Argentina identifies another child kidnapped during dictatorship

The confirmation is the second to occur in less than a week, bringing the total number of identified children to 132.

Photos of the dissappeared
Argentina has continued to reckon with the violent legacy of the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983 [File: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters]

DNA tests have confirmed that a man was snatched from his mother as a baby during Argentina’s last military dictatorship and was illegally adopted by a family in a northern province, a human rights group said on Wednesday.

The case, the second announced in less than a week, has increased the total number of successful identifications to 132.

The activist group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo did not release the latest person’s full name, identifying him only as Juan Jose, 46.

During Argentina’s bloody dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983, military officials carried out the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners who were often executed without a trace. The children were then illegally adopted by other military officers or allied families.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo estimates approximately 500 children were snatched from their parents during the dictatorship. The group is using DNA tests to locate and identify them.

Last Thursday, the group announced its 131st successful identification, linking another adult male to both his parents, who had been detained by the military and “disappeared”.

Estela de Carlotto, president of the group, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the family who raised Juan Jose owned a farm where his mother, Mercedes del Valle Morales, had worked.

She said the child was nine months old on May 20, 1976, the day that military officers took away his 21-year-old mother. That happened in Monteros, a town in Tucuman, a province about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) north of Buenos Aires, which saw some of the bloodiest clashes between the military and armed groups in the 1970s.

The mother’s parents and her three brothers were also taken. All are listed as victims of the dictatorship.

The farm owner was not publicly identified but de Carlotto said he raised Juan Jose as his own. After the man’s death, other members of the family told Juan Jose he was adopted.

Juan Jose voluntarily submitted to a DNA test that was compared with samples taken from his mother’s remains, which were found in a Tucuman cemetery.

“I always had doubts,” said Juan Jose, who participated in Wednesday’s news conference from Tucumán via a video call. “I want to transmit my thanks to the Grandmothers.”

The identity of his biological father is not known.

Source: The Associated Press