Advocate for Argentina's missing charged with corruption

She led the campaign to discover what happened to Argentina's babies who disappeared during its last dictatorship. Now she and an aide stand accused of taking money that was meant to build houses for the poor.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Hebe de Bonafini, president of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo human rights group, gestures during the march to mark the 41st anniversary of the military coup in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, March 24, 2017.

The 88-year-old leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo group and an ex-aide were charged on Monday with alleged misappropriation of funds meant for building homes for the poor, a court source said.

"Thanks, Macri, for giving me the honour of being charged," Hebe de Bonafini said in a video posted on a page for the group. 

She was referring to President Mauricio Macri, whom she believes arranged for the prosecution, which is related to an alleged scheme to skim housing funds between 2005 and 2011. 

Judge Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi laid charges against Bonafini, 88, and Sergio Schocklender, 58, for allegedly siphoning at least  $13 million in funds from state coffers during the governments of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner (2003-2015). 

Sixty boxes to prove innocence

Bonafini, whose two sons and daughter-in-law are missing and presumed dead, says she gave authorities more than 60 boxes of documents she maintained would prove her innocence.

During and after Argentina's last period of military dictatorship, which ended in 1983, the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo threw the spotlight on abductions and killings of young people who were targeted by the regime.

That was compounded by the drama of widespread kidnapping of babies born to suspected dissidents being held during the right-wing dictatorship  hence the Grandmothers. 

Many babies  offspring of now dead dissidents  were born in captivity without the knowledge of their blood relatives and were given to military families to adopt. 

The Grandmothers gave genetic information for a database that has helped reunite some of these blood relatives.

And many of those who were abducted during the dictatorship  often left-wing activists, as well as trade unionists, journalists, or students  were killed by military forces or right-wing death squads.

Argentina’s courts have handed out prison sentences to more than 1,000 officials, military officers or agents of the dictatorship since the government of Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) repealed the country's amnesty laws.

The country's 1976 - 1983 military dictatorship is accused of killing as many as 30,000 people.