By: Daniel Cecchini / Source: La Tecl@ Eñe / The Dawn News / July, 19, 2016.
In this article, Daniel Cecchini recalls how shocked he was when he learned about Mario Roberto Santucho’s death. Cecchini also reminds us that 40 years from that, the remains of the General Secretary of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores, PRT) and Commander of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) are still missing, although his murderers couldn’t erase his example.
The headline of La Gaceta, newspaper of the city of La Plata (province of Buenos Aires), read at a glance in the hands of a paperboy, felt like a bucket of ice: “Santucho Killed”, said the headline, in 6 columns, and a catastrophic font.
I was walking along 1st Street, from 53th to 47th, around 3 pm, to met with Beto (Alberto Peón, who later also went missing) so that he could take me to a meeting —I was going to go blindfolded, as it was usually done back then, to maintain the location secret and the comrades safe. The paperboy put that headline to my face, in 1st and 50th, near the school I had attended, and as I felt that bucket of ice splashing down on me, almost instantly, I said to myself that it was impossible, it had to be a lie.
Later, on 1st and 48th, one look at Beto’s face was enough to know the truth. “It’s a lie”, I insisted, with the typical wishful thinking of my short age (I was 20 at the time) but weighed down by the pessimism of the gun I was carrying with me.
“No, it’s true”, Beto said, there, standing there, almost freezing, both of us staring at each other. And I remember how he looked: his face a little blushed, his blond mustache almost touching his lips, and his incipient belly, which I thought was condemnable for a revolutionary militant, even though he was already 27 years old. “No, it’s true”, Beto repeated, and I didn’t answer. La Gaceta, which he was holding, said that they had also killed Benito Urteaga, Domingo Menna and “El Pelado” Gorriarán Merlo. “This can’t be true” I said. All of them together in an apartment, no escape. This can’t be true. Beto didn’t answer. He only said “El Pelado” didn’t fall. Beto placed my head on his shoulder, I looked down, closed my eyes and he started walking me, blindfolded, to the house in which we were supposed to have that meeting, leading me with his arm, saying nothing. We had to move on.
I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a meeting between political leaders of all fronts (in my case, the University Front), I think that Federico Carlos Martínez (who also went missing) was also there, with his clear eyes, which were covered by tears that day. I do remember that what we had planned suddenly changed. On that same night, if I remember correctly, our task was to go out and do grafitti on the walls of the city.
In the meeting, our comrade Le Duan had proposed to paint the slogan “Commander Carlos, until victory always” (Carlos stood for Carlos Ramírez, the alias that Robi Santucho had chosen for himself). I said no, no one knows him by that name, we should paint “Mario Roberto Santucho, Until Victory Always, Until Victory or Death for Argentina”.
The most important thing is that on that night, the night in which Santucho was killed, amidst the terrifying repression all over the country, which reached extreme levels in La Plata, nobody refused to go out and paint, barely equipped with some spray paint cans and a few guns that could do very little.
What I have just described is barely an anecdote, one of the many that all of us —the militants of the PRT-ERP who survived the terrorism of the Peronist state and the following dictatorship— can narrate. It’s a personal memory.
Forty years after Mario Santucho’s death, in this 2016 Argentina, I just want to think about his legacy. I’m not referring to his capacity to analyze politics, nor his unquestionable leadership (sometimes excessively so), nor his political and military decisions.
I’m talking about his revolutionary legacy. About what his example —the example he gave to every one of the PRT-ERP militants—, left to us, even to the youngest militants of those times. And he left that to us for ever, as a way of thinking and acting in life.
Santucho taught us that politics are a revolutionary tool, and with his example he showed that we can and should give our lives for revolutionary politics. That we study, work and live for that political militancy. That we should give everything, without expecting anything in return. That we live and die for it, but we should never live from it, as bourgeois politicians do.
Forty years after the death of Mario Roberto Santucho, General Secretary of the PRT and commander of the ERP, his remains are still missing. It’s not a coincidence, nor a simple vengeance of the civilian and military genocides. It’s a new attempt, (which has turn out to be successful so far, but will fail in the long term) to make his his example disappear. The example of a kind of revolutionary militant that nowadays is sorely needed.