THE DEPOSITION THAT WAS NOT TO BE
By Claudio A. Kussman
(Extract of The deposition that was not to be)
WHY DO I CLAIM THAT ARGENTINA IS NO LONGER MY HOME, NOR CAN IT BE?
Because I was incarcerated for the “crime” of being a policeman 24-7 for 31 years, despite what those people prone to generalization and prejudice may think.
Becasue some of the awards and honors granted me during those 31 years of service are now turned into “evidence” of my criminal acts, disregarding the fact that none were granted for fighting terrorism.
Because most of these awards, monetary, were worth less than a pack of cigarettes, and their effects lasted even less. And now, in the hands of “justice”, they come to life as infamous examples of my “criminal conduct”.
Because all my hard work, sacrifice and effort to be each day a better policeman, in the end was worthless, and worse than that, it was detrimental for me and my family.
I BETRAYED MY COMRADES, AND I PRESENTED THEIR WIDOWS WITH CHEAP FLAGS
Because the deaths of several policemen serving under my command, whom I encouraged to fight crime with all their might, were not worth such a loss. The present circumstances force me to rethink my past ideals, and I feel I betrayed them. The cheap flags I presented to their widows were worth nothing, and represented nothing.
Because nowadays, the thin blue Police line separating honest working citizens from criminals and predators is broken.
justice IS WRITTEN IN LOWER CASE LETTERS.
Because, as I am being held in prison at the disposal of “justice” (always in lower case), given my age, I am still subject to different “softening” procedures. Nevertheless, they shall not shut me up.
Because, being at the disposal of “justice”, they tried to break my morale by parading me in handcuffs and surrounded by a heavy guard, outside the required path, around the Aeroparque airport, as if I were a circus animal (I am absolutely against animals kept in circuses, and strongly uphold the view of creating animal sanctuaries).
Because at the time of my apprehension, I was deprived of my ID and my health insurance (IOMA) card, in an attitude more typical of a fundamentalist country than a democracy.
Because “justice” did not care for my word nor the truth I uphold.
Because “justice”, as regards me, ignores the Constitution, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Code.
Because “justice” ignores the existing Treaties of Rome, under which I am unwilling to take refuge due to the fact that I am innocent.
I AM GLAD THAT I SENT PART OF MY FAMILY AWAY FROM THIS COUNTRY.
Because since my apprehension on November 28th, 2014, those relatives live in constant anxiety, but at least they are very far away.
Because Argentina is headed towards an abyss, and nobody seems to notice or care.
Because, without seeking it or caring for it, I find myself entangled in an ideological struggle which has divided the country.
Because the secret service records and listens to my conversations on the prison telephones, so as to monitor my ideas and thoughts, assess my goods, know my friends and witness the tears of impotence shed by my wife from time to time.
Because no judge, officer or politician of what the Government deems the Gained Decade (“década ganada”) is worth a single one of those tears.
Because Public funds would have been saved just by reading , or if I had got justice in due time and proper form, as I demanded.
VERY COSTLY, USELESS POLITICANS AND LEGISLATORS.
Becasue today’s politicians and legislators, almost without exception, on hearing about this downright violation of human rights, choose to play blind, deaf and dumb.
Because Argentina has become a training camp and hunting grounds for all kinds of native and foreign criminals, and citizens are defenseless.
Because we reached this state of affairs by means of the people’s vote. Citizens unhesitatingly voted knowingly, thus awarding endless power, for many candidates who had the odd “record” of having planted bombs and committed murders in the past.
Because nowadays many of those citizens regret that vote and complain about circumstances, but, as Berthold Brecht prophetically said in his poem: “... One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.” Now it is too late.
THE REASONS ARE MANY MORE, BUT TO CONTINUE LISTING THEM IS POINTLESS. I ONLY WISH TO RESTATE THAT I BELONG NO MORE TO THIS PLACE. I NO LONGER FEEL IT MY HOME OR MY HOMELAND. IT HAS BECOME JUST THE PLACE WHERE I AM KEPT A PRISONER.
I WISH TO APOLOGIZE TO THOSE WHOM I HAVE LIED TO FOR 20 YEARS.
AN IDYLLIC RETIREMENT
In December, 1992, I had attained the position of Chief of the Quilmes Regional Unit, with 2,500 policemen under my command, and I had turned in my papers for an early retirement rather than continue my Police career at the Police Headquarters in the city of La Plata. I had completed 31 years as a policeman, and joining a massive workplace, surrounded by secretaries, drivers, assistants and several thousand bureaucrats, inside a labyrinth of offices and cubicles, and be forced to struggle for a promotion, sometimes elbowing one’s way up, was far from the promised land for me. I would have lost the independence which I had enjoyed in all my previous positions up to that moment. Besides, my former passion and enthusiasm about being a policeman had extinguished.
So, on that scorching December 13th, 1992, I attended the celebration of the Police Day in La Plata, the capital city of the Province of Buenos Aires. Once all the commemorative official acts, I exchanged fond farewells with all the staff officers, among whom were some of my former Police Academy classmates.
My retirement was ideal. I was 47, and I had planned it carefully so as to have all the time in the world to make up for all my family had had to sacrifice to my being a policeman. Habitually, the policemen who retire, do so by their superiors’ orders, and feel displeased about it. I considered that I was leaving behind a great number of friends, as well as the affection of the Chief and Vice-chief of Police, Messrs. Pedro Klodzyck and Norberto Padilla.
MY BROTHER DIED TRAGICALLY
A year after my retirement, on November 24th,1993, my only brother, Marcelo Rafael, who was 39, married, with two children, was driving through the Southern area of Greater Buenos Aires in the evening, taking a friend to the latter’s house, as a favor. Suddenly, they suffered a cruel, ill-fated accident: a Toyota Hilux patrol car belonging to the police of the Province of Buenos Aires circulating against traffic at high speed, without any justifiable reason for it, hit Rafael’s car head-on and climbed onto it. As a result, both Rafael and his friend were killed almost instantly, while the two policemen riding the patrol car only sustained minor injuries.
The avoidable tragedy was a mortal blow to our family, for it brought on irreconcilable differences and division.
THE POLICE LIE
I noticed some inconsistencies and concealment during the committal proceedings following my brother’s fatal accident. As a result, I returned to the Police Headquarters, looking for the “friends” I thought I still had there. I was seeking help from them to straighten any inconsistencies and to supply documentary evidence of the atrocity those policemen had committed.
It was a huge mistake. The answers I got were evasive and false. I no longer belonged to the police force. My time was over, I was almost a civilian. I was glad I had requested my retirement to avoid continuing my career at Police Headquarters.
I ended up resorting to the Lomas de Zamora courts, which was where the two deaths were being dealt with. I fought “the system” unsuccessfully, with a great deal of emotional pain. This poor justice system is not exclusive of the police, it is an inherent part of being an Argentine.
FORMER GOVERNOR DUHALDE’S LIES
Meanwhile, the police force of the Province of Buenos Aires was about to be transformed in the eyes of the Public, from being “the best police force in the world”, as current Governor Eduardo Duhalde declared to the “Damned Police”, as it was starting to be called on the local media. By that time I had traveled repeatedly from abroad, where I was living, to attend diverse court hearings, I had paid for lawyers, I had struggled relentlessly and I had been on the verge of madness, because I had given thought to taking justice for my brother into my own hands. I decided to let go, full of helplessness, exhausted of figuratively banging my head against the indestructible wall of “justice” (in lower case letters).
DEATH, PRISON AND THE DISHONORABLE JUDGE EMILIO RAFAEL VILLAMAYOR
Now I realize that, in the same way as Marcelo Rafael inadvertently drove his car to his meeting with Death, arriving on time to the exact place where she cut his path forever, my letting go of my struggle for truth was a narrow escape of my fate. As I mentioned before, blinded by impotence, I even considered attacking the dishonorable Emilio Rafael Villamayor, Esq., judge of the Lomas de Zamora court hearing the case, and several other policemen as well, action that would have placed me in prison. Fortunately, reason got the best of me: I could not become a criminal, as were some of them.
Twenty years went by, and incredibly and inexorably, my fate has caught up with me. I had only managed to postpone it. So now I spend my days in prison.
As a policeman, I had been able to help many people whom I did not know. As a retired policeman, I let my family down, trying to ease my conscience by telling myself that I had tried much more than anyone else. At my job, on occasions, assisting at autopsies, when I saw the lifeless body laying before us, I used to wonder, as many had before me: who rules over life and death? Is it Fate? Is it Chance, or a superior being? Is there to be a time when a wise man comes up with a truthful, provable answer?
I WAS NEVER A POLICEMAN
After those events, never again did I tell anyone I was a policeman. I started to hide my past life to any new friend or acquaintance I made. So much so that when, on rare occasions, I met people whom I had met as a very young police officer, I denied being the same man as that officer. I maintained one single friend from the police force. The rest of them avoided me, as I did, too. Some of them were actual true policemen, very professional at their jobs, whose attitude at first I did not understand. They were scared to be seen with me. They were efficient officials who did not need to be obsequious or fearful, nor follow in the mediocre men’s steps. They were capable, strong men. However, at that time they chose not to stand apart from the flock. My quest for justice for my brother through the courts was a preview of what I nowadays have to bear.
I CAME BACK TO HELP SOME EX- POLICEMEN WHO WERE HELD IN PRISON AND TO SCORN THE FEARFUL
Almost twenty years went by, and in 2011 I heard about how accusations (which later put me in prison) were being made up, so I contacted some of the ex- policemen who were already in prison, visiting them there and trying to assist them in any way I could. Justice was sought “sweeping only one way”. Therefore, there are as many honest men as there are guilty in prison. On the opposite band, they managed to pass proven murderers of the past as “wonderful youngsters”. I shall not be broken for convenience or for fear. The people who help us are very few and they deserve all my respect. Most police people, however, are great accommodating cowards. I despise them. In any case, nothing was ever the same, and nowadays I keep my distance from all of them. The sorrow over my brother’s death, though tempered by the passing of time, is still with me and will always be, so apart from these lines, I try not to remember it. I wish to express by these lines my regret and my apology to all those to whom I lied all these years, hiding from them my past life as a policeman. There was no malicious purpose in it, just a desire to ease my pain and anger.
MAY THESE LINES SERVE AS A TRIBUTE TO MY UNFORGETTABLE BROTHER MARCELO RAFAEL AND ALL MY “NEW” AND TRUE FRIENDS, THEIR FAMILIES AND MY NEIGHBOURS. DESPITE THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST ME AND THE LIES I TOLD ABOUT MY PAST LIFE, ALL OF THEM GREATLY SURPRISED ME, AND THEY ARE STILL MY FRIENDS TO THIS DAY. I AM GREATLY HONORED TO BE STILL CONSIDERED ONE OF THEIR FRIENDS.
A TRIBUTE TO MY UNFORGETTABLE TRICYCLE FRIENDS
MY PAST “FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD”
Night is falling on the 31st penitentiary of the Federal Penitentiary Service. From the prison yard, surrounded by high walls and barbed wire fences, I try to imagine which way lays my past “favorite place in the world”, 2279, Salta street, Olivos. As it is located in Argentina, country to which I no longer feel attached to, I refer to it as my “past” favorite place. It was there that I met the two first friends I ever had. They are my “tricycle friends”, as one of their wives later called us. We were only 3 t5 years when we became friends, and life granted us the blessing of remaining friends to this day. Our houses were very near, and we visited one another on our tricycles.
I CANNOT NAME MY FRIENDS IN THESE LINES
I avoid naming my friends because Vice- minister of Defense Alfredo Forti threatened to “come back for your families, your children, your grandchildren and your friends.” This threat and so many years of friendship makes my love for them deeper. Nothing can erase all those years. We lived our lives side by side, they as businessmen, I as a policeman, while wives, children and grandchildren enlarged our families. Our mothers, friends themselves, and all our elders, have passed away in due time. Only we three remain.
Every time we get together there is magic in the air. No matter where we are, walking around, having dinner or a coffee, we are carried away to our infancy and adolescence. We see each other as we used to at that time, although people do not see us as we do. We are the same boys who put together a small platform to sell our comic books to gather enough money to buy small, glass-bottled Cokes and hotdogs for our mothers, which they loved. The same who rushed down the terribly steep slope (as we saw it) of Salta street between Corrientes and Marconi, mounted on skates, bicycles or small ball-bearing carts. The same that climbed telephone posts so as to spit farther and better.
In the season when the sour orange trees along the sidewalks produced their fruit, we climbed the branches, to the war cry: “Orange fight!” We pulled out the fruit, laughing and shrieking, and ... Every man for himself! We fought other boys and girls from the neighborhood, and we had a special whistle to communicate secretly.
PALANCHO AND BONZO, OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS
When one of us had to run some errand or other several blocks away, to Maipú Avenue, we got together and, after taking a good look around, we went to the Pochs’ house on Salta Street and opened the garden gate to release our dear friend “Palancho”, a huge, black, furry dog who would come along happily. We rang some bells, sometimes we shared a cigarette stolen to one of our parents and which an adult passer-by inevitably made us throw away with a stern rebuke. The thing Palancho liked the most was when we bought slices of pizza at the Pizzeria Mitre and shared them with him. As we were well know at the pizza parlour, one of my friends, the most forward of us, managed to get the dog’s slice for free, to the animal’s delight. On our way back, we repeated the scheme backwards, so that our four-legged friend returned home unnoticed, to wait for our next pizza adventure. Still now I wonder whether or not his owners noticed his repeated absences, and if so, what they made of it all. There was also another dog, Bonzo, a beautiful German Shepherd, who lived in a house across from the Pochs, but that story I keep for another occasion.
In those days, as we lived nearby, we attended the Presidential Villa movie theater. The villa was only surrounded by a shrub border and a wire artistic fence. We watched Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis movies. As crime rate was very low, we were really free.
MASS AND TWO COMMUNION WAFERS
On Sundays we went regularly to the Olive Garden Church, where we confessed and took communion. The best mischief to make was to change places and receive a second wafer at the communion line, because dear Father Bastos was blind. We also pretended to put some money into the collection sacks as they were passed around the congregation, and several other pranks which made the weekly visit to God’s house a lot of fun.
Our “Cinema Paradiso” was three blocks away from the church. The York Cinema showed 3 films. We had first been to it with our grandmothers. It is still open nowadays, opposite the railway station and Borges square.
BLACK AND WHITE TV
We are the same kids who every afternoon gathered to watch Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt, or Broderick Crawford in Highway Patrol, on the single TV channel existing at the time. Crawford used to repeat the phrase “21-50 calling headquarters”. Years later, when I myself repeated time and time again a similar call on mi patrol car radio, I kept remembering those images I used to share with my friends, sitting on the floor in front of the ultramodern black and white TV set.
GANDINI BAR, IN OLIVOS
The detailed story of hundreds more experiences and anecdotes lived together would make this account too long: birthdays, The Three Wise Men’s Day, Carnival festivities, kermesses, the Town Hall band, always celebrated on the square opposite the old store and the Gandini bar. This bar still exists, and we kept gathering in it up to my arrest. These hunderes of memories shall not be tainted by the hard, sour days I am living today, and my family and friends’ support ensure that it is so. When passed near Olivos, right up to my arrest, I frequently strayed from my course so as to return to the spot. I took my wife there many times and even alone, as my work day ended, I left my patrol car and walked a few blocks trying to picture and hear my two friends, as boys, running and jumping around. Now I cannot walk those streets freely, but I know they are still there, as always, laughing uncontrollably or shouting: “Orange fight!”