December 7, 2013
President of Mothers de Plaza de Mayo founding line, Marta VázquezSunday, October 20, 2013
‘I want Cristina’s party to win’
Born: Bahía Blanca
Favorite Music: Classical
Children: five boys and a girl
Languages: French and Italian
Past post: Head of FEDEFAM (Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared)
Marta Vázquez has been the president of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Founding Line) for eight years. She helped found the iconic human rights organization after her 23-year-old daughter was abducted on May 14, 1976, shortly after Argentina’s last military dictatorship seized power. The 87-year-old Vázquez, who continues to search for her daughter, spoke with the Herald last week about the origins of the human rights movement, its present difficulties and the current political situation in Argentina.
How did the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo begin?
Everything was improvised at first. Our children disappeared on May, 14 1976 and we began to gather and organize at (CELS founder) Emilio Mignone’s house with other parents and relatives who had also lost family members. And before we knew it we had a small group of people. I was first asked to go to the Plaza de Mayo on a Thursday by Chela (wife of Emilio and a founder of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo). At I first didn’t go and she reprimanded me, saying going would make me feel better. We were worried that they would kill us when we started, but when I met all those mothers, I was never afraid again.
What is the main goal of your organization now?
To keep the memory alive, but what we are realizing now is that we are coming to the end of our road. Our time is running out—we’re all older than 80. We’ve been able to continue working, but we can’t think everything will end with us. We need to think about how the memory can be preserved, foment truth and achieve justice. I think one day the truth will be known, we won’t know it but our children or grandchildren will.
How did the mothers split?
For a while we hadn’t been agreeing with many of the decisions, certain statements, behaviors and attitudes. And when democracy had arrived, we thought we shouldn’t have the same attitude of always fighting those in power. We didn’t think it was right to keep that type of language. The rupture happened when after 6 years without elections, we tried to call for them and Hebe (de Bonafini) objected, saying it was a crime. And so we separated. (The split became effective on 1986.) The separation hurt us a lot but we didn’t want to make a scandal out of it.
What do you think of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s recent surgery?
I don’t know what to think. I think she needs to take care of herself. I remember I once asked (late former president) Néstor (Kirchner) how he can allow Cristina to have such an exhausting schedule. “You don´t know her,” he said laughing, “it’s impossible to tell her what to do.”
Who do you think will win in the October 27 midterm elections?
I want Cristina’s party to win.
If the Victory Front doesn’t win, who would be your second choice?
We’ve never had a situation similar to what we’re living now. We have a terrible opposition; it doesn’t exist and only makes accusations without presenting any real projects. They focus on gossip and refuse to recognize anything good that the government has done. What really bothers me is the talk about corruption. I know so many people in politics who are honest and have not taken advantage of their positions.
What do you think of the designation of César Milani as Chief of the Army, considering his ties to the last military dictatorship?
We really need to investigate this further. They thought that he didn’t have any responsibility before, but after his designation they found some evidence. For me it’s very hard to make a hard accusation, because I don’t know that much about the case.
Do you think the government must designate leaders with impeccable human rights records?
I think it’s bad that he is not resigning and they are not dismissing him. It would be good, in order to avoid these types of situations.
How do you respond to those who say that human rights groups give up their independence by becoming too close to a particular government?
Let me explain the mother’s point of view. When Néstor Kirchner came to power, it was the first time that a President officially welcomed us, paid attention to us. Before that, none of the presidents really listened to us...
Not even Raúl Alfonsín?
Before coming into power, yes, but not after.
How do you think the military’s pact of silence could be broken?
For decades I always had a deep hope that at least one of the military repressors would break their silence, but I was mistaken. There was one a few years ago who seemed like he was going to speak and then committed suicide when the suspicion is that he was actually murdered. It looks like they are afraid to speak because of the repercussions from other military members.
Can you tell me about the search for your grandson?
I learned a year after my daughter disappeared that she was pregnant. We once found a person who could have been her child. But he refused to take a DNA test. This was between the late 80s and early 90s. It was so hard for me. We went to the Supreme Court to talk to him. When I asked him to take a DNA test he refused, saying, “I’m fine where I am, I don’t need to know my identity.” He said that his adoptive parents had been good to him. The interesting thing is that when his father learned about this investigation, he closed up his pizza shop and left the country. I think that was the strongest piece of evidence that we had showing that his son was a child of the disappeared. But when the government changed hands, to one that was not as supportive to pursuing these cases, he returned to the country.