During the military dictatorship in Argentina, 30,000 people disappeared, with many thrown alive out of airplanes. One of the aircraft used for “death flights” is now to be exhibited in a museum, but there has been criticism over the plan.

40 years after the end of the military dictatorship in Argentina, an aircraft used for the infamous “death flights” has been returned to the South American country. The Skyvan PA-51 aircraft was presented on Monday at the Buenos Aires city airport’s military section. During the military dictatorship, people were thrown alive from the airplane’s cargo hold into the Rio de la Plata, thereby leaving them to certain death.

The cargo aircraft is to be displayed in the exEsma museum in future. The former naval mechanics school was a secret prison during the military dictatorship (1976-1983), in which, according to estimates by human rights organizations, over 4,000 kidnapped opposition members were tortured and murdered.

During the military dictatorship, it is estimated that up to 30,000 government opponents, leftist activists, unionists, and students disappeared. Security forces killed numerous people in secret prisons in the fight against supposed communist subversion. Among other things, the military drugged and bound opponents before throwing them from airplanes into the river.

“Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” would rather scrap the plane

Twelve people, including three founding members of the human rights organization “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” and two French nuns, were thrown from the aircraft into Rio de la Plata in 1977. Last year, four former military officers were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the “death flights” – a general, a commander, and two other officers.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo rejected the return of the aircraft. The group was founded in 1977 by women whose children were kidnapped during the military dictatorship. Every Thursday, they demonstrated with white headscarves on the square in front of the government palace in the center of Buenos Aires, demanding answers about their children’s fate.

“We mothers refuse for the plane from which our three comrades were thrown into the water alive by the dictatorship to be returned from the United States and displayed at exEsma,” the group said in a statement. “Instead of exhibiting it as a trophy of memory, we want its iron to be melted down and turned into a huge white headscarf to honor our struggle. We mothers have always been against making a show out of death.”