Advocate for missing Argentines, 88, charged in graft case

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The president of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini
The president of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini © AFP/File JUAN MABROMATA

Buenos Aires (AFP) – The 88-year-old leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo group and an ex-aide were charged Monday with alleged misappropriation of funds meant for building homes for the poor, a court source said.

“Thanks, Macri, for giving me the honor of being charged,” Hebe de Bonafini said in a video posted on a page for the group.

She was referring to President Mauricio Macri, whom she believes arranged for the prosecution, which is related to an alleged scheme to skim housing funds between 2005-2011.

Judge Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi laid charges against Bonafini, 88, and Sergio Schocklender, 58, for allegedly siphoning at least 13 million dollars in funds from state coffers during the governments of  Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner (2003-2015).

Bonafini, whose two sons and daughter-in-law are missing and presumed dead, says she gave authorities more than 60 boxes of documents she maintained would prove her innocence.

During and after Argentina’s last period of military dictatorship, which ended in 1983, the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo threw the spotlight on abductions and killings of young people for being leftists and even suspected of being leftists or their friends.

That was compounded by the drama of widespread kidnapping of babies born to suspected dissidents being held during the right-wing dictatorship — hence the Grandmothers.

Many babies — offspring of now dead dissidents — were born in captivity without the knowledge of their blood relatives and were given to military families to adopt.

The Grandmothers gave genetic information for a database that has helped reunite some of these blood relatives.

And many of those who were abducted during the dictatorship — often left-wing activists, as well as trade unionists, journalists, or students — were killed by military forces or right-wing death squads.

Argentine courts have handed out prison sentences to more than 1,000 officials, military officers or agents of the dictatorship since the government of Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) repealed the country’s amnesty laws.

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