August 5, 2014 / 10:04 PM / 5 years ago

Argentina rights activist to meet kidnapped grandson after 36 years

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A leading human rights activist in Argentina will finally meet the grandson torn from her family 36 years ago when he was kidnapped by agents of the country’s right-wing dictatorship.

Estela de Carlotto, president of human rights organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), attends the inauguration of a cultural center at the former ESMA navy school on the 38th anniversary of Argentina's 1976 military coup in Buenos Aires, March 24, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Guido was born in 1978 to an imprisoned mother who was executed shortly afterwards by the junta that ruled the South American country from 1976 to 1983, in a case that has come to symbolize the struggle of families riven by the U.S.-backed dictatorship.

The junta ordered that hundreds of children of assassinated leftists be handed over to families more sympathetic to the dictatorship. One of them was the grandson of Estela de Carlotto, president of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a group that works to reunite families.

Guido, now a 36-year-old musician, approached the Abuelas organization asking for a DNA test due to persistent questions about his true identity, the group said. His adoptive name and other details of his current life have not yet been released.

The white-haired de Carlotto, beaming before the television cameras, spoke of “enormous joy”.

“Now I have all my 14 grandchildren with me. The empty seat is no longer empty,” said de Carlotto, one of Argentina’s best-known rights activists.

“We still don’t know the whole story,” she said. “But he’s a good guy. An artist. And it was he who looked for me!”

The kidnap victim’s mother, Laura Carlotto, was murdered by government agents two months after giving birth to her son in a makeshift government jail. She intended to name him after her brother Guido.

“It’s a positive match. We have found my nephew,” said Guido Carlotto, Estela’s son, Laura’s brother and secretary of Buenos Aires province’s human rights agency. “For legal reasons, the only thing I can say is he is a musician and voluntarily applied to take the DNA test.”

The Abuelas group has identified about 110 kidnap victims so far. About 30,000 Argentines were murdered during military rule.

Additional reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Ken Wills

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