U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to declassify secret files relating to the country’s role in Argentina’s 1976 military coup, during a visit to the Latin American country.
Following his visit to Cuba, President Obama held talks with Argentine president Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires before flying south to the city of Bariloche, at the gateway to the Patagonian Lake District.
During a joint press conference at the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace, Mr Obama praised the policies Mr Macri had implemented since his election in December.
“President Macri is a man in a hurry. I’m impressed because he has moved rapidly on so many reforms to reconnect Argentina with the world community,” Mr Obama said, according to the BBC.
“Argentina needs to be a critical partner with us. It is one of the biggest, most important countries in the region.”
Held to ransom
One of Mr Macri’s most significant achievements has been reaching an in-principle deal with holdout financial creditors, known in Argentina as “vulture funds”, in an attempt to help the country’s ailing economy. But the move has proved controversial with some claiming the funds were holding Argentina to ransom.
Mr Obama’s first presidential visit to Argentina was also not without controversy as it coincided with the 40th anniversary of the military coup, known as the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice.
An estimated 30,000 people were murdered during the dictatorship, which lasted until 1983 and is known as the “Dirty War”.
Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose relatives were disappeared during the dictatorship, boycotted Mr Obama’s visit arguing the timing was insensitive.
“It’s a provocation, it’s our date,” Nora Cortiñas from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo told The Guardian.
To mark the occasion Mr Obama and Mr Macri visited the Memorial Park in Buenos Aires on Thursday and Mr Obama reaffirmed his commitment to declassifying military and intelligence records from the period.
Today, in response to a request from President Macri, 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 the responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.
Mr Obama said, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.
However the gesture did not appease protesters in Bariloche, a popular tourist city. Several hundred protesters marched through the city centre before facing off with riot police while chanting “go away Obama.”
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Police struggled to hold back protesters as the US president’s motorcade sped down a lakeside road towards Llao Llao, a hotel and golf course where the First Family was expected to spend a few hours relaxing before leaving Argentina.