La Patagonia Rebelde — Rebellion in Patagonia

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Title: La Patagonia Rebelde — Rebellion in Patagonia
Year: 1974
Runtime: 1hr. 50m.
Director: Héctor Olivera
Writer: Fernando Ayala, Osvaldo Bayer, Héctor Olivera
Actors: Pedro Aleandro, Héctor Alterio, Luis Brandoni
Plot: Workers in Patagonia, influenced by anarchist ideas, demand improvements in hotel pay and conditions. After employers initially agree to workers' demands, which are supported by workers in other sectors and areas, the regional governor, under pressure from local employers, orders the paramilitary police to intervene to suppress union and political activity, despite the protests of a local judge. In response a general strike is declared, paralyzing the ports and wool production for export. The national Radical Civic Union government supports the workers' rights, and the workers call for union recognition and improvements to the conditions of agricultural workers. Employers reject the demands and bring in replacement workers, but the convoys are attacked by armed strikers who shoot down the soldiers guarding them. Workers use arson and sabotage to disrupt production and take hostages. More fighting erupts between armed police and strikers. After six weeks, the strike is settled in the workers' favour with the first ever collective agreement for Patagonian rural workers and they hand in many of the weapons they seized from the rural estates. Employers are outraged by having the unfavourable terms imposed on them by the government and respond with selective sackings and denial of service at company stores. Workers respond with boycotts and the president dismisses the governor. More importantly, landowners refuse to implement the pay rise specified in the agreement. With workers planning another strike to enforce the terms of the agreement, employers, backed by Chile and Britain, successfully pressurize the government to round up union leaders and militants. Another general strike is called in response during which strikers take hostages to defend themselves. At the same time bandits take advantage of the unsettled situation to raid isolated estates. Colonel Héctor Benigno Varela's 10th Cavalry Regiment of the Argentine Army is ordered by President Hipólito Yrigoyen to restore order and permanently remove the threat of rebellion due to socialist or anarchist ideas, which they do by opening fire on strikers without warning and carrying out summary executions after surrendering, especially of the leaders and even of delegations acting under a flag of truce, some of whom are made to dig their own graves. Others are tied naked to fences or made to run the gauntlet. The strikers, to whom the army had previously acted sympathetically, are caught by surprise. Armed landowners participate in the suppression of the strikers, identifying the leaders. Approximately 1,500 rural workers were shot and killed by the Argentine Army in the course of the operations. Most of the executed were Spanish and Chilean workers who had sought refuge in Argentina's Patagonia after their strike in the city of Puerto Natales in southern Chile on 27 July 1920 was crushed by the Chilean authorities, at the cost of four carabineers killed. Second strike and repression Colonel Héctor Benigno Varela's 10th Cavalry Regiment was ordered to return to Santa Cruz Province in November. His company commanders in the second expedition were captains Pedro Viñas Ibarra and Pedro E. Camposare. A detachment of National Gendarmerie troops was also added to the cavalry force. This unit sailed for Santa Cruz on 4 November 1921. In the meantime as a group of ten strikers approached the Estancia Bremen, the German ranch owner and his parents sensing danger, sought to defend their property with carbines and two strikers were killed and four were wounded in the exchange of fire. In response the strikers took several ranch owners and their families hostage and reportedly killed and raped some. Upon disembarking at Santa Cruz port the 10th Cavalry Regiment soon made its presence felt with arbitrary arrests and executions. After a clash in Punta Alta the 10th Cavalry Regiment liberated 14 hostages. But the soldiers were also reported to have killed some 100 unarmed workers suspected of collaborating with the strikers, among them Santiago González, a stonemason at the local Argentina National Bank (Banco de la Nación Argentina) branch. González, an anarchist, was forced to dig his own grave before being shot. Albino Argüelles, secretary general of the Sociedad Obrera of San Julián, a blacksmith and a member of the Socialist Party, was also captured and shot in November 1921. In December one of the ranch owners, Daniel Ramírez, was himself taken into detention under the orders of captain Anaya for assisting and actively cooperating with the armed strikers. Ramírez was executed in the first week of February 1922 after having been brutally tortured for over a week. His wife and several local merchants intervened and pleaded for his life, but this was to no avail. At Paso Ibáñez a large column of some 900 demoralised armed strikers tried to negotiate a favourable surrender with colonel Varela but were soon rebuffed and retreated to regroup at Río Chico and Estancia Bella Vista after freeing those they had taken captive as hostages. In the meantime the local police forces hunted down and arrested or executed those sympathetic to the armed uprising. The cavalry regiment captured some 480 strikers in the interior at Cañadón León along with 4,000 horses and 298 rifles and carbines and 49 revolvers. More than half of those captured at Cañadón León were executed before the firing squads stopped. The regiment then stormed La Anita and Menéndez Behety estancias and some 80 ranch owners and their families as well as captured policemen and other civilians are released in the operation and around 500 captured strikers executed. The armed strikers, knowing there would be no mercy, made a desperate last stand at Tehuelches train station but were defeated after a one-hour long battle and the survivors marched off to firing squads. At Estación Tehuelches (today's Pico Truncado) the army lost the only soldier killed in action during the campaign, private Fernando Pablo Fischer. The other soldier to die in the operations was a corporal, allegedly shot and killed on purpose by a conscript, according to historian Osvaldo Bayer who referred to the conscripts disparagingly as "poor rifle slavemen". The 10th Cavalry Regiment having accomplished its mission of putting the uprising then received orders to return to Buenos Aires, but some 200 soldiers were left behind under the commands of captains Anaya and Viñas Ibarra. Contrary to Argentine popular myth, Varela received a frosty reception in Buenos Aires where the Minister of War gave him a complete dressing down. Varela also came under heavy criticism by the Socialist parliamentarian Antonio Di Tomaso. News of the mass execution soon reached Buenos Aires but the government made no call into an official investigation for fear of political repercussions. Argentine socialists and anarchists however promised vengeance. Kurt Gustav Wilckens, a 35-year-old German immigrant from Silesia, had been deported from the United States for his radical political views. In Argentina, he worked as a stevedore at Ingeniero White and Bahía Blanca, as a farm worker in Alto Valle del Río Negro and as a correspondent for the anarchist newspapers Alarm of Hamburg and The Syndicalist of Berlin. Although he claimed to be an adherent of Tolstoy's pacifism, Wilckens killed Varela in a gun and bomb attack outside the officer's recently acquired home at Humboldt-Santa Fe in January 1923 because of his desire "to wound through him the brazen idol of a criminal system". Upon hearing of the assassination, Argentine President Yrigoyen arranged that the house be given to the widow of Varela as a gift, even though the couple had only recently commenced paying off the house. Wilckens himself was killed in Villa Devoto prison while awaiting sentencing, by José Pérez Millán Temperley, a young man from an aristocratic family belonging to the Patriotic League. Pérez Millán had served in Patagonia. He was the gendarme taken hostage by the strikers after the gunbattle at El Cerrito, in 1921, and was also a distant relative of Varela.[11] News of Wilckens's death led to a general dock strike and the burning of streetcars, as well as arrests, injuries and deaths but achieved according to historian Otto Vargas "an incredible miracle in unifying the divided working class in Argentina".[12] Pérez Millán was found guilty of manslaughter and condemned to eight years in prison. He was however declared insane 14 months later and admitted to Las Mercedes mental hospital in Buenos Aires, where he was eventually shot and killed by another immate instigated by Russian anarchist Boris Wladimirovich.[13] In June 1921, Argentine parliamentarians debated a proposed law giving the state the power to control unions, declare strikes illegal, and reimpose the ten-hour workday. This debate provoked popular condemnation in a demonstration supported on all sides, followed by a general strike and a declaration of state of emergency along the country.
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IMDB Rating: 7.7
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071976/