PBS News Hour Runs NYTimes Video History on Grandmothers of the Plaza

How the children of Argentina’s ‘disappeared’ are being reunited with their birth families
October 19, 2015 at 6:20 PM EDTDuring Argentina’s military dictatorship, as many as 30,000 people simply “disappeared,” including some young, pregnant women, whose babies were then given to couples deemed sympathetic to the regime. What happened to those children, who are now adults? Retro Report, distributed by The New York Times, offers a look at efforts by desperate grandparents to find their family members.

JUDY WOODRUFF: During the military dictatorship in Argentina, from 1976 to 1983, as many as 30,000 people simply disappeared. Some of those were young pregnant women. An estimated 500 of their babies were then given to couples who were often deemed sympathetic to the regime.

What happened to those women and their babies is explored by the documentary project Retro Report and distributed by The New York Times. We’re partnering with them to bring you a version of this piece here.

MAN: A three-man military junta has taken over the government of Argentina.
NARRATOR: The coup began in the early morning hours of March 24, 1976.
MAN: The action was swift and efficient, and the new ruling junta composed of coup leaders seemed in firm control.
NARRATOR: It wasn’t long before the military dictatorship started rounding up guerrilla groups and those believed to be left-wing subversives.
Housewife and school principal Estela de Carlotto was 47 years old back in November of 1977 when her 22-year-old daughter, Laura, disappeared.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO, Mother of “Disappeared Child” (through interpreter): She was the first of my four children. Laura was a very respectful girl, but with a strong personality. She became politically active because she wanted change.
NARRATOR: Carlotto says she was frantic to find out what had had happened to her daughter.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): At that time I was the same as other mothers, very naive. We didn’t know that the military were coming to kill people. We were expecting the return of our children.
NARRATOR: But it wasn’t to be. Carlotto would never hear from her daughter Laura again.
In August of 1978, she was killed by her captors. Although devastated, Estela de Carlotto was one of the more fortunate ones. She was given her daughter’s body to bury. It was two years later that she learned something she had suspected: Laura had been pregnant and given birth to a son before she was murdered.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): I buried Laura. I knew where Laura was. But I didn’t know where my grandson was.
NARRATOR: Not long after, she joined the grandmothers, or abuelas, of the Plaza de Mayo.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): Being on my own was dangerous. I couldn’t share my sorrow. So, to find the grandmothers was to find company, to exchange ideas and to look after one another.
NARRATOR: The dictatorship lasted seven years. During that time, as many as 30,000 people were tortured and killed at detention camps all over the country. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves.
After the regime fell, the grandmothers were desperate to not only find out what had happened to their children, but to also recover their grandchildren, who had been stolen at birth.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): In the beginning, we were searching, but we didn’t have a way to prove which were our grandchildren.
NARRATOR: So they turned to science. And, in 1987, they began storing their profiles in a newly created national genetic bank. By May of 2014, Estela de Carlotto and the grandmothers had found or identified 113 missing grandchildren.
And, at the age of 83, her determination seemed stronger than ever.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): I will never stop doing what I do, because there is inside a very powerful strength that is love, love for our children and grandchildren.
IGNACIO HURBAN, Adoptee (through interpreter): I first heard of grandmothers and of Estela de Carlotto when I graduated from secondary school and went to study in a music conservatory.
NARRATOR: Ignacio Hurban was born in June of 1978, at the height of the dictatorship. His parents were farmers near the city Olavarria, some 220 miles from Buenos Aires. On his 36th birthday in 2014, Ignacio found out that he had been adopted.
IGNACIO HURBAN (through interpreter): It was a shock, yes. The parents who raised me didn’t tell me. When I asked them, they confirmed what I had been told.
NARRATOR: Not long after his discovery, Ignacio went to the grandmothers, who arranged for a blood test. In August of 2014, just days after taking the test, Ignacio got the results from the head of the commission.
IGNACIO HURBAN (through interpreter): She told me whose grandchild I was and that my grandmother was waiting for me, very excited. We met immediately, the next day.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): Given his good nature and nice character, he said, in jest, of course, “If I’m a grandson of the grandmothers, I hope Estela is my grandmother.” He seemed to have sensed it.
NARRATOR: Yuki Goni is an author and journalist.
YUKI GONI, Journalist: The country came together, I think, in this huge cry of joy. I went to the press conference where she appeared publicly with him for the first time, and there’s a room packed full of journalists all in tears, myself included, because she represented so much for us.
I mean, she had been so brave. She had put so much of herself at stake. And, finally, she had her reward.
NARRATOR: But it also meant something else: Her grandson’s adoptive parents would face a legal investigation.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): The people who raised my grandson committed a crime. It’s a serious crime, a crime against humanity. There are extenuating circumstances, in that they were farm people under a very domineering master, who one day brought them a child and told them, do not ask questions and never tell him he is not your own son.
I personally do not blame them or exonerate them. That is in the hands of the justice system.
NARRATOR: Ignacio Hurban is now Ignacio Montoya Carlotto. Although he has changed his name, he says his bond with the parents who raised him remains strong, and he is proud to be the 114th grandchild identified.
At the age of 84, Estela de Carlotto shows no sign of slowing down, taking her message and now her grandson around the world.
IGNACIO HURBAN (through interpreter): There is my public life with my grandmother and my private and emotional life with her, a life we’re building. In that sense, it’s just a grandchild and a grandmother.
ESTELA DE CARLOTTO (through interpreter): When I met my grandson, I could hug him. He doesn’t look like his mother, but I knew that in his blood was my daughter Laura. And it was like I got her back.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You can watch the full documentary by Retro Report, “The Disappeared,” on The New York Times Web site. That’s








19 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Argentina’s peso weakened to a record low 16.10 per U.S. dollar on the black market on Monday, currency traders said, as investors and speculators bet on a devaluation after a new government takes office in December.

The peso has tumbled more than 21 percent on the black market since early June, weighed down by uncertainty over how the next president would deal with capital controls. Argentines go to the polls on Sunday.

“No one doubts that we will see a devaluation,” said one market trader who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to media. “The question is when.”

The peso traded officially at 9.4950 on Monday, leaving a 70 percent margin between the official rate which is tightly controlled by the central bank and the black market. The wide margin suggests the official rate is over-valued.

Daniel Scioli, the candidate for the ruling Front for Victory party, talks of gradual monetary reforms and says shock measures like devaluation are not the solution to structural imbalances in the economy.

Scioli’s main rival, business-favorite Mauricio Macri, promises to begin lifting capital controls on his first day in office and to allow the peso to float freely. That has been widely interpreted by many Argentines as shock therapy.

Argentina’s next president will inherit a sovereign debt default, precariously low net foreign reserves, double-digit inflation and a widening fiscal deficit.

By Carolina Millan
October 19, 2015

* Currency weakens to 16.11 per dollar in street markets

* Argentines seek protection in dollar ahead of elections

Argentina’s peso fell to a record in unofficial street markets as demand for safe-haven assets increased before presidential elections this weekend that are expected to bring changes to the country’s monetary policy.

The currency weakened 1.1 percent to 16.11 per dollar in the black market, where Argentines go to avoid controls that limit their ability to buy pesos at the official rate, according to That surpassed a previous record low of 16.06 on Sept. 25.

Argentina’s official peso trades in a market that’s tightly controlled by the central bank, which has intervened to limit declines since President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government devalued the currency in January 2014. Demand for dollars has increased over the past few weeks as Argentines wager that the next government is likely to allow the peso to fall further, according to Ezequiel Aguirre, a strategist at Bank of America Corp.

“As the elections get closer and closer, people see the possibility of a currency adjustment approaching and seek refuge by buying black-market dollars,” Aguirre said from New York.
Front-runner Daniel Scioli has said he would make “gradual” changes to monetary policy if elected. Leading opposition candidate Mauricio Macri has pledged to allow the country’s exchange rate to float freely starting from his first day in office.

The peso weakened 0.1 percent Monday in the official market to 9.4951 per dollar. It has declined 11 percent this year, compared with a 19 percent drop for the Colombian peso and a 32 percent tumble for Brazil’s real.

By Charlie Devereux
October 19, 2015

* Ruling party’s Scioli needs at least 40% on Oct. 25 to win

* A second round against runner-up would be held Nov. 22

Argentina’s ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli is within a fraction of winning in the first round of presidential elections to be held Oct. 25, polls show.

An average of four polls viewed by Bloomberg show Scioli close to surpassing the necessary threshold of 40 percent with a 10 percentage point lead needed to avoid the first run-off in Argentina’s history.

Poll of polls

Poll of polls

While Scioli enjoys a comfortable lead, surveys also show the opposition would pose a bigger challenge in an eventual second round on Nov. 22. Some polls show Mauricio Macri, who has an average of 28.8 percent of intended votes for the first round, would close the gap to within the margin of error, while at least two polls show that dissident Peronist Sergio Massa would defeat Scioli.

After results took almost 12 hours to be confirmed in August’s primary elections, the electoral authority has said it will transport ballots from Buenos Aires province, which makes up about 40 percent of the electorate, as they come in to speed up the counting process. Still, if there are calls for a recount, it may take a week before the country knows whether there will be a second round, according to the electoral council.

Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will hand over the presidency on Dec. 10 after two consecutive terms in office.

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery
October 19, 2015

Argentina is one of Latin America’s most confounding economies. It is a country with stately, European style cities such as Buenos Aires and Cordoba and an export base that remains trapped in the nineteenth century. It has been said that in Latin America, Argentina is turning into Venezuela and Venezuela is turning into Zimbabwe. Argentina has many positive attributes but it remains a very challenging market for investors. While Argentina remains an important market for companies such as Ford and GM and has experienced rapid growth in e-commerce, Argentina has missed out on a lot of the positive economic trends under way in other parts of Latin America. Because of the country’s complex political and economic problems, Argentina’s large market of credit-card holding online shoppers hasn’t attracted much attention from Amazon, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart, companies that are investing heavily in Mexico. To get a sense of what trends are worth following as Argentine voters go to the polls on October 25 I reached out to Carl Meacham, the director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan Washington D.C.-based think tank.

Nathaniel Parish Flannery: What trends are underway in Argentina as the country approaches its October 25 election?

Carl Meacham: Since President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took office in 2007, Argentina’s policies have shifted far to the left and the ripple effects have not been great. The state has expanded throughout the economy, which is, at this point, largely stagnant. Despite a degree of growth recently, economists largely agree that it isn’t sustainable – and could be reversed by the implementation of tighter fiscal and monetary policies after the elections this fall. Meanwhile, the Kirchner administration has been engulfed by corruption scandals and allegations of impropriety which have eroded confidence in her, though she remains popular with a large segment of the population.

Politically, the run-up to the elections has been primarily dominated by three candidates: Daniel Scioli, a relative moderate from Kirchner’s party, Sergio Massa, a relative centrist, and Mauricio Macri, who most clearly articulates a market friendly agenda. Scioli is the clear frontrunner, with Macri and Massa in second and third place, respectively.

The three candidates differ on many points and although it’s not impossible, it is improbable to see the election resolved in a single round on October 25. The second round, if required, would follow on November 22. But the candidates have a few points in common, too. First, they agree that Argentina’s vast welfare system should remain largely unchanged, given its widespread popularity. Second, the dollar exchange rate must be liberalized eventually. Third, export taxes that target the country’s agricultural sector must be reduced. And fourth, and arguably most importantly, the fiscal deficit and inflation must be curbed.

So where we see a consensus – among the candidates and among Argentines – around this idea that some of Argentina’s fundamentals need a degree of reform. Some of this has been fueled by the scandals, sure, but plenty has grown out of the realization that mismanagement is to blame for many of the country’s economic troubles. But change works slowly in Argentina. Argentines’ desire for change is unlikely to manifest as a large-scale divergence from what we’ve traditionally seen in the country – largely because Argentina’s political system, dominated by the Peronist movement, overwhelmingly favors continuity.
Projected GDP Growth For 2015

Meacham: Economically, Argentina is stagnating. Politically, the country’s establishment is under intense public scrutiny. And internationally, Argentina has been increasingly isolated from global markets and systems.

The U.S.-Argentina bilateral relationship has suffered in part due to the South American country’s unsettled debt dispute with a group of U.S. bondholders, and because of the Kirchner government’s reticence toward the United States. Though the country has paid off most of its outstanding debt, a significant sum remains.

A complete thawing between the two countries is unlikely until Argentina begins a process to reach a settlement with remaining U.S. bondholders. This will ultimately prove an important component to rectifying the bilateral relationship.

All three candidates have demonstrated their awareness that the country’s fiscal situation is unsustainable, and all three are likely to come to some agreement to settle the debt dispute.

But this much is true for sure: whoever wins the election will inherit an economic mess, and it’s unlikely that the new administration will manage any big changes within the first 12 months, particularly since likely winner Scioli has a reputation for being deliberate and cautious – and more likely to follow many of Kirchner’s policies.

Broadly, the revival of Argentina – and of U.S.-Argentina relations – hinges on the new administration’s ability to evolve toward an embrace of economic reform and increased engagement. Despite the challenges, the country’s new president will enjoy plenty of diplomatic means to signal a willingness to strengthen bilateral and global ties and facilitate change. And even a small show of confidence could trigger a wave of support from Washington.

The rise in drug trafficking and associated criminal activity is a particularly salient issue in Argentina at the moment, but weak bilateral ties have largely stood in the way of a higher degree of bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics activities. DEA cooperation with its parallel law enforcement agencies in Argentina – particularly for security training – has the potential to serve both countries interests, while rebuilding trust in a less visible (and therefore lower stakes) environment.

Washington could also signal its renewed willingness to work with the incoming Argentine administration from day one: by sending a high-level delegation to the new president’s inauguration. In its ideal form, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker would travel to Argentina to welcome in the new president – and to begin rebuilding the political and commercial ties that have languished for the past 12 years, under Fernández de Kirchner and her predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner.

Inflation In Latin America’s Biggest Economies

Meacham: For investors, there are two elements to this election that matter: Will the winning candidate implement the reforms Argentina needs? And if yes, when and at what pace?

So what reforms does Argentina need? The country’s regulatory environment is in need of serious restructuring. As it currently stands, doing business in Argentina is largely based on private relationships forged between businesses and the elites – fueling perceptions of risk and a lack of transparency. This, in turn, generates a high degree of ambiguity around the movement of money and the allocation of investment funds. Meanwhile, those investors that do funnel money into the country face enormous barriers to repatriating profits and accessing dollars to pay for imported intermediate goods, such as auto parts – another in a long list of factors that discourage investment, such as judicial insecurity.

The elections are also likely to lead to a devaluation of the Argentine peso. Devaluation is nearly inevitable as is its blowback on the economy and its investors. It’s a step Argentina needs, but may be a hard pill to swallow especially for brave investors already in Argentina who have accumulated large peso holdings due to capital controls.

All of this has made many foreign investors hesitant to enter the market, despite the potential returns to be had. Still, many investors are eager to do business in Argentina and lend to its government, provided it take measures in the direction of reform. The fact remains that Argentina desperately needs access to lending and foreign direct investment – hopefully it will prove motivation enough for the new administration to make speedy progress.

By Greg Grandin
Oct 19, 2015

Cristina Fernández is despised by the neoliberal elite, but her government has improved the lives of many, many people.

Over the last few years, as Argentina has struggled with a sagging economy and its share of political crisis, opinion and policy makers in the English-speaking world have tended to treat its president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as a hot mess, the Paula Abdul of Latin American politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inquired about her mental health (as revealed in a WikiLeaked cable), and The Economist called her presidency a “psychodrama.” The Economist has devoted so much ink to pathologizing Fernández that it has created a new genre: stalking as political commentary. Anonymously written articles (as per the magazine’s house style) describe the Argentine president as a control freak whose “need to control extends to her image” (unlike, say, every other major politician in the Western Hemisphere), cattily noting that “she never appears in public without looking glammed up.” Peronism, of which Fernández is the standard bearer, is less about “ideas,” the magazine says, than a “set of political emotions.”

Just last year, Fernández, who survived brain surgery in 2013, was being written off as an unpopular lame duck. “Her approval-rating languishes at 30%”! Her economic populism is ruinous! She picked a fight with London over the Falklands to divert attention away from her failures! She had a historic naval ship seized by creditors in Ghana! She killed Alberto Nisman! “The Fairy Tale” is ending for “Argentina’s new Evita”! She “lashes out” against critics! She appointed a Marxist Keynesian, or a Keynesian Marxist, as minister of the economy! She’s “out of touch with reality”! She’s “destroying the Argentinian economy”!

Argentina’s economy has been tightening since 2010, largely the result of lowered commodity prices. And Fernández’s clumsy handling of the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman last January sparked widespread protests. But her popularity over the last year has gradually increased, today reaching “unheard of levels for a president in her final term.” More importantly, her handpicked successor, Daniel Scioli–governor of the province of Buenos Aires–is predicted to win the presidency, either in this Sunday’s first-round vote or in a run-off. (To win on Sunday, Scioli will have to garner either 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10 point margin; if not, a second round takes place on November 22.)

Those emotional Argentines! If only they could index their feelings to the slumping price of soy, rather than their operatic nostalgia for Evita, they would understand that the rational choice this weekend would be Mauricio Macri, a conservative businessman and current mayor of Buenos Aires who, according to the Argentine economist Roberto Lampa, embodies “the most obtuse neoliberal orthodoxy of the 90s.” China is in crisis, damn it, and Argentines are voting like it is 2002.

The tribunes of the world’s financial markets have had their eyes on this Sunday’s election for a long time, hoping that voters would not just reject Kirchnerism but end the Latin American left’s nearly two-decade-long run of electoral success. They have done all they could to plump for Macri, just as they did all they could to plump for Bachelet’s opponent in Chile, Dilma’s opponent in Brazil, Vásquez’s opponent in Uruguay, Morales’s opponent in Bolivia, Correa’s opponent in Ecuador, yea unto when the nightmare started, with Hugo Chávez’s 1998 win in Venezuela.

There is no doubt that the Latin American left is in crisis, for many different reasons, some self-inflicted, others more structural. But it still wins at the polls because, compared with the disastrous Washington-backed economic policies of the 1990s, this generation’s governing left has managed to improve the material, everyday existence of many, many people.

Argentines have long called the 1990s the “lost decade” (“la década perdida”), when neoliberals put the whole country out for bid, driving the nation into an economic whirlwind that was biblical in its proportions. More recently, Argentines are calling the 12 years of Kirchnerism–eight presided over by Fernández and four by her predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner–the “la década ganada” (the “won decade”), a period that witnessed the institutionalization of enormously popular social policies. Just as anti-Chavistas in Venezuela have to campaign promising to be better Chavistas than the Chavistas (that is, they promise to expand and better administer the social-welfare programs Chávez’s government put into place), in Argentina, according to Jennifer Adair, a historian of Argentina, “every single candidate has had to contend with the ongoing popularity of Cristina and the policies of this past decade. The most dramatic example of this has been in the campaign of Macri, who recently gave a speech that one-by-one listed off the achievements of the Kirchner years, vowing that his national government would continue them.”

These policies include an impressive array of new redistributionist programs, including a “universal payment per child” (“asignación universal por hijo,” best thought of as a basic, minimum income tied to size of family household); protection for domestic workers; pushing back against the IMF and the hedge funds; re-nationalization, including of energy production and of Aerolíneas Argentinas; legalization of up to 2 million migrants, in what might be the world’s most humane border policy; prosecution of military officers involved in human-rights abuses during the dictatorship; legalizing same-sex marriage; lowering of the voting age from 18 to 16; Fútbol Para Todos (Soccer for All, the free, live TV broadcast of soccer matches). There’s low unemployment and steady public investment in public works and infrastructure, though inflation remains a problem.

Many of these achievements were indeed made possible by the commodities boom, as The Economist never ceases to point out. But, as the historian Ernesto Semán says, when commodity prices declined and the peso began to lose its value, the government neither turned to the right (as Juan Perón himself did in 1949) nor enacted knee-jerk austerity. Instead, it struggled to figure out ways to maintain, and even expand, its accomplishments. Fernández stumbled, particularly in her early handling of the Nisman crisis. Enemies, especially in the corporate and supranational press, went on the offensive. Fernández’s “rhetoric became repetitive” and, to some, tiresome.

But after eight years in office–and 12 years of Kirchnerismo–her popularity, and that of her policies, is undeniable. Contrary to what was last year a nearly universally held consensus, she hasn’t capitulated to the vulture funds who have been circling the country since her husband’s death in 2010. Argentina returned to democratic rule in the early 1980s, and every single one of her presidential predecessors save her husband, Néstor, left office either early or in disgrace. In contrast, Fernández is not only leaving beloved, her preferred candidate is set to succeed her.

But that fact might be what undoes her legacy. Many supporters of Fernández do not trust Scioli. Semán describes him as a “terrible governor of Buenos Aires province with bad ratings for most of his administration.” Scioli is running on Fernández’s and Kirchner’s accomplishments, but Google his name, along with the word “pragmatic,” and you’ll be taken to scores of articles in places like The Economist, Barron’s, Foreign Policy, and so on predicting that he will be his “own man.” In this case, pragmatism means only one thing: He’ll break with Kirchnerism, align with Washington, and make peace with global markets. This would include, among other things, deregulation, giving in to the hedge funds, and liberalizing the currency, with a further devalued peso making austerity inevitable. Semán also points out that Scioli is significantly more socially conservative than Fernández, on issues such as gay rights, crime, and abortion.

In Argentina, as in Venezuela and Brazil, Latin America’s new left has outlasted its first generation of leaders. We’ll see if it can survive their successors.

POLITICAL PARODY at its best..

we deserve d a few laughs from this POLITICAL CIRCUS..

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