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18 / 06 / 2004
Estela Carlotto, president of “The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo”: “The best advice that I can give to young people these days, is for them not be indifferent towards atrocities”

The Forum 141 questions (40): “Does forgetting have to be the price of peace?” Estela Carlotto (Buenos Aires, 1930) assured that “forgetting is not possible; a mother is never going to forget her daughter nor any of the other 30,000 disappeared”. Among those who disappeared is her grandson: “They took him from my daughter after he was born. He was given another name, another family. He’ll be 26 now and he’s waiting for me to find him”

More information about 141 questions

At the Haima Stage today Estela Carlotto, president of the “Mothers of Plaza de Mayo’ since 1989, said “my whole life is committed to this; I’m going to fight so that this can never happen again”. She reminded the audience that the “Mothers” are still looking for around 500 grandchildren and that some of those who disappeared when they were children have set out on their own search for identity, as they had doubts as to their origins: “A young man over 6 feet tall contacted us because his “parents”, who were short, could not give him convincing explanations. Following blood tests, he succeeded in being reunited with his family”. She also spoke of the difficulties and problems suffered by those who “find out about their real origins through a judge”. For these cases there is a slow coming-together process: “You have to tread carefully, going slowly, because there have been many years of suffering”, she concluded.

Aside from personal and legal initiatives, Estela Carlotto referred to the proposals to get back some of the disappeared by force: “We know that many of them were taken to Uruguay. A lot of people have offered us to kidnap the children to get them back, along with their illegal parents. We have always been opposed to this. We don’t want to do the same as they did. Violence breeds violence. Peace guarantees respect for our convictions”. In this sense, and after defending dialogue as the only way to deal with differences, she underlined the fact that “we want justice and the truth; to be able to hold our grandchildren in our arms”.

Estela Carlotto explained that in Argentina there is still a long way to go in healing the wounds “if the wounds were already healed, I’d be at home right now”, she observed. She denounced the fact that murderers and torturers have still to be prosecuted and that a precarious form of justice has been applied, passing laws of impunity. However, she recognized that there is hope that those who are guilty will eventually pay for their crimes: “We are getting justice; 82% of the population agrees that we have to conquer our fears. There is a massive backlash of feeling against the military dictatorship. These days, society no longer justifies certain acts the way it did before, through being kept in the dark”. This ignorance of what was going on or the lack of a desire to keep the memory alive is what Estela Carlotto intends to fight against in each of her talks: “the best advice that I can give to young people these days, is for them not be indifferent towards atrocities”. She is convinced that it is necessary “to get involved” in history to be able to confront injustice.

“The only recompense we can expect is for every mother to find out where her dead son or daughter lies. There are 30,000 disappeared”. The president of “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo” affirmed that the uncertainty over the whereabouts of the bodies is a constant torture.

To the questions asked by the large audience gathered around the Haima Stage, Estela Carlotto gave an account of her own experience. She has first-hand experience of the consequences of the Argentine dictatorship. Her daughter Laura, two and a half months pregnant at the time, was taken away along with her partner in November 1977. A month after being taken into custody, her partner was killed. Laura lived long enough to have her baby on 26 June 1978. Two months later she was also killed: “They brought her body to me, which was very unusual”, she pointed out. The baby, separated from his mother at birth, disappeared: “His mother chose the name Guido. He will be 26 years old on the 26th of June. I’m still looking for him”.

Part of her life’s experience also includes the attempt on her life in September 2002, when unknown gunmen opened fire on her house: “The case is still being investigated. I think it was the work of that Mafia that is still trying to silence voices”, she explained.

Among the many international awards that she has been given, Estela Carlotto, speaker in the Dialogue “Conflicts: prevention, resolution, reconciliation”, was awarded the United Nations Prize for the Defense of Human Rights (2003), the Rome for Peace Prize (2002) by Humanitarian Action, and the Order of the Legion of Honor (France, 1999).