Associated Press
Fri, July 08, 2005

'Dirty War' protesters' remains found

Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Investigators have recovered the remains of the woman who founded a legendary protest group against Argentina's Dirty War, nearly three decades after she was abducted, officials said Friday.

The remains of Azucena Villaflor and two colleagues were recently unearthed from a rural cemetery and identified through DNA tests, forensic anthropologist Carlos Somigliana said.

Villaflor helped to found the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which emerged during the country's 1976-83 crackdown on dissent. The group has continued since then to demand an accounting of loved ones who disappeared.

More than 12,000 people died during the military junta's fight against leftists known as the "Dirty War" and the vast majority have never been found or identified. But the now-graying Mothers in their famous white handkerchiefs shouted for justice Friday following the announcement.

"We will not forget, we will not forgive! Punishment for those responsible!" the mothers chanted, tearfully hugging each other after the report by anthropologist Carlos Somigliana and his team.

Villaflor, along with mothers Esther Ballestrino de Careaga and Maria Eugenia Ponce de Bianco, where kidnapped by state security agents in December 1977, reportedly whisked to the main military torture center here and made to disappear soon after. At the time they were preparing to publish a first newspaper advertisement revealing to the world the presence of "desaparecidos" in Argentina - a list of their missing sons and daughters.

It was a daring opening salvo against the dictatorship - and the kidnapping of the women and four others that month helped galvanize the Mothers of the Plaza into action.

Friday's development comes a month after Argentina's Supreme Court struck down sweeping amnesties - passed in the 1980s - that shielded hundreds of former officers from prosecution for disappearances. Many officers could eventually be called to court to testify.