We seek to act as plaintiffs in the Acindar case

A plant owned by the Argentine steelmaker housed both a clandestine detention center and a police outpost during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Company executives pointed out the workers who should be kidnapped and provided the military with photographs from their personal files so they could be identified.

CELS presented itself as a plaintiff in the judicial case investigating the abduction, murder, torture and enforced disappearance of workers by the security and armed forces – crimes in which Acindar company officials were directly complicit.

In this video, Victorio Paulón explains the obstacles put in the way of prosecuting corporate responsibility in crimes against humanity. Paulón, a member of CELS’ board of directors, has been one of the key promoters of the investigation into Acindar.

In late 1975, the company had ordered its workers to obtain identity documents from the Federal Police and get their photographs taken to renew their factory IDs. These photos ended up being used by the military to identify workers during kidnapping operations and raids. Acindar put at the military’s disposition means of transportation and its facilities: in its plant a police outpost was set up and a clandestine detention center was operated out of factory lodgings for single people. Some of those kidnapped were taken there and tortured on the premises. Also, some of the victims were abducted in places where only senior company officials knew they could be found.

In this repressive context, Acindar benefited from the steelmaking industry’s process of concentration during the last dictatorship: it absorbed other companies in the sector and became an oligopolistic group. The bulk of production was taken to the plants in Villa Constitución and la Tablada, and the size of the workforce was cut. The workers in Villa Constitución (Santa Fe province) had been leading an organizational drive with better wages and increased worker affiliations, which meant they were seen as leaders of combative trade-unionism.

In many cases, the persecution and subsequent disappearance of workers was aimed at members of the internal commission of delegates or union activists. After the coup of March 24, 1976, the Army took control of the trade union, firings increased and more than one hundred workers, delegates and activists were incarcerated.

Company documentation contributes relevant material: meeting minutes, balance sheets, details of the labor conflicts and profits obtained. The chief executive of Acindar during the dictatorship, General Alcides López Aufranc, wrote a letter that accompanied the 1975-1976 company report: “Since March 24, 1976…labor discipline has been reestablished, subversion has been fought with all intensity, and economic measures have been taken that allow for meeting external debt commitments and reducing inflation. Public spending has been limited and tax collection is increasing.”

Acindar took advantage of public resources, benefits and perks from the Argentine state: industrial promotion schemes, deferrals and refinancing, the state’s absorption of its debt of $652 million dollars. The chairman of the board of directors in 1975 was José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who served as the dictatorship’s economy minister starting in 1976.

That said, the case in which we requested to act as plaintiffs does not investigate economic crimes, but rather violent crimes committed by economic actors. In that sense, evidence indicates that the members of Acindar’s board of directors and the company’s senior staff were participants in the crimes against humanity perpetrated against workers and against those who supported their demands. We requested that they be investigated for the abductions, killings and enforced disappearances that have already been reported as well as for those that come to light during the judicial probe.