U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States was slow to speak out on the atrocities committed during Argentina's former dictatorship but says his administration will "confront the past with honesty and transparency."
"What happened here in Argentina is not unique to Argentina and it’s not confined to that past," said Obama in Buenos Aires. "Each of us have a responsibility each and every day to make sure that wherever we see injustice, wherever we see rule of law flouted that we are honest witnesses, that we are speaking out, that we are examining our own hearts and taking responsibility to make this a better place for our children and our grandchildren."
Obama on Thursday visited a memorial park to victims of the so-called "Dirty War", on the 40th anniversary of the coup that installed a brutal military regime.
The president said that it takes courage for a society to address "uncomfortable" truths about the "darker parts of its past."
"Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people, that can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s essential to moving forward to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens," Obama said.
Declassified U.S. documents have shown that the United States backed the regime that human rights activists say was responsible for the death or disappearance of some 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983 - the Dirty War period.
Obama has said his administration will try to make amends by declassifying more documents which made further detail the role the United States played in the dictatorship.
Critics of the president's visit, including many who lost friends or relatives during the years under the military government, say the Obamas should not have come to Argentina on such an important anniversary. Protests linked to the anniversary are expected in Buenos Aires and across the nation.
Obama is the guest of Argentina's new president, Mauricio Macri, who is intent on strengthening the strained ties between the two nations.
Macri said Wednesday that the Obamas' visit came "at a perfect time" because, he said, "Argentines have understood and decided to build mature and reasonable relationships with every country in the world."