December 1, 1999

Argentine Congress spurns accused 'Dirty War' ex-general

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentina's Congress on
                  Wednesday spurned a former general accused of 1970s "Dirty War"
                  atrocities and refused to swear him in for the next legislative session.

                  "We cannot accept a person responsible for genocide and torture in our
                  midst. We cannot accept his lies. We cannot allow someone like this to
                  occupy a seat in this chamber," center-left Alliance Deputy Alfredo Bravo,
                  himself detained and tortured during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, told

                  Antonio Bussi, 70, was charged with kidnapping, torture and other rights
                  violations during his time as military ruler of the poor northern province of
                  Tucuman. But he was pardoned by Peronist President Carlos Menem in

                  Bussi won a congressional seat for the Republican Force ticket, a small
                  provincial party, in the October 24 national elections.

                  "There is no way I'm going to swear in this perpetrator of genocide, this liar
                  with a heart of stone who never declared his (Swiss) bank accounts," said
                  Deputy Amado Juri, Tucuman's elected governor at the time of the coup in

                  Bussi is now the focus of a "Dirty War" inquiry, accused of masterminding
                  the theft of babies from women in captivity and not disclosing Swiss bank
                  accounts with funds allegedly stolen from victims of the junta's "Dirty War"
                  against the leftist opposition.

                  He is also sought on state terrorism charges by the same Spanish judge who
                  wants to try Chile's former military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

                  About 100 protesters carrying "Jail Bussi" and "Spurn Bussi" signs gathered
                  outside Congress to demand he not be sworn in.

                  "We must ensure Bussi is rejected, he's one of the worse murderers in our
                  country," said one of the protesters, Humberto Schuh.

                  Deputies invoked two clauses in Argentina's constitution that bars an elected
                  official from taking office for reasons of "moral inability."

                  While absent from the swearing-in ceremony, Bussi's son, Ricardo, who was
                  elected a lower house deputy in 1997, jumped to his father's defense amid
                  jeers and heckles of "assassin" from deputies and spectators in the gallery.

                  "He was elected in clean, transparent elections under the rules set out under
                  our constitution," the younger Bussi told Congress. "You must respect the
                  people's choice."

                  The opposition Alliance, whose leader won October's elections and takes
                  over the presidency December 10, has been vocal in its opposition to Bussi
                  entering Congress, which would secure him immunity from prosecution.

                  At least 400 people vanished during Bussi's military rule in Tucuman during
                  the last dictatorship; some deputies said as many as 800 disappeared.

                  Bussi was later elected governor of the province, but was suspended for 60
                  days in April 1998 after a commission established that between 1992 and
                  1997 the ex-general's wife managed Argentine bank accounts worth half a
                  million dollars and an undeclared Swiss account of $120,000.

                  "Bussi needs legislative immunity. When his term expired as governor he
                  knew he had to run for Congress because he needs this immunity like a fish
                  needs water, he can't live without it," said incoming Tucuman Alliance deputy
                  Jose Vitar.