2022-11-29

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Argentinian human rights legend Hebe de Bonafini dies aged 93 – Morning Star Online


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HUMAN rights campaigner and a founder of the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini, died on Sunday aged 93.
Ms de Bonafini became a human rights campaigner when her two sons were arrested and disappeared under Argentina’s military dictatorship in the 1970s.
The death was confirmed by her only surviving child, Alejandra, who expressed thanks for the support her mother received while hospitalised in the city of La Plata. 
Hospital officials said she had suffered from unspecified chronic illnesses.
The country’s Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who had close ties with Ms de Bonafini, posted a tweet calling her “a global symbol of the fight for human rights, pride of Argentina.”
Ms de Bonafini helped to set up the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in May 1977, two years after the military seized power and began a brutal crackdown on suspected leftwingers.
She became president of the association two years later and led the more radical of two factions of the organisation until her death.
The Mothers, as they were known, initially demanded the return, alive, of their children and later punishment of the military figures responsible for seizing and killing them, with no public word of their fates.
Ms de Bonafini was also known for her opposition to the United States, who she blamed for backing right-wing dictatorships in her country and across Latin America.
In February 1977, Argentinian soldiers seized her oldest son, Jorge. A few months later, a second, Raul, was also captured. Both had been members of militant left-wing groups.
As she made the rounds of hospitals, courthouses, police stations and morgues in search of one son, and later both, she ran into other women on the same mission.
Faced with stonewalling from officials, 14 of them began holding demonstrations at the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential residence to demand the appearance of their children.
They did this at a time when the government prohibited meetings of more than three people. But they began gathering every Thursday, walking counterclockwise around a clocktower in the centre of the plaza.
The military dictatorship broke up early demonstrations, kidnapping and killing the first leader of the Mothers, Azucena Villaflor. But the group persisted.
The Mothers and other activist groups say that about 30,000 dissidents disappeared during the dictatorship — a figure finally accepted by the current government.
Earlier administrations had estimated up to 13,000.
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