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Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla convicted of systemic theft of babies

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Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

(Read caption) Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla listens to the verdict during his trial in a courthouse in Buenos Aires on July 5.

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A common tactic of sibling warfare is to tell your brother he's adopted. It's funny and harmless because it is generally so far fetched, but for hundreds of Argentines that suggestion is no joke. 

From 1976 to 1983 an estimated 500 babies were stolen and secretly integrated and adopted into families of right-wing military members and their allies as part of a sweeping program that brutally targeted left-wing militants and sympathizers during the military junta’s seven-year rule.

Bringing, perhaps, a fragment of closure to that era, a former Argentine dictator, Jorge Videla, was convicted yesterday for his role in the program. Mr. Videla, who headed the coup that brought the military to power in 1976, was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The conviction and official recognition of these crimes marks a historical moment for Argentina, whose public has long known of or suspected these practices and which continues to search for answers.

Videla and ten other former military and police members – including a second dictator, Reynaldo Bignone – were on trial for the theft of 34 babies during the country’s so-called Dirty War. Earlier this year Videla caused an outcry in Argentina when he admitted to systemic killings during the dictatorship, but insisted that the death toll was much lower than the estimated 30,000 people murdered by the state. Many of the Junta’s political prisoners and victims, often referred to as “the disappeared” were pregnant women.

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