An activist grandmother in Argentina thought she had finally reunited with her long-lost granddaughter after almost 40 years. But the two women turned out not to be related to each other.
"Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo" carry a large banner with portraits of people disappeared during the dictatorship
The case had initially appeared to be a Christmas miracle for 92-year-old Maria Isabel de Mariani Chorobik, who has been searching for her granddaughter, Clara Anahi, for decades. Mariani's granddaughter disappeared in 1976 at the age of 3 months. Her parents, who were close to a leftist guerrilla group, had been murdered by Argentina's then-regime.
Then, on Christmas Eve 2015, a woman introduced herself to Mariani as her granddaughter Anahi. As proof of her identity she provided a DNA test conducted at a private laboratory.
News that Anahi and Mariani, who is nearly blind, had been reunited spread quickly. Argentina's recently elected President Mauricio Macri congratulated Mariani, referring to the case as a "triumph in the search for the truth."
Mariani is seen in this picture with the woman who thought she was her long-lost granddaughter.
But a week later it all ended in bitter disappointment for the grandmother when Mariani turned to authorities to verify the DNA with against of her family, stored in a central gene database. The official comparison showed that the young woman was not the person who had been taken from her mother 39 years ago during Argentina's military dictatorship, after all.
An 'error in communication'
Mariani's biographer Juan Martin Ramos Padilla said at a press conference that the joy over the reunification of the two women had prompted Mariani to inform the public without waiting for official confirmation from the central gene bank for the cases of missing persons. Ramos described the event as an "error in communication," adding that Mariani was "very sad and hurt."
"My dream, at 91 years old, is to hug you and recognize myself in your eyes. The greatest wish that keeps me going is for us to find each other at last," Mariani had written in a public appeal earlier in the year.
Details remain unclear. It is not yet known how the false DNA test ahad come about and what had led the woman to believe that she was Anahi.
Over 400 missing persons
Some 30,000 people considered to be leftists or subversive dissidents were murdered during Argentina's military dictatorship from 1976-83. Babies born in captivity to political prisoners or orphaned by assassinations were typically given to families sympathetic to the regime - or even taken in by their parents' killers.
The organization "Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo" - named after the place of the seat of government in Buenos Aires - is currently still looking for more than 400 people, who were children during the dictatorship but have been missing since. So far, 119 of the former victims have been recovered.
It remains unclear whether Anahi is still alive.
"They tried to convince me that you were killed along with your mother, but I knew you were alive," Mariani wrote in a public letter in March 2015.
In 2012, former dictators Jorge Videla, who since has died, and Reynaldo Bignone were sentenced to 50 years and 15 years in prison, respectively, over the regime's theft of babies. Several others have more recently been found guilty of charges including abduction, torture, and murder.
ss/rg (dpa, AFP, AP)