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Part II
The Victims

Nunca Más (Never Again) - Report of Conadep  - 1984


A. Children and pregnant women who disappeared

"Woe to those who abuse a child", say the Scriptures. Never, perhaps, has this maxim become such a horrific reality as in the cases related in this chapter.

When a child is forcibly removed from its legitimate family to be put in another, according to some ideological precept of what's 'best for the child's welfare', then this constitutes a perfidious usurpation of duty.

The repressors who took the disappeared children from their homes, or who seized mothers on the point of giving birth, were making decisions about people's lives in the same cold-blooded way that booty is distributed in war.

Deprived of their identity and taken away from their parents, the disappeared children constitute, and will continue to constitute, a deep blemish on our society, In their case, the blows were aimed at the defenceless, the vulnerable and the innocent, and a new type of torment was conceived.

This most painful situation was rapidly challenged by the extraordinarily indefatigable and discreet work begun by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which has so far resulted in the registration of 172 cases of children who disappeared, most of whom were seized at the time of their mother's detention, or who were born in prison. Of these, twenty-five have been traced, but the remaining 147 have not, even though there are many leads, and investigations are under way which suggest that they may be found in the future.

In certain cases the aggression shown towards children and adults was indiscriminate, and was directed against an entire family. The Gatica family, for instance, was virtually annihilated.

On 16 May 1977, the mother of the family, Ana María Caracoche de Gatica, was travelling from La Plata to Buenos Aires for reasons connected with the health of her child, Felipe Martín. The youngest child, María Eugenia Gatica, thirteen months old, was left in the house of a married couple, called Abdala, until the mother's return.

At 11.30 a.m. several men in civilian clothes and one in uniform entered the Abdalas' house on Calles 6 and 167 of the Los Hornos neighbourhood while the family was eating lunch. Everyone was taken away: José Abdala, Victoria Falabella Abdala and the two children - José Sabino Abdala, aged two and a half, and the toddler María Eugenia Gatica (file No. 3783).

Nothing has been heard of any of them since, in spite of all the inquiries and investigations carried out. In the light of this incident, the Gatica family temporarily moved to the house of the Amerise family in Berisso, A few weeks later on 19 April 1977, at about 10 p.m., up to ten men in civilian clothes entered the house, and after arresting the adults, they left the children Juan Camilo Amerise and Felipe Martín Gatica with a neighbour, saying to her, 'Do what you want with them.' Three days later Felipe Martín Gatica was handed over to another family which, it is now known, registered the child as belonging to them. In all these years nothing was known of him. But recently his mother and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo succeeded in flnding him, and investigations into the case are under way.

The mother of the children, Ana María Caracoche de Gatica, was held for one month in a detention centre called Cachavacba by her captors, and on being freed she obtained the information given above from her neighbours.

Another family group that was destroyed was the Poblete family (file No. 3684). The father, José Liborio Poblete, a Chilean lathe operator, had the misfortune to lose his legs in a car crash.

In a rehabilitation clinic in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires, he met Getrudis Marta Hlaczik, who was also disabled, and married her. Both belonged to the Christians for Liberation movement. They had a daughter, Claudia Victoria, who was eight years old on 28 November 1978.

On that same day José Poblete was seized in the Plaza Once. Almost simultaneously, a group of men wearing the uniforms of the Provincial Police (subsequent investigations showed that they were members of the Lands Brigade) seized Getrudis Hlaczik with her daughter in her arms and took her from the family's house. Both were put into a patrol car. Later, another group of uniformed police arrived at the house, which they ransacked, loading anything they wanted into an army lorry. The house was partially destroyed.

The following month Getrudis was allowed by her captors to telephone her mother and she asked if her daughter Claudia Victoria had been handed to her. Señora Hlaczik wanted to know if she was well, or if she was being obliged to say something. But before Getrudis could reply, a male voice interrupted saying, 

'Watch your language. Your daughter is better off than the rest of her companions. We are not in Russia here.' Then the telephone went dead. No official information on the whereabouts of the three members of the family was ever forthcoming, but according to the account of some people who were released from El Olimpo camp it is known that the girl was kept there for only two days. Then she was taken to an unknown place. Both Getrudis and José Liborio - whom the repressors taunted with the nickname 'Shorty', because he had no legs - were brutally tortured.

According to witnesses' accounts collected by this Commission and by Amnesty International, José Liborio Poblete was taken out in a wheelchair 'to be transferred' in 1979.

'Two days later we saw his wheelchair abandoned in a corner of the parking lot,' 

two survivors concurred.

Getrudis Hlaczik de Poblete was seen for the last time on 28 January 1979.

The child Claudia Victoria Poblete continues among those who have disappeared.

The desperate, frantic search by grandparents, and in some cases by parents of children who have disappeared, sums up the pain and anxiety that is experienced when people are faced with the fact that somewhere, alongside unknown people, a child is growing up without any connection with his or her family, people, or in some extreme cases, country.




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