Argentina's 'death flight' plane returned to the nation for a historical reckoning

The Short SC.7 Skyvan, 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 bloodiest 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. 


The junta is widely considered the most deadly of the military dictatorships that ruled much of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. It detained, tortured, and killed people suspected of opposing the regime. Human rights groups estimate 30,000 were slain, many of whom disappeared without a trace.

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The trial, at which 29 former officials were sentenced to life in prison, proved that the dictatorship used death flights as a systematic mode of extermination. The planes just returned to Buenos Aires were used to kill Villaflor and 11 other detainees. The pilots of the flight that carried Villaflor to her death were convicted in part due to flight logs that Ceraudo and Lewin were able to find after tracking down the PA-51 Skyvan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2010. 


The planes were located in a skydiving outfit in Phoenix after Argentina's government decided to buy the plane after a campaign by De Vincenti and other human rights activists. Getting such an old plane back was not easy, as it was stuck in Jamaica for two weeks after its engine broke shortly after takeoff from the island and for a few days in Bolivia due to inclement weather. In seeking justice for the junta's victims, Argentina has held 296 trials relating to dictatorship-era crimes against humanity since 2006, after amnesty laws were struck down. Putting the plane on display will help Argentines understand the reality of the dictatorship, activists say.

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