Monday, April 06, 2015

Argentina 1976-83: Death flights and kidnapped babies

Alejandra Dandan y Victoria Ginzberg report in “Vildoza fue piloto en los vuelos de la muerte” Página/12 05.04.2015 on the story of one of the children adopted by members of the Argentine military during the dictatorship of 1976-83.

This was one of the signature horrors of that dictatorship. Women who were arrested as dissidents by the dictatorship and were pregnant were often allowed to carry their pregnancies to term. The mothers were then murdered and the babies given up for adoption as orphans, often to military families. Their mother's relatives were not notified of the birth or the adoption or often even the mother's death, much less the manner of it.

Human rights groups like the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo have located some of those adopted children. The governments of Néstor and Cristina Fernández have been supportive of that effort and given it a high profile. There are some good fictional treatments of those children discovering their real origins and being reunited with their natural mothers' families. Like the 2003 movie Cautiva (Captive). Or the 2012 TV Pública -argentina miniseries Volver a nacer, which unfortunately isn't currently available for viewing in the US. But it is on YouTube and has been available for US viewing in the past, so I hope it will be again. The latter is a series about two twin sisters, one adopted by the officer responsible for murdering her biological mother, the other adopted by a woman who didn't know that the baby had been kidnapped and the mother murdered.

Dandan's and Ginzberg's story is about Javier Penino Viñas, who was adopted by Jorge Raúl Vildoza, who was an officer in the infamous ESMA torture center during the dictatorship:

Javier Penino Viñas nació en el centro clandestino que funcionó en la ESMA durante la última dictadura militar. De allí se lo llevó Vildoza, lo anotó como su hijo y lo crió como tal. Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo lo ubicaron tempranamente, en 1984 y, para no entregarlo, los Vildoza se escaparon, primero a Paraguay y luego a Sudáfrica. Javier fue Javier Vildoza, pero luego fue Julio Sedano. Y, finalmente, en 1998 viajó a la Argentina para presentarse ante la jueza María Servini de Cubría, hacerse el estudio de ADN y ser Javier Penino Viñas, hijo de Cecilia y Hugo, secuestrados y desaparecidos durante la última dictadura. Conoció a su familia biológica, con la que tuvo y tiene una relación con altibajos, pero nunca cortó el vínculo con los Vildoza. Su apropiadora, Ana María Grimaldos, fue arrestada en 2012, en la Argentina. Durante las dos décadas que estuvieron prófugos, ella y Vildoza entraban y salían del país – aquí vivían sus dos hijos biológicos – con identidades falsas. Cuando la detuvieron, la mujer se declaró viuda. Según su relato, Vildoza murió en 2005 y fue cremado bajo uno de sus nombres falsos. No hay manera de comprobarlo.

[Javier Penino Viñas was born in the clandestine torture center that operated in the ESMA {a military school} during the last military dictatorship. Vildoza took him from there, recorded him as his son and raised him as such. The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo located him early, in 1984 and, in order not to have to surrender him, the Vildozas escapted, first to Paraguay and later to South Africa. Javier was Javier Vildoza, but later was Julio Sedano. And, finally in 1998 he traveled to Argentina to present himself before the judge María Servini de Cubría, had to a DNA test and is Javier Penino Viñas, son of Cecilia y Hugo, kidnapped and "disappeared" during the last dicatatorship. He met his biological family, with which he had and has a relationship with ups and downs, but never cut off the connection with the Vildozas. His adopted mother, Ana María Grimaldos, was arrested in 2012 in Argentina. During the two decades they were fugitives, she and Vildoza entered and left the country - their two biological children lives here - with false identities. When she was detained, the woman declared herself a widow. According to her account, Vildoza died in 2005 and was cremated under one of his false names. That could not be confirmed.]
And you think you have issues with your parents!

Página/12's interview with Javier covers things his Navy father told him about the dictatorship, including one of the other signature horrors of that regime, the "death flights" in which kidnapped suspects would be drugged unconscious and dropped into the sea to drown. His "adoptive" ("kidnaptive"?) father Vildoza told him he had been a pilot on such flights. Vildoza had the impression that there was a clerical influence on this method of execution, with some priests assigned to the military arguing that for some combination of moral and PR purposes, that was a preferable way of killing prisoners than a firing squad or torturing them to death. (There was a separate diocese at the time just for the military.)

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