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U.S./World

'Dirty war' baby, father connect

| Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010

BUENOS AIRES — The search is finally over for Abel Madariaga, whose pregnant wife was kidnapped by Argentine security forces 32 years ago.

After decades of doubt and loneliness, of searching faces in the street in hopes they might be related, Madariaga has found his son.

"I never stopped thinking I would find him," the 59-year-old father said, squeezing his son's arm during a packed news conference Tuesday.

"For the first time, I know who I was. Who I am," the young man said, still marveling at his new identity: Francisco Madariaga Quintela.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo rights group believes about 400 children were stolen at birth from women who were kidnapped and killed as part of the 1976-1983 dictatorship's "dirty war" against political dissidents, which killed as many as 30,000 people.

Madariaga and his wife, Silvia Quintela, were members of the Montoneros, a leftist group targeted for elimination by government death squads. He last saw his wife being pushed into a Ford by army officers dressed as civilians as she walked to a train on Jan. 17, 1977.

Madariaga managed to flee into exile to avoid the same fate. Ever since, he has made finding the children of those who disappeared his life's cause.

Returning to a democratic Argentina in 1983, he became the grandmothers group's secretary and first male member. He lobbied the government to create a DNA database and dedicate judicial resources to the effort, and developed strategies for persuading people with doubts about their identities to come forward and get DNA tests.

All the while, his own son's fate remained a mystery.

Over the years, the grandmothers group has succeeded in identifying 100 children of the disappeared. Madariaga has organized many news conferences announcing such victories. This time, he presented his own son to the world.

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