Monday, September 01, 2008

Disappearance of Silvia Quintela

Silvia Quintela [Photo by]was an Argentine doctor who was disappeared on or after September 1, 1977. According to her Wikipedia article, she was one of the best-known victims of the Dirty War, and there is strong suspicion that Dr. Quintela gave birth in custody and had her child stolen.

Silvia Quintela spent the brief number of years that she served as a physician tending to the indigent of Buenos Aires. Because of that service, she was one of the earliest of those singled out as leftist sympathizers. She was 28 years old and four months pregnant when, on 17 January 1977, she was detained while walking down a road. The same men who seized her later broke into her mother's house, rummaged through her belongings, and told her mother that Quintela had been arrested. With help from Quintela's mother, Abel Madariaga tried to find her, but he soon had to flee the country, ultimately becoming a political refugee in Sweden.

According to witnesses, Silvia Quintela was kept at a military base where she eventually gave birth to a baby boy. The newborn was taken away from her, and she was reportedly transported to a military airfield. Her fate has remained unknown, but detainees sent there were often stripped naked, blindfolded, chained together, and put onboard cargo planes, known as "death flights". The planes would fly out over the Atlantic Ocean at night and groups of prisoners would be pushed out to their deaths.


In 1983, after the junta relinquished control of the government, Abel Madariaga returned to Argentina and tried to find out what had happened to Silvia and their child. He began to suspect that Major Norberto Atilio Bianco, a military doctor linked by witnesses to pregnant detainees, had in fact taken Quintela's son himself. Babies delivered at the base were either given up for adoption or given to soldiers' families, and Bianco had an adopted son, Pablo, whose age fit into the timeline. Furthermore, Pablo's birthday, 1 September 1977, matches the reported date Silvia Quintela gave birth.

In 1986, the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo went to the school of Bianco's children in order to request a DNA paternity test. However, Bianco immediately escaped to Paraguay [2]. Bianco and his wife Susana Wehrli were extradited to Argentina in 1998, while their children continued to live in Paraguay and refused to recognize any other person as biological parents [2]. Madariaga endeavored to resolve Pablo's paternity through DNA testing, but Pablo has, as of 1998, declined to cooperate.

The Argentine magistrate Roberto Marquevich has indicted the former dictator Jorge Videla on charges of kidnapping concerning this and other cases of "stolen babies" [2][3]. Videla was transferred to the Caseros Prison, where Bianco himself was also detained on charges of kidnapping and forgery of official documents (his wife was also detained in the Ezeiza Prison). [2][4]. In 1999, Bianco was released and succeeded in joining the private clinic Buen Ayre and in being re-admitted by the Buenos Aires Medical Board [5][4].

Apart of Silvia Quintela, Pablo may also be the son of Beatriz Recchia, a friend of Silvia Quintana who was detained in the same period, while pregnant since four months. Since no DNA tests have been made, the case has not been cleared yet [5].

According to the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo ' on May 6, 2008 Atilio Norberto Bianco was detained. He was denounced by the association in December 2006 as the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned in the Military Hospital of Campo de Mayo during the last military dictatorship in Argentina.

Bianco was summoned for questioning scheduled for April 1, 2008 by the judge Martner Suares Alberto Araujo, owner of the Federal Court No. 2 San Martner, in Buenos Aires province.

As many of the disappeared were labor activists, Quintela is quite an appropriate saint for Labor Day. Without organized labor, we might well not have the 40 hour week or the weekend. However, laborers and their supporters sometimes paid a heavy price.

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