Forty-two years after the baby was taken from the arms of her mother at birth, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have identified the 129th missing grandchild of their long four-decade search.
At an emotional press conference at the human rights organisation’s headquarters in the capital, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the head of the Abuelas, revealed that the grandchild – known only for the moment as “Ella” – is a woman who has been living in Spain – and that her father is still alive.
Carlos Alberto Solsona, the father of the recovered girl, sat next to Carlotto as she addressed the media on Tuesday evening. He said he learnt of the DNA match while driving down a highway in Santiago, Chile. The news took his breath away.
“Nobody has any idea of the thousands of nights I have spent without being able to sleep. I have been waiting for this moment,” said Solsona, who will soon be reunited with his daughter, more than four decades on from her birth.
“The time is today. Let us help to repair the wounds that the dictatorship left us,” said Carlotto in Buenos Aires.
The recovered grandchild is the daughter of Solsona and Norma Síntora, a PRTERP militant who was kidnapped in 1977 in Moreno, Buenos Aires Province. Síntora was eight months pregnant at the time of her disappearance and Solsona was out of the country.
Síntora was never seen again and she remains disappeared, with her final whereabouts unknown.
“This is the 129 th granddaughter, [and she] will be able to meet her father, her brothers. It is a huge joy,” said Carlotto, highlighting the particularity of the case.
It is unusual for recovered grandchildren to be able to meet their parents, given the number of years that have passed since the last military dictatorship (1976-1983).
The recovered grandchild will also be able to meet her brother, Marcos, who also attended the press conference in the capital on Tuesday.
Carlotto said “Ella” had been contacted for the first time in 2013, when she was invited to take a DNA test, a year after the Abuelas has received information about a potential kidnapping case and uncovered a questionable birth certificate detailing a child that had been “born at home.”
However, despite initially agreeing to travel to Argentina, the now-recovered grandchild did not take the genetic test.
“The woman lived abroad [in Spain] and she said was planning on coming to Buenos Aires in 2014 to continue talking about the possibility of taking a test,” said Carlotto, explaining that the test did not happen.
Federal Judge Sergio Torres became involved in the case after that, but it was a friend who eventually convinced “Ella” to take the test and to learn the truth about her identity. Two weeks ago, after travelling to Argentina, she presented herself at the CONADI (National Committee for the Right to Identity) commission of her own accord to undergo the test at the National Genetic Data Bank (BNDG).
Carlotto, in her comments to the press, confirmed that the woman had “voluntarily” agreed to take the test and refused to divulge more details about her identity.
“Her father is waiting for her to hug her, and we ask that the family’s time and privacy be respected,” added Carlotto.
Solsona said he intended to give his daughter space before meeting face-to-face. “She has a life, she is over 40 years old and this fell on her,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to hurt her.
The Grandmothers, formed in October 1977 and headed by Carlotto, have now identified 129 children who were snatched away, given new identities and handed to new families after their parents were killed by the 1976-1983 military junta.
The grandmothers, now aged in their 80s or over, lost either a son or a daughter to forced disappearances for opposing the military regime, and in many cases, their babies who were born in captivity.
The human rights group believe as many as 500 children were given up for adoption to relatives or associates of the regime. Though many are still searching for their lost relatives, reunions are becoming less and less likely as the years pass.
“I created a sort of defence mechanism, a shield so that this wouldn’t destroy me,” Solsona said on Tuesday.
“I am in my 70s, and I started searching for my daughter when I was in my 30s. This has meant that I have had to live carrying a weight that gets heavier every single day.
“But we never lost hope.”