If I had to explain what the Skyvan symbolizes I would say that it is a refinement in cruelty. It is a clear sign that the sinister plan of the dictatorship was to make even the bodies of the disappeared disappear. Not only did they tear us from our environment, from our family, from our world, but once they killed you they wanted no memory of that to remain, so that not even your bones could be recovered. They would throw you into the sea so that no one else could ever recover your remains. That there was no evidence of the crime.
For this reason, I am convinced that the repatriation of this plane is important. It is material proof of the horror of the last dictatorship, but also a place where relatives can go to mourn their dead, if they wish.
It is the last place where they were alive, in addition to its historical value: it was used to throw three members of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Azucena Villaflor, María Esther Ballestrino de Careaga and María Eugenia Ponce de Bianco) into the waters, the French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet and seven other militants who were meeting in the Church of Santa Cruz.
“Transfers” at ESMA occurred regularly on Wednesdays. December 14, 1977 was Wednesday. That was the last day in which those who survived the Asma saw the Mothers, the nuns and the rest of the kidnapped of the Holy Cross. That day the Skyvan PA-51 made a night flight and threw them into the water, probably unconscious.
It was Giancarlo Ceraudo, an Italian photographer, who asked me if I had ever wondered what had happened to the planes that were used to drop sleeping people into the waters of the Argentine Sea and the Río de La Plata.
A question that caught my eye and led to a joint search that ended in 2010 when we found the PA-51 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With the plane, the flight schedules were found, material that allowed us to sentence those responsible to life imprisonment.
Mario Arru and Alejandro D’Agostino, the pilots of that flight, were the only ones who arrived alive to hear his sentence. Henry of Saint Georges died before sentencing. Until his arrest, Arru and Saint Georges were commanders of international flights for Aerolíneas Argentinas.
The repatriation of the Skyvan to be exhibited in the Space for Memory and Human Rights is one more step in the construction of Memory, Truth and Justice of which Argentina is a beacon in the world.
All the arguments of the denialisms that we thought we had left behind and are now resurfacing should be silent in the face of such evidence.
* Survivor of ESMA, author of the book “Skyvan, planes, pilots and secret files”, and current Public Defender of the Nation.