President Barack Obama has acknowledged that US relations with Latin America's dictatorships in the 1970s damaged its image in the region, but said he hoped the release of long-classified documents about Argentina's "dirty war" would rebuild trust.

Obama made the comments on Wednesday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of a military coup that led to one of the most brutal regimes in Latin American history.

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The Obama administration announced last week that it would declassify thousands of CIA, FBI, and other internal documents that could shed much light on one of the South American nation's most painful chapters.

Argentina's government estimates some 13,000 people were killed or disappeared during the crackdown on left-wing dissidents, though activists say the number is as high as 30,000.

"I don't want to go through the list of every activity of the United States in Latin America," Obama said, answering a question during a joint news conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

Obama then noted that fighting communism was a focus of America's foreign policy in the 1970s.

"One of the great things about America, and I said this in Cuba, was that we engage in a lot of self-criticism," said Obama.


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Despite efforts to keep the focus on the future, Obama's visit has been clouded by a renewed look at Argentina's past and questions about America's role in Argentina's 1976 military coup - and the dictatorship that followed.

"On this anniversary and beyond, we are absolutely determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation," said Obama.

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Source: AP