The founder of Argentina’s anti-dictatorship “mothers” dies at the age of 93

The founder of Argentina’s anti-dictatorship “mothers” dies at the age of 93


Hebe de Bonafini, who led a group of Argentinian women known as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo who defied military dictatorship and demanded the truth about their missing children, died on Sunday at the age of 93, the country’s vice president said.

Bonafini was one of the group’s founders in 1977, uniting a group of mothers who were protesting before the presidency and desperate to know the whereabouts of tens of thousands kidnapped during the brutal military regime of 1976-1983.

For 45 years, through different governments, the women met and marched around the Plaza de Mayo in their signature white headscarves in an often futile search for justice.

Vice President Cristina Kirchner announced Bonafini’s death on Twitter, hailing her as a “world symbol of the struggle for human rights, pride of Argentina”.

Her daughter Alejandra Bonafini confirmed her death at a hospital in Buenos Aires, where she had been hospitalized for several days.

“These are very difficult moments of deep sadness and we understand people’s love for Hebe. But right now we have to cry in private,” Alejandra wrote.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez said Bonafini was a “tireless fighter for human rights” and declared three days of national mourning.

“The government and the Argentine people recognize her as an international symbol of the search for memory, truth and justice for the 30,000 missing,” he added in a statement.

“As the founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, she shone a light in the dark night of military dictatorship and paved the way for the restoration of democracy.”

The governments of Cuba and Venezuela also paid tribute to Bonafini.

– kidnapping leftists, babies –

About 30,000 people were abducted and allegedly killed by the regime or right-wing death squads in the 1970s and 1980s for suspected left-wingers.

Added to this was the drama of the widespread kidnapping of babies of suspected dissidents held during the right-wing dictatorship.

Many babies – descendants of now deceased dissidents – were born in captivity without the knowledge of their blood relatives and given to military families for adoption.

Bonafini, who attended rallies in a wheelchair in recent years, was born in 1928 in Ensenada, a city 60 kilometers from Buenos Aires.

She was a homemaker when the military took power in 1976, ousting Isabel Peron, wife of the late President Juan Peron.

However, in 1977 her sons and daughter-in-law were kidnapped and disappeared.

“I forgot who I was when they disappeared. I never thought of myself again,” Bonafini recently said of her life at the opening of a photo exhibition.

A few months later, she began protesting with a small group of women in front of the Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace.

The mothers risked the same fate as their politically active children: torture, death or simply disappearing without a trace. Instead, the generals tried to laugh at them, mocking them as “crazy women.”

Until the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, the women circled the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday and became famous worldwide for their fight.

In later years, Bonafini became a more controversial figure, a radical supporter of left-wing Kirchnerism and a staunch supporter of former President Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina, the current Vice President.

In 2017, she was charged with allegedly embezzling funds to build homes for the poor, which she says was a political act by then-President Mauricio Macri, whom she viewed as an “enemy.” The case was unsolved at the time of her death.

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