BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel and four other pacifists began a fast to protest the military regime's announcement that thousands of 'disappeared' people were considered dead.
Perez Esquivel, 50, a sculptor and founder of the Service for Peace and Justice, known as SERPAJ, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his humanitarian work. He and the others began the fast Tuesday.
Perez Esquivel said he and the other protesters would fast for an indefinite period to protest political disappearances and Argentina's state of siege, imposed 8 years ago.
He also criticized the Argentine military junta's 'exportation' to other Latin American nations of 'the repressive apparatus that continues to act with total impunity.'
Perez Esquivel's son, Leonardo, 26, who runs the Argentine branch of SERPAJ, Franciscan priest Antonio Pugjane, and two local SERPAJ members also are fasting.
They said they will only drink water until they feel they have generated sufficient reflection over the human rights situation in Latin America.
The highly publicized fast comes 12 days after Argentina's military government made public its 'final' document explaining the reasons behind the armed forces' harsh, anti-insurgency repression of the 1970s.
Human rights groups have documented the cases of nearly 7,000 people who vanished after being kidnapped by plainclothes security squads. They said more than 20,000 other disappearances may have gone unreported because relatives of the missing were afraid to go to police.
The government's announcement April 28 that it considered most of the 'disappeared' people to be dead if they were not living clandestinely in Argentina or in exile, generated angry protests in Argentina and Europe and an expression of concern from Pope John Paul II.
'Our people suffer the injustice of repression, manifested in the methodology of forced detentions and disappearances, and in the existence of a repressive apparatus that is still intact,' Perez Esquivel told a news conference before beginning the fast.
The group also is protesting the armed forces' recently revealed plan to declare a 'self-amnesty' program that would prevent a future constitutional government from prosecuting military officials accused of violating human rights.
The group called for the release of more than 400 imprisoned political and labor leaders, lifting of the state of siege before October presidential elections and the return of more than 110 missing children to their families.