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Calls for Dutch Queen to clear father's junta role

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Dutch Queen Maxima has reached the zenith of her popularity both in the Netherlands and in her native Argentina after ascending the throne with her husband King Willem-Alexander this week, but calls remain for her to come clean on her father's murky role in his country's former military junta.

Jorge Zorreguieta, now 85, served as agriculture minister under the notorious Argentine regime of Jorge Videla in the 1970s.

The junta, which Videla led from 1976-1981, is held responsible for the disappearance of up to 30,000 people during the so-called "Dirty War" against political opponents. Many of the disappeared are believed to have been thrown from planes on "death flights" over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Queen Maxima's father has in the past denied knowing of the disappearances and the Dutch cabinet even commissioned historian Michiel Baud to look into the extent of his involvement in the junta.

Baud concluded that Zorreguieta must have known something about the torture and the thousands that disappeared at the time, but was almost certainly not personally involved.

"He obviously knew something," said Pablo Jannes, a 56-year-old Dutch-Argentinian, who has been living in the Netherlands since 1987.

"Why doesn't Maxima simply say: 'my father is lying when he says he doesn't know," Jannes told AFP at his home just outside the port city of Rotterdam a few days after the enthronement.

"Of course Maxima did not take part in the dictatorship, but I don't think she's done enough to distance herself from her father's past," he said.

As a 20-year-old Jannes saw Videla take power and back then, as a student active in politics and the son of a prominent unionist, already had a taste of the abuses of the repressive Peronist regime which ruled the South American country before Videla's ascent.

He still remembered the horror of his own arrest under Isabel Peron's rule and says he survived five mock executions with guns pointed at his head and triggers being pulled -- practices which continued when the junta took over.

Jannes spent the Videla years laying low, moving from one place to another in Argentina and trying not to draw attention to himself.

"Her (Maxima's) father made a mistake by agreeing to be a minister under the dictatorship," he said, sipping a cup of Argentinian mate tea.

In 2006, Maxima did meet the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the iconic human rights organisation representing the relatives of those who disappeared -- including babies -- during the Videla years in a gesture that was widely appreciated by the movement.

But Jannes wants her to go further.

"Maxima should publicly admit that her father was involved and this she hasn't yet done. It sounds wrong when I hear her and Willem-Alexander speak of human rights," he said.

In a press interview before her wedding Maxima said: "I regret that he did his best in a bad regime. He had the best intentions."

While Zorreguieta has been accused of being involved in some of the disappearances and continues to be investigated, he has never been charged and put on trial like Videla and former military president Reynaldo Bignone.

He stayed away from his daughter's wedding to then Prince Willem-Alexander in 2002 in Amsterdam amid popular outcry in the politically-correct Netherlands. Her mother stayed away in solidarity.

In an interview a few weeks before her husband became king, Maxima told the Dutch national broadcaster that her family made a joint decision that they would not attend Willem-Alexander's investiture, possibly to avoid further embarrassing questions from being asked.

"Just because he's not coming to the (enthronement) ceremony and wasn't at the wedding doesn't mean that we've forgotten," said Claudia Piazza, 25, a waitress at an Argentinian restaurant in Amsterdam.

"The theme of Maxima's father has been dropped too quickly," she added.

Juan Joaquin Medina, 61, who works at another of the Dutch capital's Argentinian restaurants, Los Argentinos, remembers well the brutal dictatorship which he left behind to come to the Netherlands.

"There are many Argentinians who do not agree," with the frenzy around Maxima and the enthronement, he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130504/calls-dutch-queen-clear-fathers-junta-role