Less than a week after their last successful restitution, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights group on Wednesday confirmed the identity of another missing grandchild whose identity was appropriated by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo President Estela de Carlotto revealed at a press conference that same day that genetic testing had confirmed that a 47-year-old man, Juan José, was the son of a young rural worker who went missing in Tucumán in 1976, when he was just nine months old.
The man’s father has not yet been identified, said Carlotto, who revealed that the baby had been illegally adopted by a landowner.
"Today we embrace him as our 132nd grandson. It is a puzzle that will never be completed. A new path has begun to find his real father," said Carlotto, 92, speaking at the ex-ESMA Navy Mechanics School, the site of a clandestine detention centre during the dictatorship era.
Carlotto said that Federal Court No. 1 of Tucumán had informed Juan José – who joined the press conference by video call but did not speak – "that he is not the child of the person who raised him and confirmed that he was indeed a victim of abduction, concealment and substitution of identity in the context of state terrorism" earlier on Wednesday.
The human rights leader said that the search for his father remains active and hoped that the press call would “help those who have information about [the disappearance of] Mercedes Del Valle Morales to contribute."
The news comes less than a week after the appearance of grandchild number 131, announced last Thursday, after three years without any new discoveries, in large part due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic.
"These are the miracles of life, two grandchildren in one week, life is this: emotions, pain, struggles," Carlotto told reporters.
Juan José is the son of rural worker Mercedes del Valle Morales, who was 23 years old when she was abducted and disappeared on May 20, 1976 in Tucumán, some 1,300 kilometres north of the capital.
She worked at a farm in Monteros. As well as the young lady, Juan José's maternal grandparents, Toribia Romero de Morales and José Ramón Morales, as well as his three uncles, José Silvano Morales, Juan Ceferino Morales and Julio César Morales, were kidnapped and abducted.
They were all disappeared by the military during the era of state terrorism and remain missing, said Carlotto.
“Grandson 132 is not the son of the family that raised him as their own in Tucumán, [the] owner of a farm where his mother worked, Mercedes del Valle Morales, who was arrested and disappeared in 1976, in the same province,” said the Abuelas president.
"We have solved a new case and we are closing 2022 with more truth," the humanitarian leader stressed. "For a 2023 with more encounters, more truths and more identities."
Grandchild number 132 began the search for his identity in 2004, after his adoptive parents died and his foster siblings told him that he was not the biological son of that family and gave him his original identity card.
After documentary research and DNA studies at the National Bank of Genetic Data, in 2008 he was able to learn that he was the son of Valle Morales, who was among those who disappeared during the dictatorship. He then left his genetic profile with experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), which later managed to identify his mother's remains in the Cementerio del Norte de Tucumán and check genetic data.
Juan José could not be officially counted as a grandchild until it was confirmed that the person who had raised him was his biological father, a fact for which the body had to be exhumed. A negative result from the exhumation was confirmed on Wednesday.
"A new path has begun to find his real father. The case will remain open," said Carlotto.
Hunt for grandchildren
The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo group was founded in 1977 by women trying to find their arrested daughters – and the babies they bore in captivity. The abuelas take their name from the Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires where brave women held protests to demand information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
The group are still looking for hundreds of men and women, aged around 45, who are living with false identities, born during the captivity of their mothers who later disappeared, or abducted as babies with them. But this case was not counted among those sought by Abuelas.
"In spite of the pain that each one of these stories brings, together with the realisation of the laborious task of reconstructing what the dictatorship wanted to erase, we continue to celebrate life with the joy that the conquest of the truth gives us,” said Carlotto last week.
As many as 500 children were taken from their imprisoned mothers, most of whom then disappeared under the country's brutal military rule. Most of the children were gifted to people close to the leadership, with the military junta keen to have them raised as regime loyalists.
Only 132 have so far been found, and the search for the others – now adults in their 40s and 50s – continues. Rights groups say some 30,000 people died or disappeared under Argentina's military dictatorship.