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Argentines commemorate coup as Milei sows doubt about dictatorship past

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Thousands of Argentines took to the streets around the country on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1976 military coup that lasted eight years and led to widespread repression, torture and disappearances.

Several local and human rights groups gathered in Buenos Aires, waving banners, singing songs and carrying photos of those murdered and missing during the dictatorship.

Human rights organizations estimate that 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and murdered during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

The majority of the disappeared were opposition members, union members or students, although infants were sometimes kidnapped, and clandestinely sold or illegally adopted.

"Today there are families here in Argentina, who are still looking for their (disappeared) children, so the idea is to be able, every March 24, to remember that date so as not to repeat those mistakes again," said Rolando Gutierrez, a 45-year-old teacher who attended the March in Buenos Aires.

Sunday's anniversary demonstration was the first under ultraliberal President Javier Milei, who assumed power on Dec 10 and whom critics accuse of downplaying atrocities during the country's brutal dictatorship.

Milei's vice president, Victoria Villarruel, has defended military officers convicted of crimes against humanity.

Earlier on Sunday, Milei's government released a video that focused on victims of attacks by a communist group prior to the dictatorship and questioned the figure of 30,000 disappeared.

"For a complete memory so there can be truth and justice," Milei said on X when he reposted the video.

Estela de Carlotto, the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group dedicated to finding children stolen or adopted during the dictatorship, is demanding a law to penalize dictatorship deniers.

She also urged Milei to change his mind on the issue or hopes to tire him out so "he goes away" quickly.

(Reporting by Horacio Soria and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Sandra Maler)