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Cindy Sheehan and the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo

By George Henson  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Between 1976 and 1983, the Argentine military waged a Dirty War against its own people.

The beginning of the end of the period that saw the disappearance of thousands of Argentine citizens started with one unequivocal universal truth: the love that a mother feels for her child.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of slain Iraq war soldier, Casey Sheehan, has tapped into that truth in Crawford, Texas.

During the seven-year campaign of government-sponsored terror in Argentina, the country was ruled by a three-member military junta. Their purported goal was to restore order following prolonged civil strife, riots and violence.

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Their actual goal was to rid Argentina of what it considered to be a subversive leftwing element by any means necessary.

To say their measures were extreme would be an understatement just as it would be redundant to state that the brutal torture and murder of innocents were carried out in secret.

While the exact numbers may never be known, most agree that some 30,000 Argentines disappeared. There were no records of arrest. No hearings. No trials. What took place was, in effect, a systematic and covert series of political abductions that were followed by the torture and death of thousands of Argentine citizens.

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The vast majority of the desaparecidos the disappeared ones were young people, young men and young women, who were suspected of participating in anti-government activities or in many cases of just being sympathizers.

When anyone usually a mother presented to the authorities to report a missing son or daughter, reports were rarely taken. Police, instead, told the concerned friend or relative to go home. "Your son probably ran away " or "He 's drunk somewhere " or "She ran off with some boy " was the typical reply.

Today we know just how horrific the efforts to restore civil order were. People were tortured. Young women 's babies were cut from their bodies. People were buried in mass graves. Bodies were tossed from airplanes over the ocean.

During those seven brutal years, those who complained about the disappearances were ignored or intimidated. Middle- and upper-class Argentines cared little because public order had been restored.

While authorities hid their campaign of terror and well-to-do Argentines turned a blind eye, a group of mothers and grandmothers began to march. Because no one in the government would listen to them, the madres took their protest to a city square the Plaza de Mayo hoping that someone would take notice.

They carried placards around their necks with photos of their missing children and grandchildren. At first a handful marched on a Saturday. The next week on a Friday. Thereafter every Thursday.

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Remember, these were the days before the Internet. The only people who knew about them were those who passed them in the Plaza de Mayo in the heart of Argentina 's capital, Buenos Aires.

It is impossible to know when or why people began to pay attention. Perhaps a universal force a cosmic deus ex machina witness the injustice and stepped in.

As the number of mothers grew, so did their sympathizers, and so did the press coverage.

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