Argentine dictatorship’s ‘death flight’ plane returned home for a historical reckoning

Members of human rights organizations walk Saturday alongside one of the planes that carried out "death flights" on the tarmac of the Jorge Newbery international airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Flying from Florida to Buenos Aires usually takes about 10 hours, but the turboprop landing in Argentina on Saturday was no normal plane. It had been en route for 20 days, and many Argentines eagerly refreshed flight tracking software to keep tabs on its progress.

The Short SC.7 Skyvan carried no crucial cargo nor VIP passengers. Rather, the plane will be another means for Argentines to reckon with the brutal history of their country’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

The plane, which was discovered in the U.S., is the first ever proven in a court to have been used by Argentina’s junta to hurl political detainees to their deaths from the sky, one of the bloody period’s most cold-blooded atrocities.

Argentina’s government will add the plane to the Museum of Memory, which is in what was the junta’s most infamous secret detention center. Known as the ESMA, it housed many of the detainees who were later tossed alive from the “death flights” into the ocean or river.

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