There’s Luis. Sitting at a table in the Panama house he shared with his partner and their children, he puts pamphlet after pamphlet inside envelopes, writes the addresses from Argentina of people he doesn’t know, readies these letters that he’ll send from different offices of the local post. During the 1978 FIFA World Cup, from his exile, the journalist Luis Bruschtein sent hundreds of letters with pamphlets with which the Montoneros organization, of which he he was still a part of, denounced the crimes that the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Massera and Orlando Agosti was committing in Argentina, his homeland. “We, the exiled comrades, were very interested in creating incidents that had repercussions in the country. In some way we were always imagining things that could reach the interior” of Argentina, he remembers.
Luis remembers that his career as a journalist began around the year 1972, some years after he became a political militant. The Triple A, the far right parapolice group that carried out the hunt of leftist militants which served as a preamble of the dictatorship’s State terrorism, fell on him and his whole family, and in 1975 he had to go into exile. By then he was already a part of the structure of Montoneros.
Venezuela was the first destination for his exile. He then settled in Mexico, with his partner and children. There he learnt of the kidnapping and disappearance of his dad, Santiago Bruschtein, and of his three siblings, Aída “Noni” Bruschtein, Irene Bruschtein and Víctor Bruschtein. His mom, the Madre de Plaza de Mayo Laura Bonaparte, also settled in Mexico. There, Luis made contact with other militant men and women who also had had to leave Argentina.
Here, the civic-military dictatorship was destroying trade-unions and political, social, and student organizations. Luis remembers that the year of the World Cup was “very active”. He lived through it from Panama, where he travelled with “two or three things he had to do” as a representative of Montoneros.
One of them was organizing, along Omar Torrijos Herreta’s government, that had been born of a military coup and was by then on its way to democratization, a reunion of the executive comittee of the Latin American Federation of Journalists. The Felap, as was its acronym, was created by journalists from Argentina and other countries of the continent, in Mexico, in June 1976. “All of them journalists who were willing to participate on the denouncement of what was happening in the country”, says Luis, who was part of the founding group.
He also organized popular communication workshops for the Student Federation of Panama, the “left wing side of torrijismo”, as Luis defines them, and manifestations to the Argentine Embassy in said Central American country.
But that was a special year for Argentina and the exiled Argentines were noticing it as well. Luis remembers that during the exile --that for some, like Luis, was temporary, but for others became permanent-- “the feeling at heart, particularly during the moment of the 1978 World Cup, was that they were staying”. He says that the dictatorship “took advantage (of the World Cup’s reaization) from a propagandistic angle” and that the intention of the militants that had managed to escape the claws of state terrorism and were finding out about the horror from different parts of the world was to counter it. Just as in Europe the Comité pour le Boycott de l’Organisation par l’Argentine de la Coupe du Monde de Football (the COBA, Committee for the Boycott of Argentina’s Organization of the Football World Cup) was born, in America there were things being done as well.
The third task Luis had been entrusted in Panama was establishing there another point for the diffusion of the repression and the human rights violations that were going on in Argentina. The diffusion, however, wasn’t meant for the continent, but rather for the people living within the borders dominated by the Argentine armed forces.
Luis remembers: “From an international point of view, what the dictatorship was was abundantly clear, which was a different case from what was happening in Argentina, where the military talked about an anti-Argentina campaign going on on the outside, and lots of good-faithed people believed it. “We, the exiled comrades, were very interested in creating incidents that had an impact in the country. We were always imagining ways to make it happen”.
The dissemination action was the massive sending of letters with denouncing pamphlets. For this task, Luis counted with two main elements: parts of Argentine telephone guides that exiled militants got from friends and family who were travelling outside, and the denouncing leaflets that he had managed to get into Panama from Mexico thanks to the help of a secretary of Torrijos Herrera.
“The flyers were made in Mexico and my partner brought them to Panama when she travelled with my kids. Sargent José de Jesús Martínez, ‘Chuchu’ Martínez, was the one who helped us get the package in; he accompanied us with a military truck and we cleared customs without getting checked”, he points out.
40 years went by and most of the details from the pamphlets have escaped Luis’ memory, who nonetheless still remembers they had “little drawings of the World Cup gaucho” and that the “short texts mostly put emphasis on the disappeared”. “Everything was very much inspired by Walsh’s letter”, he adds. He’s referring to the “Open Letter from a writer to the Military Junta”, in which journalist Rodolfo Walsh publicly denounced the systematic extermination plan a year after the establishment of the Coup d’État.
From his house in the working class neighbourhood of Río Abajo –they lived in an apartment in “the only building made of blocks there was in a neighbourhood of dirt roads”–, the journalist put 100 denouncing pamphlets every day into their respective envelopes and sent them as letters. He used to go to different post offices, he tried to send “thirty letters from one office, fifty from another”. During this time where the internet, e-mail and social networks didn’t exist, correspondence wasn’t unusual, but Luis admits he went “with a little bit of a guilty conscience and tried to look inconspicuous”. He still laughs when he remembers the post office employees joking around with him. “Wow, you’ve got a really big family”, he says they used to tell him.
He has no exact data of the effectiveness of the campaign, although he believes “the letters must have reached” their respective destinations. He can also imagine the result, a different one than the one they were looking for. He assumes that “the people who got them wouldn’t have found them very amusing”. Right in the middle of the repression, getting letters from strangers denouncing kidnappings, tortures, disappearances. “They probably got really scared and buried the pamphlets ten feet underground”.