I’ve talked here before about the Argentine military regime (1976-1983) and its practice of kidnapping the children of people who were tortured and “disappeared.” In at least 500 documented cases, the military regime took these infants of the regime’s victims and gave the babies to military officials or to the regime’s supporters to raise as their “own” children. The frequency of this practice has come to light in recent years, showing how insidious the practices of the Argentine military dictatorship were, how the legacies of military rule continue to resonate in Argentine society nearly 30 years after the end of the regime, and most importantly on the local level, how the military disrupted the lives of hundreds of children who as adults now have to confront their very complicated and painful pasts between their biological parents and the “parents” who raised them but were complicit in the regime’s violation of human rights.
Earlier today, an Argentine court convicted the two surviving members of military juntas during the seven-year dictatorship, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, of baby theft and sentenced the two men to 50 and 15 years of prison, respectively. In addition to Videla’s and Bignone’s sentences, seven other people were sentenced to anywhere from 5 to 40 years for their roles in the kidnapping, detention, and aiding the regime. The Argentine legal system had previously convicted both Videla and Bignone of other human rights abuses during the military regime, including their roles in supporting torture, murder, and the “disappearance” of victims. While the convictions do not undo the years of trauma and the murder of parents with small children, they do ensure that Videla (who turns 87 this August) and Bignone (84 years old) will continue to spend the rest of their lives in prison, providing at least some small, if still inadequate, sense of justice to the victims whose parents they had killed and whose lives they transformed through kidnapping and decades of deception.