Memory, truth and justice
Thirty-seven years after Estela Barnes de Carlotto began her search, yesterday the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo celebrated the discovery of the treasure she had been looking for since a death squad abducted her eldest daughter, Laura Carlotto, in November 1977. Surrounded by children of disappeared parents but also by her three children and 13 grandchildren, the head of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo yesterday announced that the 114th child recovered by her organization was Guido, her own grandson.
Laura was only 23 years old when she was kidnapped. An active member of the left-wing Peronist armed organization Montoneros , she was pregnant at the time of her capture, something her mother did not know since she was a clandestine militant trying to dodge persecution. Estela and Guido, Laura’s parents, did not even know her boyfriend. Yesterday the family confirmed that Oscar Montoya, also a disappeared member of Montoneros, was the grandson’s father — thanks to the same DNA test.
“You can do this to me but my mother will never forgive you,” Estela Barnes de Carlotto’s daughter allegedly told her captors at the clandestine detention centre known as “La Cacha”, located next to the Olmos Penitentiary Unit in the city of La Plata. And Estela did not.
“The only thing I have always wanted was justice and truth. Now Laura will probably say: ‘Mum, you won. It was a long battle and the prize is for all of us,” Barnes de Carlotto said in a room packed with human rights activists, officials, journalists and cameras. “Now I have my 14 grandchildren,” she added and her three children, Claudia, Guido “Kibo” and Remo smiled.
Estela has not met her grandson yet, who only exchanged a couple of messages with National Commission for the Right to Identity chief Claudia Carlotto.
“I phoned him and I said: ‘You are the son of disappeared parents, you’re Carlotto’s grandson, you’re my nephew’ and he only said ‘oh,’” Claudia yesterday said in the press conference alongside her mother.
Barnes de Carlotto saw some pictures of her grandson, a musician from the city of Olavarría, in Buenos Aires province.
“He is handsome. He is an artist. He has been looking for me. He was there. He came to Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo headquarters. He was welcomed and he was listened to and now I can say that with 99.99 percent of certainty that he is my grandson,” Estela laughed.
Breaking the news
Alan Iud, the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo legal team, yesterday visited Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría’s office. He left without knowing that the judge was going to phone Estela.
- Estela, you should come round.
- I don’t think I can make it today.
- You should. I have important news.
Barnes de Carlotto arrived at Servini de Cubría’s office and there she learnt that her dream had come true.
“I have bought T-shirts and pins for my grandson from every place I visited. I do not know if I was going to be able to hug him and I wanted him to know that I have taken my demand to all those places,” Barnes de Carlotto said.
When she was leaving her office, her mobile phone rang. It was President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “Is it true, Estela?” And the two women cried. Barnes de Carlotto repeatedly said the president reminded her of her late daughter, murdered by a death squad of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
Last month, Ignacio Hurban, a musician, arrived at Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’s headquarters. Someone had told him that he could be the son of disappeared parents. He knew the country’s tragic history well. Two years earlier he had taken part in a concert named Music for Identity sponsored by the human rights organization founded in 1977.
A long wait
In April 1977, a woman — a survivor who had been held along with Laura — appeared at the hardware store owned by Estela’s husband, Guido. The woman told them that Laura was alive and that she was expecting a baby. She also told Estela to be ready to look for the baby at a maternity ward and to name him Guido.
As she told the Herald last year, Estela prepared a layette, thinking that she would have to raise her grandson. “We never thought that they would appropriate these innocent babies,” Barnes de Carlotto recalled.
Guido was born on June 26, 1977. Laura only spent five hours with her baby before he was snatched.
Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo identified the man who snatched the baby and gave him to a family whose name was not revealed. The man, allegedly a farm owner in Olavarría, passed away in March and his death triggered the truth.
“Guido does not have children. He is married and his partner is very supportive,” Barnes de Carlotto said.
“Not even media that do not like us can deny this. Our grandchildren are there. They are waiting for us,” Barnes de Carlotto said. Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Clarín Group held an exhausting battle for a decade when the organization fought back against efforts to explore the real identity of media owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble’s children. The battle ended when a DNA test proved that Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera have no ties with families who are looking for their missing children.
Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’s vice-president Rosa Roisinblit was seated next to Barnes de Carlotto yesterday and vowed to continue the work: “We need to find them because we are old and the clock is ticking.”
Roisinblit then hugged Barnes de Carlotto, who stood up, opened the window and waved to the people gathered outside the headquarters.@LucianaBertoia