‘Von Wernich said children had to pay for sins’
Survivor Luis Velasco Blake recalls his time in illegal detention with Ana Libertad’s parents
In 2007, Luis Velasco Blake appeared before the Federal Oral Court Number 1 in La Plata and turned around to look straight into chaplain Christian Von Wernich’s eyes. “Given that Von Wernich is present, I would like the tribunal to ask him... to say where Ana Libertad is,” he cried out.
Velasco was one of the survivors of the clandestine detention centre that operated in police station number 5 in the city of La Plata, where Ana Libertad Baratti de la Cuadra — who on Friday recovered her real identity — was born in 1977.
He has lived in Spain since 1977, when he was released from the concentration camp. In conversation with the Herald, he celebrated the good news and that the truth has finally emerged.
“My lawyer in the trial against Von Wernich, Guadalupe Godoy, was the first person that phoned me to tell me the news. I was surprised. Of course, I am happy,” Velasco said. Godoy and other lawyers were yesterday taking part of a hearing in the trial for crimes committed in the clandestine detention centre known as La Cacha, where Estela Barnes de Carlotto’s daughter, Laura, was held before giving birth to her baby, now a 36-year-old man who recovered his real identity 18 days ago.
How did you meet Elena de la Cuadra and Héctor Baratti?
In fact, I did not meet Elena. I was in the same cell with Héctor, Ricardo Bonín and Humberto Fraccaroli. I was in the same cell for 22 days and we developed an important friendship.
What was your encounter with Von Wernich like?
He came to the cell and he said we should not have hatred due to torture but I told him that it was impossible, and that they were going to be held responsible for what they were doing. I had a peculiar relation with him because he told me while I was in detention that he was the cousin of an uncle’s wife. Baratti was silent but then he told Von Wernich: “Why is my baby girl responsible? She is kidnapped and she was born in custody.” Then the chaplain said that our children had to pay for the sins of their parents and that our parents would not be able to raise our children because they have already educated children who turned out to be terrorists.
Elena only had her baby for four days. Did Von Wernich tell Baratti this when the baby girl was still there in the police station?
No, that conversation came later. I know that Héctor met his baby and he saw Elena. He knew that he was going to be killed. They were arrested in February and I was abducted in July. He used to beg us to remember his mother-in-law’s address and to go to tell her to look for the baby. He wanted her to know that the baby was born and that her name was Ana Libertad. Ana was the name they had always liked and Libertad (freedom) was something that they held in great regard because of the circumstances.
And when did you contact Héctor’s mother-in-law, Alicia “Licha” Zubasnabar de de la Cuadra?
I was released on August 8, 1977. I was terrified. I was in the middle of a dilemma. I had to let her know but I was totally frightened, so I asked a friend of mine, a classmate from university, to go to Licha’s house to tell her about it.
So that year Licha received two messages regarding her relatives held in the police station number 5: first the note left by survivor Adriana Calvo and then your friend’s visit. Is that right?
When did you meet Licha?
I came back to Argentina 10 years after my release, in 1987. A doctor who was a friend of mine was a good friend of her family and he told me that they wanted to meet me. Licha was a charming woman. I told her the anecdotes of the days we spent there. We laughed and we cried together. I thought that was all but a year later I came back to the country and again my friend told me that they wanted to see me to verify some things from my testimony. However, she did not want to check anything from the testimony. In fact, I was the only link she had with her loved ones. I met her every time I have been in the country and she used to give me presents. She used to say that I was “her witness.”
Do you know something else from Ana Libertad apart from the fact that she is living in Europe, as you are?
Nothing else yet. For a long time, I thought about writing a novel — I am writer — with a very similar plot. I thought of writing about a girl living in Spain that thanks to a friend learns about the possibility of being the daughter of disappeared parents and that she finally had her blood tests, which would confirm that she was Ana Libertad. Pretty similar.