By ALMUDENA CALATRAVA © 2010 The Associated Press
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The first dirty-war kidnap victim to be identified by DNA tests returned from Spain to testify that a former government intelligence agent not only stole her from her parents, but sexually abused her as well.
Carla Rutila, 35, was abducted as a baby in 1976 in Bolivia, where her parents were fighting as leftist guerrillas with the National Liberation Army, or ELN. Her father, Uruguayan Enrique Luca Lopez, was killed, and her mother, Argentine Graciela Rutila Artes, disappeared after being taken to a secret torture center in Buenos Aires, the Automotores Orletti garage.
Orletti was allegedly run by Eduardo Ruffo — the agent who adopted Rutila, gave her the name Gina, and raised her until 1985 when, at age 10, she discovered her true identity through DNA tests advocated by the human-rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Ruffo allegedly played a key role for Argentina in Plan Condor, an arrangement between South America’s right-wing dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to hunt down leftist targets and deliver them to each other’s security forces.
“I didn’t stop looking at him,” Rutila told a news conference at the Grandmothers headquarters Thursday, nearly a week after her testimony last Friday. “That was my goal: to be able to look him in the face and know that he wouldn’t be able to look back. For me it was a powerful sort of recovery. … It’s as if a weight has been lifted from me.”
Hundreds of babies were born in clandestine torture centers during Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, which human rights groups believe killed as many as 30,000 of the regime’s political opponents.
Rutila was the first alleged kidnapped child of the dirty war to be identified by the Grandmothers, which since then have used the DNA tests to identify 100 more.
The case was brought to the group’s attention by Rutila’s maternal grandmother, Matilde Artes Company, an actress who was in Cuba when Argentina’s dictatorship began. Artes gave the group a sample of her DNA and asked for its help locating her granddaughter.
The Grandmothers believe there are as many as 400 others who were kidnapped as children but still don’t know their true identities.
Rutila not only testified that Ruffo and his wife, Amanda Cordero, raised her — she also said that from the age of 3 until she was rescued at 10, Ruffo physically and sexually abused her. Ruffo will have an opportunity to make a declaration later this year as the trial proceeds.
Rutila also identified various people as members of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, a paramilitary group sent out by the government to crack down on political dissidents before the 1976 coup. She knew them, she said, because they would come over to the house for family barbecues. And she testified that she saw weapons, money and objects stolen from people who had been detained during the dictatorship.
Ruffo was not arrested until 2006, when a judge found sufficient evidence to charge him with human-rights violations.
Rutila has lived in Spain with her grandmother since discovering her identity, always fearful of returning to Argentina. But with Ruffo in custody and on trial, she agreed to testify.