(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
People over fifty-five still among the disappeared
Thousands of young people, hundreds of babies, children and adolescents disappeared. But the 'pensioners' were not spared repression and torture either. Our file shows 150 people aged fifty-five or more, who disappeared after March 1976. Generally they were taken from their homes, where often they were acting as grandparents. Neither the advanced age, nor, in many cases, the precarious state of health of the victims were respected.
'Do not worry, madam, we'll look after him,' I was told by men wearing military and civilian clothes, who came to my house, heavily armed, and took me and my husband away. They came on 28 August 1976 at 2.30 a.m. They were looking for our daughter, María Cristina, who had not been living with us for four years. After searching the whole house they said they would have to take my husband as he was the oldest. (File No. 776.)
Pedro Solis was seventy-seven years old. He had retired from the Federal Police and was a frequent patient at the Churruca Hospital as he suffered from arterial sclerosis and hypertension (file No. 776).
My grandfather was in bed, just recovering from a heart attack, under doctor's orders for complete rest. On 11 June 1976 a group of heavily armed men entered his house looking for Victor, his son. According to neighbours, about twenty cars were involved in the operation, some belonging to the Army. My grandfather, who was sixty years old, was attended by a nurse. But in spite of her pleas, and his state of health, the group made him get up and, hitting him, forced him into one of the cars without allowing him to take his most important medicine with him. Before taking him away they asked him on several occasions, where Victor Rafael Bruschtein, my father, lived. From that time on we heard nothing more of my grandfather. (Dr Santiago Isaac Bruschtein, file No. 1508.)
Nelly Dupuy de Valladares (file No. 3103) was sixty-two years old when she was imprisoned. She was looking after her nephew aged one year and eight months. The father of the child, Carlos A. Valladares, was not in the country, and his daughter-in-law had been held a prisoner in Chaco province for over a year. On 23 April 1977 Señora de Valladares and her nephew Héctor were taken from their house in San Miguel de Tucumán. The boy was handed over forty-eight hours later to his aunt in the Provincial Police Headquarters. Nothing more has been heard of Señora de Valladares.
Héctor Germán Oesterheld (file No. 143), a scriptwriter by profession, was born on 23 July 1919. There is practically no information on how he was detained, but he was seen, according to different people who were released from prison, in the Campo de Mayo, El Vesubio and El Sheraton detention centres.
He disappeared on 27 April 1977, when he was fifty-nine years old. Eduardo Arias, a psychologist aged thirty-eight, was one of the last people to see him alive:
I was detained in November 1977 and kept prisoner until January 1978. Héctor Oesterheld had been in prison for a long time. He was in a terrible state. We stayed together for a considerable period. One of the worst moments was when they brought his small grandson, aged five, to him. The child was brought after his fourth daughter and son-in-law had been arrested and killed, and he was taken to that hell. ... One of the most unforgettable memories I have of Héctor was on Christmas Eve 1977. The guards gave us permission to take off our hoods and smoke a cigarette. They also allowed us to talk to each other for five minutes. Then Héctor said that as he was the oldest he wanted to shake hands with all the prisoners present, one by one. I will never forget that handshake. Héctor Oesterheld was sixty years old when this happened. His physical condition was very bad indeed. I don't know what happened to him. I was freed in January 1978. He stayed in that place. I never heard anything more of him.
Another example of cruelty and repression was the experience of Elsa Fernández de Sanz (file No. 7227). She was sixty-two years old and came from Uruguay as her daughter Aída was about to have a child. Two days after her arrival a group of people dressed in civilian clothes and carrying arms raided the house. Both were arrested and until now they are still among the 'disappeared'. Witnesses who came to this Commission said they had seen her in the secret detention centre called 'Pozo de Bánfield', where she was brutally tortured in spite of her age and the fact that she was completely deaf.
Don Luis Alejandro Lescano (file No. 6552) was sixty-four when he was seized. After a long association with the Radical Party, he became a member of parliament. He was detained in the street in Santiago del Estero after meeting someone in a café. Several of the leaders of the Radical Party intervened with the different authorities on his behalf, but in vain. He is still among the disappeared.
We would also like to mention in this section of the report a group of people who, because they were looking for relatives, themselves became victims of repression and disappeared. This happened during an operation that was carried out by the Navy Mechanics School. The incidents took place when relatives and friends were holding a meeting in the Church of Santa Cruz, in the San Cristóbal neighbourhood, Buenos Aires. Of the twelve people who were seized, four were over fifty years old. They were María Eugenia Ponce de Bianco, aged fifty-three (file No. 5740); Azucena Villaflor de Vincenti - a mother of the Plaza de Mayo - aged fifty-three: María Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, aged fifty-nine (file No. 1396) and Léonie Duquet, aged sixty (a French nun).