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ARGENTINA
Fight for identity
Pablo Waisberg
12/10/2003
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Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo succeed in restoring identity of 75 children of the disappeared during the dictatorship.

Horacio Pietragalla Corti always knew he was not the biological son of the couple that raised him. Like some of the children of the disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) who were kidnapped and handed over to other families, he had an intuition that he was not the son of the parents who had brought him up.

Horacio found no physical resemblance nor qualities similar to "his family of rearing" and he always had a doubt. The search, made with his girlfriend and future wife, began to bear fruit when she found a picture of a woman on the web page of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and she told him: "This is your mother."

Horacio went to the National Commission for the Right to an Identity (CONADI) and a federal court, where he asked for an order to carry out a genetic exam and obtained the answer he was looking for. He picked up the telephone, dialed the number of Grandmothers — which had incorporated his case in a lawsuit already opened before the courts — and said: "It’s Horacio Pietragalla Corti, I am going over there." That day, March 11, 2003, was his 27th birthday, although he didn’t know it yet.

He was born March 11, 1976, son of Horacio Pietragalla, murdered in 1975 and Liliana Corti, who died August 5, 1976. After shooting Liliana to death, the military kidnapped Horacio, then five months old, and they turned him over to Hernán Tetzlaff, a lieutenant colonel who had already kidnapped Hilda Victoria Montenegro, another daughter of the disappeared.

Tetzlaff should have turned over Horacio to friends but they decided not to receive the child. He then decided that the baby could be brought up by his domestic employee who had shown interest in the child. The lieutenant colonel is now detained for the kidnapping of Montenegro and he must also give an explanation for the kidnapping of Pietragalla Corti.

"It’s hard to learn how they killed your mother and father, the search for a body that is not there, but it is all worth when you learn the truth. Now I can have a wholesome life, I can have children," said Horacio who a few months ago had another last name and just one family. Now he has two, a "family of rearing" – which did not have a friendship with the oppressors – and another biological family.

The young man became grandchild number 75 of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo who recovered his identity. Now, like nearly all those who recovered their identity, Horacio works actively with the Grandmothers.

In 1992, the Grandmothers succeeded in creating CONADI, an organism that depends on the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice and is authorized to order genetic analyses. Its task is complementary to the work of the National Bank of Genetic Data, where information on the families of children stolen between 1976 and 1983 is stored.

But not all of the stories of stolen children end like that of Pietragalla Corti. Several of the children kidnapped and raised by oppressors – in many cases the same people that detained their parents – face serious difficulties in reconstructing their lives.

This is the case of Evelyn Karina, stolen by naval officer Policarpo Vázquez and his wife, Ana María Farrás, who acknowledged before the courts the crime committed and were tried. The young woman, who could be the daughter of Susana Pegoraro and Rubén Bauer, refused to undergo the genetic analyses to find out who her biological parents are.

Her position was supported last October by the Supreme Court, which rejected (seven votes to one) the compulsory extraction of blood, considering it a violation of "the right to intimacy" guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution. The ruling said: "A blood test is not even necessary to determine that a crime took place since it is practically certain due to the confession of the parents."

The Grandmothers questioned the ruling and said "the Argentine state is obliged to guarantee the right to an identity" and stressed the need of the Bauer and Pegoraro families to know who Evelyn Karina really is. On Oct. 25, Grandmothers presented a complaint to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission against the high court and it was accepted on Nov 5. In addition, on Nov. 1 they asked Congress for a political trial against the judges.

In 1977, shortly after the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo group was founded, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was created with the sole purpose of finding the children who were born in the centers of detention and were handed over to families linked to the dictatorship (LP, Jul 24 and Sept 10, 2001). The calculations made indicated that some 500 births had taken place in clandestine maternity wards.

The Grandmothers have managed to annul full adoptions (made in apocryphal manner) and require people to undergo DNA analyses.

 


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