A former U.S. diplomat testified Thursday that American officials knew Argentina's military regime was taking babies from dead or jailed dissidents during its "dirty war" against leftists in the 1970s, and it appeared to be a systematic effort at the time.
Elliot Abrams testified by videoconference from Washington in the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone and other military and police figures accused of organizing the theft of babies from women who were detained and then executed in the 1976-1983 junta's torture centers.
Abrams said U.S. officials were aware that some children had been taken and then illegally adopted by families loyal to the regime.
"We knew that it wasn't just one or two children," Abrams testified. There must have been some sort of directive from a high level official, he suggested: "a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed."
"It was a very serious problem because these were children who were alive," Abrams added.
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The junta apparently saw the program as a way to prevent children from growing up "communist," Abrams said. Also, enabling loyal families who couldn't conceive to adopt the babies was seen as a blessing by the regime, he said.