Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

   / Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo
   A human-rights nongovernmental organization in Argentina. An offshoot of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), the group was formed in 1977 by 12 women in search of their grandchildren, who had been abducted along with their parents or born in captivity. The children had become spoils in the government’s “dirty war” against suspected subversives, illegally adopted and raised by military families or by other families considered “decent” and “patriotic.” The Abuelas compiled and distributed lists of missing children, petitioned government officials, and marched with the Madres in the Plaza de Mayo. Finding that their status as grandmothers offered no protection from harassment by the military and police, they adopted undercover methods to carry on their work, devising a secret code and meeting in public places while pretending to be engaged in traditional family activities.
   Once the children were found, a serious obstacle to reuniting them with their families of origin was the lack of proof of a biological connection. Parenthood testing was of no use—more often than not, the parents were dead. What was needed was a test to establish grandparenthood. In 1981 the Abuelas began traveling to hospitals and research centers throughout the world in search of such a test. Their hopes were realized in 1984 when they were introduced to Mary Claire King, a geneticist at the University of California. She traveled to Argentina and helped develop a grandparenthood test that can establish—with up to 99.95 percent certainty—a genetic relationship between a child and a particular family. The Abuelas then persuaded President Raúl Alfonsín to create a National Genetic Data Bank, which has helped the Abuelas recover the past of 100 of the estimated 500 kidnapped children. Many of the recovered children have been united with their families of origin. Others have chosen to remain with their adoptive families. One brought an illegal-adoption case against her adoptive parents, who in April 2008 were sentenced to eight and seven years in prison, respectively. Many more children remain unaware of who their biological parents are.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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