West News Wire: Hebe de Bonafini passed away on Sunday, according to her family and the authorities. She was a human rights activist after her two sons were detained and disappeared during Argentina’s military dictatorship. She was 93.
Alejandra, her only surviving child, acknowledged her mother’s passing and expressed gratitude for the support her mother had had while being treated at a hospital in La Plata. Local authorities claimed that she had a number of unnamed chronic ailments.
De Bonafini was referred to as “a global icon of the fight for human rights, pride of Argentina” in a tweet shared by vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a former president with close relations to de Bonafini.
Hebe María Pastor de Bonafini was one of the founders of the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in May 1977, two years after the military seized power and began a brutal crackdown on suspected leftists.
She became president two years later and led the more radical of two factions of the organization until her death.
The Mothers initially demanded the return, alive, of their children and later punishment of the military figures responsible for seizing and killing them, with no public word of their fates.
Widely honored for her human rights campaigns, she also was a controversial figure in later years for a radical opposition to U.S. governments she blamed for backing right-wing dictatorships, her involvement in partisan politics and for a corruption scandal involving her group’s foundation.
De Bonafini was born in 1928 in the town of Ensenada outside the Argentine capital and at 18, she married a youth from her neighborhood, Humberto Alfredo Bonafini, and they had three children: Jorge, Raúl and Alejandra. Known to friends as Kika Pastor, her schooling stopped soon after primary school.
In Februrary 1977, soldiers seized her oldest son. A few months later, a second, Raúl, also was captured. Both had been members of leftist militant groups, one of them armed, de Bonafini later said.
As she made the rounds of hospitals, courthouses, police stations and morgues in search of one son, and later both, she ran into other women on the same mission.
Looking back 30 years after the founding of the group, de Bonafini recalled, “We could not imagine that the dictatorships was so murderous, perverse and criminal” and said she wanted to speak for “the children who were brilliant, cheerful, warriors, teachers, incredible, convinced revolutionaries,”
She said their spirits lived on; “Nobody goes forever,” she said. “We are their voice, their gaze, their heart, their breath. We conquer death, dear children.”
De Bonafini herself fell into a scandal in 2011 when prosecutors accused her of irregularities involving public funds given to a foundation created by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to build low-cost housing. Other officials of the foundation were convicted and the case against her had not been fully settled.