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Combative to the extreme and verbose by conviction, Hebe de Bonafini, A referent for human rights, she became one of the most energetic and aggressive voices of Kirchnerism.

Hebe de Bonafini, on 6/11/98
Hebe de Bonafini, on 6/11/98PILAR BUSTELO

Over the past 45 years, the leader of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo spared no effort in selecting enemies. since the presidents Raul Alfonsin Y Carlos Menem Even John Paul II and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio -despite the fact that in 2016 he built bridges for Pope Francis to receive her in the Vatican-, she always aimed for the highest when it came to engaging in controversy and raising an accusing finger.

Hebe de Bonafini and other Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo together with Raúl Alfonsín, on 11/23/1983
Hebe de Bonafini and other Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo together with Raúl Alfonsín, on 11/23/1983ARCHIVE/ADOLFO PASSALAQUA
Hebe de Bonafini and other mothers in the Thursday Tour to the Plaza de Mayo, on 06/16/2011
Hebe de Bonafini and other mothers in the Thursday Tour to the Plaza de Mayo, on 06/16/2011SOLEDAD AZNAREZ

Journalists and judges were also his target, as was reflected in the parody of popular courts against representative figures of the media and the Justice that he promoted during the Kirchner period. That eagerness for Justice, however, did not reach the extreme of agreeing to account for the millionaire diversion of funds in the cause of the Shared Dreams program, which involved the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in the construction of homes. He stayed in the nebula the management of $756 million in this venture that he carried out together with Sergio Shocklenderfrom whom he later tried to break away.

Hebe de Bonafini and Pablo Shocklender march together with the picketers against the National Gendarmerie, in General Mosconi, Saltam on 06/20/01
Hebe de Bonafini and Pablo Shocklender march together with the picketers against the National Gendarmerie, in General Mosconi, Saltam on 06/20/01DyN

His vocation for confrontation reached the Mothers themselves, who were divided as a result of political and ideological differences. Thus, a sector of the organization, led by Taty Almeida, formed the Founding Line, dissatisfied with the manner and style with which Bonafini led the reins. Over the years, both sides have decisively supported the human rights policy of the governments of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner.

Cristina Kirchner and Hebe de Bonafini at the headquarters of the Mothers' group
Cristina Kirchner and Hebe de Bonafini at the headquarters of the Mothers’ groupMothers Press – LA NACION

Born on December 4, 1928 in Ensenada, Hebe Pastor de Bonafini lived a political life full of contradictions.

Carried away by the pain and anguish that had caused her the disappearances of their children Jorge Omar and Raúl Alfredo –both kidnapped by the military dictatorship in February and December 1977, in La Plata and Berazategui, respectively-, Bonafini joined the Mothers who walked around the May Pyramid, in front of the Casa Rosada, to demand “the appearance alive” of their children. His preaching made her an international symbol, especially in European countries, although borders within Argentina accentuated her aggressive tones and hostile attitudes, which often clouded his claims. Insults with irreproducible phrases were commonplace in her vocabulary.

She had only attended elementary school and was married to Humberto Alfredo Bonafini, who died in 1982.

Hebe de Bonafini at his home, on 01/27/08
Hebe de Bonafini at his home, on 01/27/08LUCIANO THIEBERGER – DyN

With the return of democracy, the intransigence of the sector headed by Bonafini to collaborate with the conadep, during the government of Alfonsín, caused the rupture of the Mothers, for which reason several of them formed the Founding Line in 1986. Bonafini also dragged differences with Carlotto’s Stelaholder of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayoalthough later both got closer again, under the umbrella of Kirchnerism.

In September 2001, when the world was shaken by the attack on the Twin Towers, Bonafini revealed that this was a moment of joy for her. “I am not going to be a hypocrite, it did not hurt me at all. I felt that there were very brave men and women, who prepared themselves and gave their lives for us,” she declared.

She was a staunch supporter of the regime of Hugo Chavez Y Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, to the point of publicly apologizing, when the Argentine government accompanied in the United Nations, in October 2020, a condemnation of that country for human rights violations.

Cuban President Fidel Castro greets Hebe de Bonafini leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo during the meeting "Against terrorism, for truth and justice"which took place at the Havana Convention Center, on June 2
Cuban President Fidel Castro greets Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, during the meeting “Against terrorism, for truth and justice”, which took place at the Havana Convention Center, on JuneAlexander Ernesto – EFE
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez with Hebe de Bonafini at the ND Ateneo, Buenos Aires, on 2/1/2005
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez with Hebe de Bonafini at the ND Ateneo, Buenos Aires, on 2/1/2005Alejandro Belvedere – Telam

And she was also one of the most fervent promoters of the media law approved during the government of Cristina Kirchner. In September 2010, in a harangue in front of the courts, she called for “taking over the Palace of Justice and throwing out the members of the Supreme Court.”

Another contradiction that called into question his ideologized vision of politics was his closeness to the head of the Army during Kirchnerism, the military Cesar Milaniwith whom he was photographed on the cover of the magazine of the Mothers when the questions about the accusations against the former military chief for the disappearance of a soldier in 1976, later dismissed by the Justice, were intensifying.

Hebe de Bonafini with Nestor Kirchner
Hebe de Bonafini with Nestor KirchnerFile, Archive

The Church was always another target of his attacks. In January 2008, Bonafini led a protest and occupied the Metropolitan Cathedral. He denounced that the authorities of the Curia prevented them from using the bathrooms and had to “improvise one behind the altar”, which was later denied by the Church. In 2007 he affirmed that “Macri and Bergoglio are fascism, the return of the dictatorship.”

Hebe de Bonafini with Pope Francis
Hebe de Bonafini with Pope FrancisMothers Press

In addition to the Sueños Compartidos program, the Kirchner government gave Bonafini a radio and gave him subsidies to create the Universidad Madres de Plaza de Mayo, nationalized in 2014, when it was suffocated with a debt of $238 million. Her relationship with Schoklender, whom she had practically adopted as her son, ended for the worse. She denounced him for threats and intimidation, before a Justice that she always fought against.

Reluctant to make the accounts of the resources entrusted to his organization transparent, Bonafini did not hesitate to detach himself from some Kirchner scandals. He lashed out, for example, with three words at Jose Lopez, the former Secretary of Public Works during the twelve years of Kirchnerism who wanted to hide US$9 million in a convent. “He was a traitor,” he summed up.

Hebe de Bonafini with Alberto Fernández, whom he publicly criticized
Hebe de Bonafini with Alberto Fernández, whom he publicly criticizedFile, Archive

neither the president Alberto Fernandez he was saved from his criticism. In March 2021, he harshly questioned the president and the Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán, about the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “They were deceiving us all the time,” he said, expressly disqualifying them with their first and last names. He also reproached the President for his expressions on immigration, when he said that Argentines came from ships, and demanded other reasons to vote for him. “With the vaccine is not enough,” he stamped. And he lashed out after the recent scandal of the celebration in Olivos, in the midst of the pandemic, by maintaining in radio statements that “we are all left alone on birthdays.”

Always attentive to the movements of the opposition, last June he described the head of the Buenos Aires government as a “dictator”, Horacio Rodriguez Larretaone of the figures that could challenge Kirchnerism for power in 2023. Thus, Hebe de Bonafini always played in favor of the toughest expressions in the sector led by Cristina Kirchner, who ultimately became the only recipient of their loyalties.

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