BUENOS AIRES: An Argentine grandmother whose rights group has fought to find babies stolen during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship finally found her long-lost grandson Tuesday, 36 years after he was snatched from his mother.
Estela Carlotto, the 83-year-old leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group, was told that her dead daughter’s missing son was found after DNA tests confirmed the 36-year-old man’s identity.
“I thank all of you, God and life, because I didn’t want to die without hugging him,” Carlotto said with a broad smile at her organization’s headquarters, surrounded by her colleagues, three surviving children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The white-haired grandmother said she could not wait to finally meet her missing grandson, who was taken away from his mother, Laura, after she gave birth while detained during the dictatorship’s “dirty war” against leftists.
“I want to touch him, look at him,” Carlotto said, adding that she learned that her grandson was “an artist, a musician like many of his cousins.”
“Laura is smiling from the heavens,” she said.
“Some said that he looks like me. He’s shaken up. Now he knows,” she said, explaining his absence at a press conference.
Laura Carlotto, a leftist militant, was three months pregnant when she was taken to a prison camp by the right-wing authoritarian regime in 1977.
She gave birth on June 26, 1978, while in captivity. She had named the boy Guido but was killed two months after he was born. The woman’s body was later handed to her mother.
Ever since then, Estela Carlotto searched desperately for her grandson, convinced that the boy had to be alive.
The baby was taken away by a military official who handed him to a “family that raised him well, maybe innocently,” Carlotto said. He was among 500 children taken by the regime.
The man was identified as Ignacio Hurban, who lives in Olavarria, a city 350 kilometers (217 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.
He had voluntarily presented himself to a national commission that identifies missing people about a month ago, a judge and relatives said.
Carlotto’s other daughter, Claudia, said she was able to speak with her nephew.
“He was very happy and emotional, and we will all see him soon,” she said.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and a sister group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, have led a nationwide effort to reunite the 500 children who were taken from leftists and government opponents during the dictatorship.
Many stolen children were raised by military and police officials. Others were even taken in by their parents’ killers.
An estimated 30,000 people were killed or made to “disappear” during the dictatorship.
In 2012, former dictators Jorge Videla, who has since died, and Reynaldo Bignone were sentenced to 50 years and 15 years in prison, respectively, over the regime’s theft of babies.
Carlotto’s grandson is the 114th child to have been found, and she vowed to continue her struggle to find the others.
Laura was with her baby for just five hours before he was taken from her, according to her brother, lawmaker Remo Carlotto.
News of the discovery was delivered to Carlotto by federal judge Maria Servini de Cubria, who is in charge of several cases of babies who were stolen by the right-wing military regime.
“I have located several children, but this is the biggest thrill. I always told Estela: I am going to find your grandson,” Servini de Cubria told Del Plata radio.
Judge Servini de Cubria said the man’s DNA was compared to the remains of his father.
“When it was known that he could be Estela’s grandson, we worked all weekend and the Genetics Database did an excellent job,” Servini de Cubria said.
During her desperate search, Carlotto learned the identity of her grandson’s father, Oscar Montoya, whose family was also thrilled at the news.
Her life was immortalized in the 2011 film “Verdades Verdaderas” (Real Truths).