She had become the “voice” of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who defied the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-1983) by tirelessly demanding, even under their windows, news of their “disappeared”. Hebe Pastor de Bonafini died on Sunday, November 20, at the age of 93.
Initiated on April 30, 1977, their weekly round in Buenos Aires in front of the Casa Rosada (Pink House, seat of the executive), wearing a white headscarf reminiscent of swaddling clothes and embroidered with the name of a ” faded away “ (some 30,000 according to aid organizations), turned the spotlight on the junta.
“Dearest Hebe, Mother of Plaza de Mayo, global symbol of the struggle for human rights, pride of Argentina. God called you back on National Sovereignty Day [jour férié en Argentine]… It must not be a coincidence. Just thank you and farewell », greeted Argentine Vice-President Cristina Kirchner on Sunday. Shortly after, Alejandra Bonafini announced in a statement that her mother had died at the Italian Hospital of La Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires, where she had been admitted a few days ago.
Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez also hailed “the tireless fighter for human rights”decreeing in a press release on Sunday three days of national mourning in his honor.
Disappearance of two of his three sons
Born December 4, 1928 in Ensenada, near La Plata in a modest family, married at 14 and having only known primary school, she was 39 when the “Sucia War” (Dirty War) disrupts her life and that of her three children. In 1977, his two sons were kidnapped, Jorge Omar (February 8), Raul Alfredo (December 6) then Jorge’s wife, Maria Elena Bugnone Cepeda (May 25, 1978).
Hebe Pastor de Bonafini does not know where to turn when a mother of ” faded away “ offers him to join a rally in front of the Casa Rosada. It is the beginning of a fight that only death, she says, can stop. In addition to forty years of gathering, Hebe de Bonafini and the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” had to their credit 25 years of “resistance marches” 24 hours in a row, until January 26, 2006 when they admit to being overcome by age.
Today, the “Mothers”, led by Bonafini’s combative Hebe Pastor since 1979, still meet on Thursdays in front of the obelisk in Plaza de Mayo, but now to denounce all forms of oppression, a development which, in 1986, caused their split.
Become a controversial figure
The association of the “Mothers of the Place de Mai-founding line”, chaired by Estela Barnes de Carlotto, is purely dedicated to the defense of human rights, while that of Hebe de Bonafini is more politicized. After rejoicing at the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, she reacted to the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdoin January 2015, estimating that “colonialist France, which has left countries in ruins, does not have the moral authority to speak of criminal terrorism. Ask Algerians, Haitians and its dozens of colonies”.
A defender of the Chavez and then Maduro regimes in Venezuela, she had also become a controversial figure in Argentina for her unwavering support for the Kirchner spouses.
The foundation she headed, “Shared Dreams” of the “Mothers”, became under the presidency of Nestor and then Cristina Kirchner an NGO of 6,000 employees, receiving from the State a total of 129 million euros for the construction including social housing and hospitals. In 2017, a scandal involving her attorney, suspected of money laundering, affected her as well as her daughter Alejandra Bonafini, then director of the foundation, and several government officials. She then denounced a “maneuver” policy of President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) whom she had described as” enemy “.