Argentina dictatorship children sorry for fathers’ crimes
Seven women walked timidly through the streets of Argentina’s capital holding a banner that identified them as the children of human rights criminals.
“Disobedient Stories,” read the banner, “Sons and Daughters of Genocide In Favor of Memory, Truth and Justice.”
The women who had once discussed their fathers’ role in the nation’s past horrors only privately recently started a group called “Disobedient Stories” to publicly recount tales of growing up with military men who they say committed abuses during Argentina’s so-called “dirty war” against leftist dissidents.
They include Laura Delgadillo, whose father, Jorge Luis Delgadillo, died without being convicted. Delgadillo accuses her dad of being part of the state-sponsored repression when he worked for the intelligence service of Buenos Aires province.
“These were 40 years of silence, shame and guilt,” Delgadillo said of the years before she went public with her family secret.
The rights abuses committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship still haunt Argentines four decades after the end of state-sponsored violence against leftists.
Those crimes weigh especially heavily on the children of the men who kidnapped, tortured and killed members of the political opposition. The children are now adults and they are breaking previous family pacts of silence to publicly denounce their fathers and seek forgiveness for what they did.
Official estimates say about 7,600 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, but rights activists believe the number was actually as high as 30,000.
One woman in the group still feels so ashamed by her father’s past role in abuses that she changed her last name and is now known publicly only as Mariana D.
Nevertheless, the daughter of Miguel Etchecolatz, a former police investigator sentenced in 2006 to life imprisonment in the disappearance of six people, was the first of the daughters and a few sons to come forward.
Mariana D. first joined a public demonstration in May protesting an Argentine Supreme Court ruling that many feared would let rights abusers go free. Days later, Delgadillo and other daughters of dictatorship-era military men joined her in a different demonstration against gender-specific abuse in Buenos Aires, carrying the attention-drawing banner that prompted many passers-by to stop and photograph them.
Other children of the military men have gone public with their family stories on social media.
“Those of us who scream in their faces the word ‘murderer’” should join the “Disobedient Stories” group, Erika Lederer wrote on Facebook. Her father, Ricardo Lederer, was a doctor at a detention center where babies born to political prisoners in custody were stolen by the military junta then in power.
About 500 newborns throughout Argentina were whisked away and raised by surrogate families. Several hundred babies are still unaccounted for.
Lederer began “Disobedient Stories” with Liliana Furio and Analia Kalinec, who had similar tales to tell, and it has now grown to include about 15 people. Group members have received messages of support from the relatives of dictatorship victims and people from other Latin American countries.
“We want to heal wounds together,” Furio said. “We felt deeply lonely. We had no clue so many others were in the same situation.”