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Leader of Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza dies at 93

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Hebe de Bonafini, who became a human rights campaigner when her two sons were arrested and disappeared under Argentina’s military dictatorship, died Sunday, her family and authorities reported. She was 93.

The death was confirmed by her only surviving child, Alejandra, who expressed thanks for expressions of support her mother had received while hospitalized in the city of La Plata. Local officials said she had suffered from unspecified chronic illnesses.

Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — a former president who had close ties with de Bonafini — posted a tweet calling her “a global symbol of the fight for human rights, pride of Argentina.”

Hebe María Pastor de Bonafini was one of the founders of the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in May 1977, two years after the military seized power and began a brutal crackdown on suspected leftists.

She became president two years later and led the more radical of two factions of the organization until her death.

The Mothers initially demanded the return, alive, of their children — and later punishment of the military figures responsible for seizing and killing them, with no public word of their fates.

Widely honored for her human rights campaigns, she also was a controversial figure in later years for a radical opposition to U.S. governments she blamed for backing right-wing dictatorships, her involvement in partisan politics and for a corruption scandal involving her group’s foundation.

De Bonafini was born in 1928 in the town of Ensenada outside the Argentine capital and at 18, she married a youth from her neighborhood, Humberto Alfredo Bonafini, and they had three children: Jorge, Raúl and Alejandra. Known to friends as Kika Pastor, her schooling stopped soon after primary school.

In Februrary 1977, soldiers seized her oldest son. A few months later, a second, Raúl, also was captured. Both had been members of leftist militant groups, one of them armed, de Bonafini later said.

As she made the rounds of hospitals, courthouses, police stations and morgues in search of one son, and later both, she ran into other women on the same mission.

Faced with stonewalling from officials, 14 of them began holding demonstrations at the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential residence to demand the appearance of their children.

It was a daring move at a time when the government prohibited meetings of more than three people. But they began gathering every Thursday, walking counterclockwise around a clocktower in the center of the plaza.

During a religious pilgrimage later that year, they began wrapping cloth diapers — symbolizing those once used by their missing children — around their heads, and white scarves became a symbol of the group.

The military government broke up early demonstrations. And it kidnapped and killed the first leader of the Mothers, Azucena Villaflor. But the group persisted.

When police would arrest one member, others would gather at the police station and ask to be arrested as well. When police would ask one to show her documents, the others would produce theirs as well — effectively prolonging the demonstration.

Looking back 30 years after the founding of the group, de Bonafini recalled, “We could not imagine that the dictatorships was so murderous, perverse and criminal” and said she wanted to speak for “the children who were brilliant, cheerful, warriors, teachers, incredible, convinced revolutionaries,”

She said their spirits lived on;: “Nobody goes forever,” she said. “We are their voice, their gaze, their heart, their breath. We conquer death, dear children.”

The Mothers and other activist groups say that about 30,000 dissidents were disappeared during the dictatorship — a figure finally accepted by the current government. Earlier administrations had estimated up to 13,000.

Three years after the end of the dictatorship, the Mothers split into two factions in 1986, with de Bonafini leading the more radical organization seeking systematic political change while the others focused more on legal issues.

Her anger often caused controversy, as when — following the 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York — she said, “I felt happiness. I am not going to be a hypocrite. It didn’t pain me at all.”

She established close ties in 2003 with the leftist government of Néstor Kirchner, who later helped revoke the amnesty laws that had protected soldiers accused of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship.

Her defense of Kirchner and his wife and successor, Cristina Fernández, sometimes led to friction with other human rights groups who had criticized some of the leftist administration’s policies.

De Bonafini herself fell into a scandal in 2011 when prosecutors accused her of irregularities involving public funds given to a foundation created by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to build low-cost housing. Other officials of the foundation were convicted and the case against her had not been fully settled.


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This Catholic priest fought narcos in Colombia, now he is to lead the peace process

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“I only slept three hours at night,” he recalled. “I did my second year of theology at the same time as my police promotion course.”

After his ordination, Suárez understood his mission was to help transform “the hearts of policemen.”

He volunteered for police patrol shifts from midnight to 6 a.m. While on patrol, he had long conversations with the men he was posted with; sometimes, he would hear their confessions or invite them to pray the rosary together.

Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with fellow members in uniform. Father Silverio Suárez
Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with fellow members in uniform. Father Silverio Suárez

One particular conversation with a colleague stands out in his mind: “Two days later, he was killed in a terrorist attack and we buried him.”

“I have seen so many comrades become victims of violence, who have been kidnapped and … were kept in the worst living conditions,” he added.

As a priest, Suárez also comforts and ministers to the families of his colleagues who have been kidnapped or killed.

In Colombia and other South American countries including Chile and Venezuela, it is not unusual for priests to be full members of the police force, Suárez said. He insists that “being a policeman and a priest is absolutely compatible.”

“What is the mission of the priest? Above all, serve God and serve your fellow men. What is the mission of the police? … To save lives, to defend life,” he said.

When asked about the use of violence, Suárez said that when his life has been in danger, he has had to defend himself, but fortunately, he has not had to kill anyone.

He has also devoted much of his time to serving prisoners and perpetrators detained by the police.

(Story continues below)

“In the detention rooms, there is barbaric overcrowding. In places where there were 150 inmates … they had to sleep squatting or sitting down because there was no place to lie down,” he said. “I bring them [clean] clothes. Many of them are very poor.”

He also offers Masses for the detainees and hears confessions. In some cases, Suárez has paid the bail, something that frustrated his police colleagues.

Suárez said that corruption within the police force is a serious issue, which is why he believes that good police training and formation are so important.

Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with Pope Francis. Father Silverio Suárez
Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with Pope Francis. Father Silverio Suárez

For the past year, Suárez, now 61 years old, was assigned to Rome, where he has been working to strengthen relations between the Colombian police force and the Italian police through a joint training program. The posting also gave him the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.

Drug trafficking continues to be the biggest problem facing Colombia, Suárez said, and the death toll inflicted by the cartels has been enormous.




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Illinois police release names of 5 family members found dead in home, includes two young children

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Authorities on Thursday released the names of five family members, including two young children, found dead inside a Chicago-area home this week.

Officers with the Buffalo Grove Police Department were called to a home Wednesday to check on the mother, Buffalo Grove Police Chief Brian Budds said Thursday. Officers forced their way inside and found five bodies, he said.

“Today is a very sad day for our community as we continue to process this unthinkable event,” Budds said.

CHICAGO’S LONGEST-SERVING ALDERMAN WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION WITH FEDERAL CORRUPTION TRIAL LOOMING: REPORTS

Buffalo Grove police were dispatched to a single-family residence in the 2800 block of Acacia Terrace for a call of a well-being check on a woman. Inside they found five dead family members, including two young children and an animal, police said.
(FOX 32 Chicago SkyFOX)

Investigators believe the killings were domestic-related.

The victims were identified Thursday as: Lilia Kisliak, 67; Andrei Kisliak, 39; Vera Kisliak, 36; Vivian Kisliak, 6; and 4-year-old Amilia Kisliak. An animal was also found dead at the scene.

Autopsies for all five revealed they died from sharp force injuries, the Lake County coroner said.

Authorities declined to disclose who inflicted the injuries or what kind of weapon was used. Vera Kisliak had sought protection orders in August and September and filed for divorce in July, Fox Chicago reported.

A co-worker of Vera Kisliak called the police on Wednesday, Budd said, which led to the discovery of all five family members.

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He also declined to comment on reports from neighbors that the police had been to the Kisliak home in the past month. A local resident told the Chicago-Sun-Times she called the police in August over concerns about how Andrei Kisliak treated the children.

  


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Ex-Florida official with ties to Gaetz sentenced to 11 years in sprawling public corruption case

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The disgraced former Florida tax collector who cooperated with federal authorities in their investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was sentenced Thursday to 11 years behind bars.

Joel Greenberg’s sentencing was delayed multiple times as he cooperated with state and federal authorities.

The sentencing brings to a close one of Seminole County’s most sprawling public corruption cases, which spurred inquiries into Gaetz and other public figures, including Halsey Beshears, a former state House member who also served as the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Beshears resigned from his government post in 2021, citing health issues. Greenberg, Gaetz and Beshears were named on a December 2020 federal grand jury subpoena.

Authorities have accused Greenberg, an elected tax collector in Central Florida, of financial crimes, stalking, identity theft, sex trafficking a minor and other offenses.

Greenberg was initially charged with more than 30 criminal counts, but in May 2021 pleaded guilty to six charges — including sex trafficking and fraud — in exchange for his cooperation in multiple cases, including a sex trafficking probe into Gaetz. The two men were once friends, and Gaetz described Greenberg as his “wingman” to acquaintances.

The Justice Department’s probe into Gaetz, which started in 2020 during the closing months of the Trump administration, was looking into whether the Florida congressman had sex with a 17-year-old woman and paid her for it. Gaetz, one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters, had repeatedly denied the accusations and was never charged with a crime.

In September, a person with knowledge of the investigation indicated that the DOJ would likely not pursue charges against Gaetz.

Greenberg helped prosecutors secure convictions in several other cases, including Joe Ellicott, a collectibles dealer who was a groomsman at Greenberg’s wedding and received a 15-month sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and distributing a controlled substance.


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