Argentina's dirty war took a step toward closure this week when two former Argentine dictators were found guilty of a plan to steal babies from prisoners who were then kidnapped, tortured and killed.
As reported by the Associated Press, Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years, while the country's last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, got a 15-year sentence. Nine others, mostly former military and police officials, also were accused in the trial, which focused on 34 of the baby thefts. Seven were convicted and two were found not guilty.
The pain of losing someone dear is something that people across a broad spectrum of life can feel. In 2004 members of the organization I co-founded along with Randy Credico called the Mothers of the NY Disappeared took a trip to Argentina to meet the mothers of those murdered by these men. Our group was created after the "madres" who fought for many years to see that justice would be served. We formed our group to fight for repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York where all our members had suffered from these draconian drug laws. What bonded our group with the Argentinian mothers was the pain that both groups felt through the loss of their sons and daughters.
One of the groups called The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo -- the grandmothers of the disappeared -- was formed on October 22, 1977, and became dedicated to finding the children that were stolen. The president of the group, Estela de Carlotto, lost her daughter on November 26, 1977. Laura Estella de Carlotto had been a militant student at the university. Estela, a soft-spoken woman in her 70s, told me "we had warned her of the danger, but she wanted to change the country." Nine months after her kidnapping, the military police called Estela to tell her that her 21-year-old daughter had been assassinated.
Estela notes that protesting the kidnappings "was dangerous, some of us were kidnapped and assassinated." But their perseverance paid off shown by the recent convictions of those responsible.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group has since used DNA evidence to help 106 people who were stolen from prisoners as babies recover their true identities. Many of them were raised by military officials or their allies.
Members of another group, called the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora, told a similar story while we were in Argentina. Their office walls were adorned with photos of love ones that had disappeared. Some of the women had pictures of murdered family members draped around their necks in the place of jewelry. In a round table discussion the Mothers of the New York Disappeared and the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora exchanged information about each groups' struggle. It was concluded that both groups would not give up hope.
As seen by the recent Argentina convictions and the historic reforms of the Rockefeller Drug laws in that occurred in 2009 it shows that perseverance and determination can result in achieving justice