Human rights have been a central part of the Kirchnerite agenda. Not surprisingly, children of disappeared parents are taking important places in the lists for the PASO primaries to be held next week in a number of political parties both in favour and against the national government.
The slogan of the ruling Victory Front (FpV) for the October midterm is: “In life, you have to choose”. In a campaign poster, two young men are seen having a cup of coffee under the slogan “they chose to recover their identities.” Both of them are children of disappeared parents.
So is Juan Cabandié, who is heading the FpV ticket to the Lower House of Congress in Buenos Aires City. Cabandié was born at the ESMA clandestine detention centre in 1978 and was appropriated by the policeman Luis Falco. In 2003, Cabandié’s real identity was restituted. In 2004, he delivered a speech at the rally staged outside the ESMA. Since then, he has become a popular Kirchnerite figure. He is one of the leaders of the youth organization La Cámpora, which is headed by the President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s son, Máximo Kirchner. In 2007, Cabandié was elected to the City Legislature and he is now the head of the FpV caucus. If elected in October as is expected, he will in the spotlight of the national political arena.
Cabandié is not the only child of disappeared parents in the City’s FpV list. He is joined by Victoria Montenegro. The 37-year-old woman who takes the fifth place on the ticket was born in 1976. She was snatched by Herman Tetzlaff, chief of the Vesubio clandestine detention centre who was also in charge of Communications at the Campo de Mayo garrison, one of the biggest concentration camps in Buenos Aires province. Montenegro recovered her identity in 2000. She has maintained a lower profile than Cabandié. She has been part of the Kolina organization since it was founded, which is the political group headed by the president’s sister-in-law, the Social Development Minister Alicia Kirchner.
“Since Néstor Kirchner took office in 2003, we have been able to take to the present time our missing ones. We are trying to fulfill our parents’ dreams,” Montenegro told the Herald. “I find the FpV as the only coalition capable of taking to action those policies to transform people’s lives,” she said.
The Kirchnerite candidate also added that if she and Cabandié get a seat at the Lower House, they will join other children of disappeared parents such as Horacio Pietragalla and Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, who have already become lawmakers. “We are the result of the human rights groups struggle,” Montenegro concluded.
In Santa Fe province, Josefina González is Jorge Obeid’s second on the Victory Front list for the Congress. “La Tana”, as she is known by human rights activists, is also a member of La Cámpora organization. Her parents, Dardo Tosetto and Ruth González, were part of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). Her father was killed before the military coup. With her mother, Josefina was taken to Rosario City’s Information Service and she stayed in that clandestine detention centre for months.
Victoria Donda used to be part of Kirchnerite coalition but she is not any more. One of the leaders of the Libres del Sur movement, she is a lawmaker at the Lower House but she is joining the economist Alfonso Prat Gay on the ticket for the Upper House for the PASO primaries. Like Cabandié, Donda was born at the ESMA clandestine detention centre, where her mother was taken to give birth to her. Paradoxically, in that concentration camp, her uncle was one of the repressors. Donda was appropriated by one the ESMA’s death squad members, Juan Antonio Azic, who is currently being tried for the crimes committed during the dictatorship.
Before knowing her real identity, Donda became an activist for the Libres del Sur movement. Since then, she has maintained a critical approach toward politics. Currently she criticizes the Kirchnerite administration for its “double standard” in human rights issues.
“The problem is not that the FpV uses the recovery of identity as a slogan for the campaign, the problem is the content of the speech. Now, for the FpV, to recover identity means to accept that while allegedly defending the human rights violated during the dictatorship, they appoint a man like César Milani as the head of the Army,” Donda told the Herald.
Milani’s appointment as army chief has been controversial for the Kirchnerite administration. The general served in the so-called Operation Independence in Tucumán province, where he is linked to the disappearance of conscript Alberto Agapito Ledo. Milani was also reported for taking part in abductions in La Rioja province during the military regime that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.
Asked if she considered that Milani’s appointment could represent an obstacle for the FpV in the elections, Montenegro denied it.
“I absolutely back the decisions made by the president. We should follow the necessary steps, which is to let the judicial investigation to be carried out. If something is proved, the necessary measures should be taken,” the Kirchnerite candidate highlighted.
LEFT WORKERS’ FRONT
Juliana García is running for Congress in Buenos Aires City for the Left Worker’s Front. She is actually a member of one of the parties included in the coalition, Izquierda Socialista, and she is also a daughter of disappeared parents.
In 1977, a death squad arrived at the house where a 3-year-old Juliana lived with her parents, Domingo García and Beatriz Recchia. Both were teachers and members of the armed Peronist organization Montoneros. García was killed while Recchia was taken to Campo de Mayo clandestine detention centre. There she gave birth to a girl who was snatched. A lifelong fighter, Juliana always searched for her until she found her in 2009.
“The government did some things concerning human rights but also used them for its own benefit,” García, who currently works at the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo team, told the Herald.
“The Kirchnerite leaders argue that they have been recovering the missing grandchildren. However, the government is not leading the investigation toward this aim,” she highlighted. For García, there are many pending issues regarding crimes committed during the dictatorship and she firmly opposes Milani’s appointment.
“The state is trying to recompose its Armed Forces but maintaining the perpetrators of genocide,” she said.
Their varied voices show a different approach to a controversial part of Argentine history. Men and women in their mid-thirties or forties are no longer the youngsters demonstrating outside the Congress. Now, as part of the generational change, they want to win their seats.