THE FOUNDER of Argentina’s leading human rights group yesterday announced she has located the grandson taken from her daughter while she was a prisoner of the military dictatorship in the 1970s.
Founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo Estela de Carlotto acknowledged other families were still searching for hundreds of children taken under similar circumstances during the “dirty war” era that still haunts the Latin American nation.
At a news conference, the 83-year-old said: “Thanks to God, thanks to life, because I didn’t want to die without embracing him and soon I will be able to.”
She has not yet met her grandson.
The 36-year-old man came forward on his own to have a DNA test and have the sample compared in a national database because he had doubts about his parentage, said Guido Carlotto, a son of Ms de Carlotto, who is human rights secretary for Buenos Aires province.
Argentine media identified the grandson as Ignacio Hurban, a pianist and composer who is director of a music school in the city of Olavarria. Mr Carlotto said the DNA test revealed with a compatibility match of “99.9 per cent” that the man is the son of Laura Carlotto, a former student activist. She was executed in August 1978, two months after she gave birth while being held under the dictatorship’s brutal campaign against guerrillas and other opponents of the regime.
The announcement was major news in Argentina, drowning out coverage of the recent default forced on the country by a legal dispute with US investors.
Ms de Carlotto is considered a symbol of the struggle for justice for victims of the 1976-83 right-wing dictatorship that, according to official statistics, “disappeared” at least 13,000 people. Activists say the death toll was more than twice that.
The regime collapsed after the Falklands War, in which 700 Argentines were killed, many young conscripts.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner yesterday called Ms de Carlotto personally when she learned the news.
“Cristina called me crying… I told her, ‘Yes, Cristina it’s true.’ She said, ‘What great joy,’ and we cried together,” the long-term activist said. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo believe around 500 children were seized from people killed by the dictatorship and given to couples who supported the government.
The group has so far helped identify 114 of the illegally adopted children.
The Grandmothers successfully pushed for the creation of the DNA database that enables people illegally adopted to determine their real identity.
Two former dictators were among those jailed for systematically kidnapping children.
Jorge Rafael Videla died in prison, aged 87, in May last year while serving a 50-year sentence. Reynaldo Bignone, 86, remains in prison.
Ms de Carlotto said the parents who received her daughter’s child “may have done so innocently,” not knowing the newborn’s origins.
Laura Carlotto was a Peronist militant detained while pregnant in November 1977 along with the baby’s father, Oscar Montoya, a member of the Montoneros guerrillas. He was also killed in captivity.
Ms de Carlotto said finding her grandson does not end the struggle for justice. “The search for the rest must go on,” she said.