we're speaking out and that we're examining our own hearts and taking responsibility to make this a better place for our children and our grandchildren.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much, dear President, for joining us on such an important date for the Argentine people. This is the National Day for Memory and Justice and Truth. Justice and truth are two words that mean a lot and have a deep, profound meaning for the Argentine people.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the military coup that consolidated the beginning of the darkest period in our history. And as I said during my inaugural address at the sessions in Congress, at the beginning of the month of March -- on March 1st -- this is a marvelous opportunity for all of the Argentine people, together, to say and claim “never again.” Never again in Argentina to political violence. Never again to institutional violence.
Today, we remember, with pain and grief, while thanking those who have joined us on this visit, the victims who paid with their lives the intolerance and violence that were the hallmark of Argentina’s past.
So again, as you stated, Mr. President, today we need to reaffirm our commitment to democracy and human rights. Every day, somewhere in the world they are jeopardized.
So, again, I thank you for this visit to our country, on this very special day for us. This gives us an opportunity again to work together, the way you have been doing it, for the defense of these causes around the world. This calls upon us not to be just passive onlookers of any violation, as has often been the case at other times in the history of mankind.
Thank you for this token of friendship and for this commitment to work together, also especially as regards this particularly painful time in the history of our country.
A good day to you all. (Applause.)
11:05 A.M. ART