The story of a journalist who put justice before the scoop

The story of a journalist who put justice before the scoop
The story of a journalist who put justice before the scoop

This is a story of testimonies. Two testimonies. That of José Julián “EL Gringo” Solanille, a countryman, a man of the countryside, who lived in the area surrounding the La Perla clandestine detention center, and that of Miguel Angel “Tubo” Durán, a journalist from La Voz del Interior, a passionate researcher who, when he had “the tip” of information, did not rest until he had unraveled everything and turned it into news.

Solanille died in 2017, at the age of 88. Durán passed away last Monday, at the age of 71. Both gave testimony to perhaps the darkest period in Argentine history.

The experience of the muleteer was a life experience that marked him forever. He lived on lands near La Perla and looked after the horse of Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, commander of the Third Army Corps, lord and master of the lives and property of the inhabitants of 10 Argentine provinces, who ended his days with 13 life sentences for crimes against humanity.

“El Gringo” Solanille was one of the first to testify before the Conadep Córdobachaired by Luis Rébora (former rector of the UNC).

Durán recounted it thus: “We went to look for him in Miramar in Rébora’s car. The witness was scared because, the day before, a Ford Falcon had driven past his house several times.
What impressed me most –said Solanille– it was not seeing so many corpses, because there comes a time when one gets used to it, but the appearance of two girls who were thrown from a helicopter; they fell a few meters from my house. They were two beautiful blondes, they looked like twins…”. This was part of the extract from the report recorded by Durán in January 1984 and published in La Voz del Interior only in the edition of the following Friday, March 2.
“The next day,” Durán writes, “we witnessed the excavations of a common grave in the San Vicente Cemetery. Seven people were being sought for murder in Los Surgentes. Every time the bulldozer enlarged the pit, it removed skulls pierced by bullets. There were hundreds of people buried. Most of them came from the morgues of the San Roque Hospital and the Córdoba Hospital. There were no records; they had disappeared. The Municipality collaborated and some death certificates appeared.”

The horror. Conadep Córdoba, writes Durán, “was launched in March 1984, but some of its members had been looking for answers to so much horror for a long time. Rubén Arroyo (a lawyer, also a member of the Córdoba chapter of Conadep) was one of them. We had met months before. The culprit of that friendship was a simple man from the countryside, father of 10 children: José Julián Solanille.”
“The gringo didn’t sleep at night. He couldn’t get that endless horror movie out of his mind. which had him as a spectator from September 27, 1976 and for two years in the La Perla field. There he looked after Luciano Benjamín Menéndez’s horse. Afterwards, Solanille settled in Miramar and raised otters to survive. The insomnia that tormented him led him to speak with a journalist from La Voz del Interior” (Durán).

Scoop or Justice? In this chapter of the story, “El Tubo” Durán is faced with a difficult dilemma for a journalist: should he get the scoop or be useful to justice?

He himself told it in that note, thus proving once again that when it came to getting the news, he set no limits: “On January 26, 1984, Solanille had lunch at my house. It is difficult to explain how fear and courage can manifest themselves simultaneously. The report lasted more than an hour, but the story was not published. The safety of the person interviewed and the need to provide that testimony to the courts were more important than the scoop. So, in March I began to frequent the headquarters of the Conadep located on Catamarca Street, between Rivadavia and Alvear, where relatives of missing persons paraded daily.”

The Conadep report. Miguel “Tubo” Durán also participated in the final report of the Concadep Córdoba: “Months had passed. One day, Arroyo called me. ‘I was asked to do the final report. I want you and Luis Reinaudi (a lawyer and journalist who also passed away) to help me.’
Time was pressing. It took two full days of typing in a Lexicon to compile all the horror and rescue the most serious facts. I had to write the compilation of that truth that could be unearthed.”
“Arroyo and Reinaudi made some corrections and devoted themselves to the prologue, to the political content. Once the work was finished, Arroyo read each of the pages to his peers at the Conadep. They removed some adjectives and approved it.”
“‘The work will be paid for,’ Arroyo promised. Money was not important. The only payment accepted was the scoop. When (then governor Eduardo César) Angeloz received the report on the steps (of the Government House), the newspaper printed two pages summarizing the content of the Cordoba version of Never Again.”

This is a tribute to a journalist who knew how to honor “the best profession in the world” according to Gabriel García Márquez, he deservedly always received the recognition, admiration and affection not only of those of us who shared an editorial office with him and received his teachings, but also of other colleagues, politicians, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and men of the security services who crossed paths with him.

*The photo was taken by Irma Montiel when Solanille appeared to testify in Federal Courts.

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