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ARGENTINA is in mourning for Haydee Vallino, one of the founders of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, who has died at the age of 100.
“The pain is immense. Her bravery in confronting state terrorism will remain with us. She turned her tragedy into a collective fight for justice,” the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.
Ms Vallino was one of the 12 women who set up the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in 1977 to search for children and loved ones who were “disappeared” under the military junta that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
Her daughter Monica Maria Lemos de Lavalle, who was eight months’ pregnant, and her husband Gustavo Lavalle were kidnapped and subsequently disappeared by the regime in August 1977.
They were taken to a notorious clandestine torture centre known as Pozo de Banfield on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where hundreds where held and at least four women gave birth.
Ms Vallino’s granddaughter Maria Jose was one of those born in the basement of the detention centre but was taken by a police official who claimed the child was her own.
Weeks later Ms Vallino’s son, Mario Lemos, was kidnapped from his workplace and days later authorities raided the home of her eldest daughter Maria del Consuelo, but she had already fled the country.
It led Ms Vallino and her husband Alberto Lemos to search for their children and she joined a group that was meeting in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to demand the return of their kidnapped loved ones.
Years after her daughter’s disappearance Ms Vallino tracked down her granddaughter Maria Jose.
DNA testing proved that she was the child’s biological grandmother and a court ruled in 1987 that Maria Jose should be returned to her family.
Ms Vallino and her granddaughters continued a 43-year quest for truth and justice for those whose relatives disappeared, with weekly protests in the Plaza de Mayo.
In a statement the group said that with the passing of Ms Vallino, part of their history was leaving them.
“She was one of the 12 women who almost 43 years ago realised that they had to unite forces to find their grandchildren and they gave everything in that search for memory, truth and justice.
“May you rest in peace, dear Haydee. Your legacy of love lives on in your granddaughters and in our fond memories of you.”
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