Better Late Than Never: The Chickens of Argentina’s “Dirty War” Continue to Come Home to Roost.

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This seems to be the week that justice comes to those who had evaded it for far too long. First there was the case of Michael Seifert, the ex-SS officer who was convicted in absentia and recently extradited to Italy, where will serve out a life sentence for committing crimes against humanity 50 years ago.

Today, I heard about Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragan, a 30-year-old Argentinian woman who is suing Osvaldo Rivas and Maria Cristina Gomez Pinto, the couple who raised her from infancy. She is suing them for kidnapping and falsifying documents. Maria’s biological parents, Mirta Mable Barragan and Leonardo Ruben Sampallo, disappeared—and were presumably murdered—along with thousands of other leftists and dissidents during the “dirty war” waged from 1976 to 1983 by Argentina’s military dictatorship.

It seems no act was too cruel for the Argentinian authorities, who took Maria’s parents away when her mother was six months pregnant—with her! Two months later, Maria was born at the secret torture center in which her mother was being held. The newborn Maria was then give to a childless military couple who raised her under a falsified identity. Her parents were never seen or heard from again.

Maria Barragan discovered in 2001 that she was adopted and DNA tests—coordinated by the group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo—later helped her learn her parents’ true identity. Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was formed in 1977 by the mothers of those who vanished during the “dirty war.” The group is dedicated to investigating the disappearances of their dissident children and also to locating the children of these desaparecidos who—like Maria Barragan—were taken from their parents and raised by their parents’ killers and their accomplices.

I’m sure at some point in our lives, we’ve all wished we were adopted, but I can’t imagine what it must be like for Maria to find out that the people who raised her actually knew the people who abducted, tortured, and murdered her parents. I wouldn’t wish that kind of anguish on even my worst enemy.

I guess the silver lining is that the people who murdered Maria’s parents and their fellow desaparecidos are now having to answer for their crimes. So far, four military officers have been arrested and charged for murder and other crimes committed during the “dirty war.” Also, DNA tests have identified about 100 Argentines as children of desaparecidos and reunited them with their biological families.

Better late than never.

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