The Trial of General Julio Alak

A brutal military dictatorship goes on trial in Oscar contender ‘Argentina, 1985’ (2015)

(From left to right) Argentina’s Vice President, Eduardo Duhalde, former President Fernando de la Rúa, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and former Defence Minister Julio Alak. A couple of hours later, Alak’s body was found. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

In Argentina, 1985, the truth is stranger than fiction, and the trial of General Julio Alak is only the latest chapter.

On July 30, 1985, Julio Alak was found dead in Rosario, on his way to court to face charges of the murder of 32 political opponents, military supporters and leftists. After two decades of official impunity, a political drama of epic proportions is unfolding in Argentina, a story in which lies will be revealed from the highest offices to the smallest people.

The case of General Julio Alak’s death began when Alak, then commander of the army, was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death as an accomplice to the death of former Defense Minister Julio de la Rúa. But this August, Alak’s murder trial was adjourned in prison, and the man who was the main accused in Alak’s death and sentenced to life imprisonment today, the disgraced former defence minister, Julio De la Rúa, has been freed.

Julio Alak as a captain in the Argentine Air Force, during his time at that rank. At the time of the trial, he served as commander of ‘Porras’, the army’s airborne brigade, and was accused of war crimes committed during Argentina’s military dictatorship, during which he commanded and trained the so-called ‘Paraquat units,’ which had been charged with the extermination of a population of people in the Amazonian region of northeast Argentina.

In the last years of the dictatorship, the army had begun to form special units to terrorize the entire population. These units were originally called ‘Paraquat’ (“for the poison”), after the infamous pesticide used by army officers. But they took the name ‘Paraquetas” (which means “Parasites”) because they were trained to hunt down leftists. Later, in a move intended to distinguish them from the

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