Olavarría, reeling from turn in the limelight
OLAVARRÍA — Olavarría is a city of around 110,000 inhabitants in the central part of Buenos Aires province. Every day between 1 and 4pm, pedestrians vanish from its streets for the traditional siesta but over the past fifteen days, the city’s peace and quiet has been disturbed.
Disturbed by the discovery that one of its residents was Estela Barnes de Carlotto's grandson, the baby snatched from her daughter Laura Carlotto while she was in custody during the last dictatorship. Yesterday, Ignacio Guido — from Olavarría — celebrated another piece of news: the recovery of granddaughter number 115, only 17 days after he learned about his real identity.
“Another one among us. Happiness,” Ignacio yesterday wrote on his Facebook account.
Aware that his turn in the spotlight has stunned the entire city, this 36-year-old man has been urging residents of Olavarría — a city located more than 300 kilometres from Bueno Aires City, to start revising their past in interviews with local media, the only outlets he has agreed to speak to as journalists from around the world to try to get a one-on-one sit-down with the man who has made history.
And people who live in this city say he has largely been successful in his quest.
Identity: a political tornado
“People are now starting to talk about this, providing details, which we'll have to check. But things are moving,” Carmelo Vinci, a former political prisoner who leads the Olavarría Memory Commission, told the Herald at the shop he owns.
“Personally, I find Ignacio's appearance to be a good chance to start deconstructing impunity,” says Juan Weisz, a child of disappeared parents who lives in Olavarría and runs a cultural centre where Ignacio Guido used to teach and play jazz until a neighbour complained about "disturbing noises."
As in many cities, the Town Hall is situated next to a church and, in front of them, a main square. Children wearing their uniforms play or wait for their mothers to pick them up from school and some residents talk about the most striking news the city has ever had: the identification of Estela Barnes de Carlotto's grandson after an epic 36-year search.
In the city, everyone takes for granted that it was Carlos Francisco “Pancho” Aguilar who gave a baby to Juana Rodríguez and Clemente Hurban, who worked for him as a farmhand. Aguilar was a well-known resident in Olavarría and the farm where the Hurbans worked and raised Ignacio was inherited from his father. “Pancho” reportedly had plenty of time to go around the city and to take part in meetings with the military and other upper-crust neighbours in the city.
Some of the city’s residents recall Aguilar's close relationship with Lieutenant-Colonel Ignacio Aníbal Verdura, who headed the repression in the area until 1977 when he was promoted. Verdura was mentioned as the person responsible for the kidnapping of a 25-year-old lawyer in Olavarría in March 1977 who was then seen at the clandestine detention centre La Cacha, the same centre where Laura Carlotto was held from December 1977 until her execution by a death squad in August 1978.
Aguilar passed away on March 26 of this year and some believe that it was his death that triggered Ignacio's quest to recover his real identity. Aguila lived with his wife, Susana Clara Mozotegui, on 2858 Alsina street, an elegant residence located two blocks from the city's main square. According to Ignacio's forged birth certificate, that is where he was born on June 2, though that information is known to be false.
Ignacio was born on June 26, 1978 and he only spent five hours with his mother, who whispered the name she had chosen for him: “Guido.” The baby was then taken from her and she was taken back to the concentration camp. Whether he was born in the Central Military Hospital in Buenos Aires City or in a facility in the city of La Plata, where his mother was held, remains a mystery.
But Ignacio was not born in that house in which Mozotegui refuses to leave. A young woman with her shopping-bags approached the house as this journalist was ringing the bell.
— Does Susana live here?
— Can I talk to her?
— No. She is not well and her children do not want her to talk to anyone.
— Can I talk to one of her children, Francisco or Jerónimo?
“I cannot comment,” the woman said, walking quickly towards the other end of the street, where she took out her mobile phone. In Olavarría, there are some who say that it was one of Aguilar's children who reportedly informed about his father’s involvement in the case. But those rumours could not be confirmed. A close friend of one of Aguilar's son dismissed the hypothesis.
In the case of the medical doctor whose name appears on Ignacio's fake birth certificate, most residents do not link him to the last dictatorship’s leadership although rumors of clandestine abortions are frequent.
Julio Sacher's office is located at 3255 General Paz street, eight blocks from Aguilar's residence. It is not clear yet if he put his name on the birth certificate because he was one of Aguilar's acquaintances or because he was part of a chain of repression that connects the city of La Plata to Olavarría.
Last week, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo requested Federal Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría to order a raid on Sacher's office to see if he had more information about the case there. So far the magistrate has not taken any action.
The Herald knocked on Sacher's door but no one replied. A neighbour said that Sacher rented the office and that he was not there. This newspaper also tried to reach him by phone.
Days ago, Servini de Cubría prohibited him from leaving the country and he will be possibly summoned to be questioned as a suspect in the next few days.
Olavarría's most important newspaper, El Popular, supported the dictatorship, as did many media outlets in those days. Times have changed, as was the case with many other media outlets during those dark years. On Thursday, the newspaper published an article stating that a former Navy officer — whose name was not revealed — left the city when rumours surfaced that his son could be the son of disappeared parents. Something smells rotten in Olavarría.@lucianabertoia