(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
The relatives: the grandmothers
The situation for the relatives of pregnant prisoners was extremely distressing and bizarre. As in many other cases, Señora Estela B. de Carlotto, who was Vice-President of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (file No. 2085) received an anonymous letter from someone who had been in a cell with her daughter Laura Estela, informing her that she was being held by the Security Forces, together with her husband, who had also been seized. Later Señora de Carlotto learnt from a prisoner who was freed:
... that she was still pregnant, that she would be sending a message to her father and to me as soon as the baby was born, which would be in June 1978, that we should look for the baby in the orphanage and that, if it was a boy, he should be given the name of her husband: Guido. When the time of my grandson's birth drew near, I retired from my work as a teacher to be able to look after the child. I began to get the house ready, as if I was the mother myself. I had four children, Laurita was the eldest. I began to do all the things that she had told me. I went to look for the baby in the orphanage of La Plata, in the orphanage of Buenos Aires and in the Minors' Courts, in every place where an infant might have been. The results were always negative. There were no answers. Meanwhile, on 25 August 1978, when I was at home in La Plata I received news from the district police office, which cited us, the parents of Laura Estela Carlotto, to go to the Isidro Casanova Police Station. The summons said I should go there at once. There was nothing else. We thought that we might see Laurita, with her baby. But we also thought she might already be dead.
We duly arrived, and the Inspector, on the orders of the 114th Operations Zone, showed us a document about my daughter, and asked us if we were relatives of hers. We said we were, that we were her parents, and they told us she was dead. Of course she had not died naturally. It had been cold-blooded, premeditated murder by the Army.
My daughter had been killed on the morning of 25 August, so went the monstrous lie: she was in a car at the time, and did not obey an order to stop, so she was shot.
I couldn't see her.
They did not let me see her. My husband and my relatives said I should live with the memory that I had always had of her. That happy face, the face of a young, vigorous Argentine, idealistic and brave. They didn't let me see her because she had had her face destroyed by gunshot at point-blank range. And her stomach was also destroyed, to ensure that I could never prove the birth of my grandson.
When I asked about the child, the officer told me that he knew nothing whatsoever about the existence of a child. According to released prisoners, we know it was a son, that it was born on 26 June 1978. A short time ago it would have been six years old. I am still looking for him. And I will go on looking for him all my life.
A similar determination marks the attitude of the other Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo who, as we mentioned earlier, work constantly and in a similar state of anguish. The President of the Association, Señora María Isabel Ch. de Mariani says:
On this long road, we Grandmothers got together and organized a group to look for the disappeared children, at first thinking that there were just a few of us, and then realizing to our horror that there were hundreds of us. And depositions are still coming in. About a week ago three more depositions arrived on children who had disappeared during those years. My grand-daughter Clara Anahi Mariani was looked for minute by minute, day by day, but they have always refused to give me any information about her. As she disappeared at the time when my daughter-in-law Diana Teruggi was killed, I waited outside the 7th Infantry Regiment of La Plata for them to give her to me. I waited at home at night for someone to ring the door bell and hand over the child, who was then three months old. I went to Police Station No. 5 which had been converted into a detention centre. I spoke to the Inspector there. Really, I do not know how I had the courage to enter the place on my own. They agreed to see me, which was a miracle. And they told me that the child was alive, that they would look for her, but that they would always deny this if I said anything.
Lacking identity papers so that relatives could not recognize them, and left in orphanages, some of these children were completely cut off from all social and family life.
According to the declaration of Juan Carlos Juárez (file No. 3978):
Halfway through May 1977 the house of my sister, Lucinda Delfina Juárez, and of her son aged three, Sebastián Ariel Juárez, was broken into by heavily-armed members of the Army wearing olive-green uniforms. They came in military vehicles and Surrounded the house, which was situated in Calle Tatai, Claypole, Buenos Aires province.
The little boy Sebastián, my nephew, was left in a neighbour's house after his home was attacked. A few days later the neighbour left the child in the No. 1 Minors' Court at Lomas de Zamora in the care of judge Martha Pons, who put him into the Casa de Belén Orphanage without carrying out any investigations into his identity, but aware of the circumstances of his case. Sebastián spent his early childhood at the orphanage, living with twelve other children until he was identified. One obstacle was that the child had been registered in court with another identity, in spite of the fact that there was a mass of details on the incident that led to him becoming an orphan. No photograph of the child had been published, so that the family could not find him. For seven years Sebastián lived without knowing who he was, and what was worse, without love, affection or knowing where he came from. The indefatigable search by his family, however, resulted in Sebastián Ariel Juárez being reunited with them on 22 May, 1984.
This case, like the following one, proves how much can be done to overcome the serious damage done by the repression, when all the institutions of the State are coordinating their efforts in the investigations.
In the month of February 1984, a note was received by the Commission (file No. 3014) from the relatives of Horacio B. and Margarita D. asking us to find both of them and their daughters, Maríana and Liliana, about whom nothing had been heard since
1977. Later, in May of the same year, a deposition was received by the Commission sent by the Mar del Plata representative in which the person who made the deposition related how in the first months of 1978, he had seen photographs of two children published in a La Plata newspaper requesting information about them. The witness recognized them as being the daughters of Horacio B. and Margarita D. At the same time it was learnt that Horacio B. had died during a military operation, and that Margarita had been kidnapped.
The military operation took place in November 1977 on the corner of Calles 25 de Mayo and Venezuela, in the Ensenada district. Both depositions were sent by the Commission to the Commission on Disappeared Children of the Secretariat of Human Development and the Family, in accordance with procedures on exchanges of information agreed between the two organizations. Members of the Commission immediately went to check old editions of the La Plata newspaper El Día, and were able to prove that the publication was the result of a request made by Minors' Court No. 2 in the city of La Plata.
In the court the relevant dossier was examined, and it was discovered that on 27 November 1977
two infant girls had been left at the Children's Hospital for reasons unknown.
People were interviewed in the Ensenada neighbourhood on Calles 25 de Mayo and Venezuela, and information obtained about a search by members of the army in November 1977.
The neighbours recounted how on this date military personnel from the 7th Infantry Regiment of La Plata carried out a raid in which two men were killed and a woman was taken away who was recognized as Margarita D. Later a car without number plates took Margarita D.'s daughters to an unknown place. Shorth, afterwards uniformed soldiers arrived in a military van and began to take the furniture out of the house, as well as the owners' personal belongings. Those items that were not wanted were thrown aside and burnt in the road, in front of all the neighbours.
Witnesses of the events recognized the photographs that were shown to them by members of the Commission. In addition, a visit was made to Mar del Plata to interview the person who had given the information that led to the investigation. The exact date and time of the military raid provided by this witness led the Commission to the conclusion that the small girls abandoned in the Children's Hospital of La Plata were in fact Maríana and Liliana B., as they were left in this institution on 27 November at 6 p.m., that is to say three hours after the military operation had been carried out.
In the dossier in the Minors' Court involved in the case, it is stated that a search at the time brought no results. Nobody came forward to give information in spite of articles published in the newspapers, The Court then handed over the two children provisionally to a married couple in La Plata. A year later this couple, with the help of another Court in the city, obtained the right to fully adopt the children.
The information obtained by the Commission of the Secretariat of Human Development and the Family was conveyed to the Commission on Disappeared People. At this point the member of parliament Santiago López intervened personally in the case.
Accompanied by members of the Commission of the Secretariat, he interviewed the judge in charge of the Minors' Court (already mentioned), and in her presence, he interviewed the children's adoptive parents.
It was decided at that meeting that with the agreement of the girls' adoptive parents, blood tests should be carried out by the court in the immunology unit of the Durand Hospital of La Plata.
At the same time, on the initiative of Señor López, members of the Secretariat went to Trelew to get in touch with relatives of Horacio B. and of Margarita D. and told them about the developments and the proposal to carry out the relevant blood tests. At the request of the Commission, Dr Di Lonardo and Dr Yamamoto, who were working in the Blood Unit in the Durand Hospital, travelled to Trelew, carrying out the blood tests on the relatives who lived there.
At the moment the Commission is waiting for final results that would definitively establish the children's parentage.