The founder of Argentina’s leading human rights group has said that she has found a grandson taken from her daughter while a prisoner of the military dictatorship in the 1970s, one of the long-unsolved mysteries from the “dirty war” era.
Surrounded by her large extended family, an emotional Estela Barnes de Carlotto, founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, announced on Monday that her long hunt for her grandchild had ended, while acknowledging other families are still searching for hundreds of children taken under similar circumstances.
Cristina called me crying ... I told her, 'Yes, Cristina it's true.' She said, 'What great joy,' and we cried together
“Thanks to God, thanks to life, because I didn’t want to die without embracing him and soon I will be able to,” the 83-year-old grandmother said at a news conference covered live on national TV. She has not yet met him.
The now 36-year-old man came forward on his own to have a DNA test taken and have the sample compared in a national database because he had doubts about his own identity, said Guido Carlotto, a son of de Carlotto who is human rights secretary for Buenos Aires Province.
The family did not release the man’s name, but Argentine media identified him as Ignacio Hurban, a pianist and composer who is director of a music school in the city of Olavarria southwest of Buenos Aires.
Carlotto said the DNA test revealed with a compatibility match of “99.9 percent” that the man is the son of Laura Carlotto, a university student activist who 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.
Symbol of struggle
De Carlotto is considered a symbol of the struggle for justice for victims of the 1976-83 dictatorship that, according to official statistics, “disappeared” at least 13,000 people. Activists say the death toll was more than twice as high.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina’s president, called de Carlotto 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,” De Carlotto 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 to identify 114 of the illegally adopted children in a campaign that has stirred painful memories.
The Grandmothers successful pushed for the creation of the DNA database that enables people illegally adopted to determine their real identity.