Argentines visit fallen soldiers’ graves in Falkland Islands
Thomas Stockting and Paul Byrne
DARWIN, Falkland Islands - A forensic study led by the International Committee of the Red Cross identified the remains of the soldiers last year after a multinational team of experts exhumed the remains. More than 200 relatives of the soldiers traveled aboard flights early Monday morning to the remote cemetery in the South Atlantic where until now, the gravestones read: “Argentine soldier known only to God.”
“It’s a very strong, new feeling because I found my son,” said Dalal Abd, the mother of soldier Marcelo Daniel Massad, as she held back tears.
“I was able to speak to him, as a mother, and ask him questions,” she said. “I have a feeling of peace because I know where he is after almost 36 years of so many struggles. I know he’s here now, with his cross.”
Experts exhumed, analyzed, sampled and documented the remains from graves at Darwin cemetery, which is known for its rows of white crosses and dark gray tombstones. The samples were analyzed and compared with DNA samples from family members of some of the dead soldiers at a laboratory in Argentina. Laboratories in Britain and Spain conducted quality control of the DNA analyses.
The Red Cross has said the identification process of more than 120 graves was highly successful.
“A huge step has also been taken by Argentina to fulfill a pending commitment with the families and the heroes of Las Malvinas,” said Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj, using the name used by Argentines for the islands that the South American country still claims.
“This is the road that Argentina and the world needs to take - dialogue, encounters, mutual respect and recognition of our fellow men,” he said. “This way, our societies will be better, more just, and peaceful.”
The families of the fallen Argentine troops paid tribute Friday to Geoffrey Cardozo, a retired British colonel. In 1983, Cardozo, then a young captain, was ordered to recover and rebury the Argentine troops. Cardozo joined the families during Monday’s trip to explain how he organized the cemetery.
Argentina lost the war with Britain after Argentine troops invaded the South Atlantic archipelago. In all, the war claimed the lives of 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.
In a breakthrough after decades of tense relations, the two nations also agreed in 2016 to lift some restrictions on the extraction of natural resources, shipping and fishing industries in the Falklands, and increase the number of flights between the islands and South America.
Byrne reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Associated Press writers Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey contributed to this report.