Hundreds of supporters prevented Argentine police on Thursday from executing an arrest warrant against the 87-year-old president of the human rights groups Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in a highly politicized corruption case. Hebe de Bonafini had refused to submit to questioning about the alleged embezzlement of public funds meant for a low-income housing project registered in her group’s name.
The crowd that kept police at bay outside the offices of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo included backers of former leftist President Cristina Fernandez, with whom De Bonafini is closely associated. A judge issued the warrant for her arrest Thursday after the activist missed two citations for questioning. A magistrate has been investigating since 2011 the diversion of $14 million in funds from the housing project.
Investigators say some of the funds were diverted to companies unrelated to the housing project. But De Bonafini says the investigation is politically motivated and the group’s two legal representatives are to blame. De Bonafini is the mother of two children who were disappeared during Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship. Her group gained fame standing up to military dictators in the late 1970s, demanding to know their children’s fate. In recent years, the group became close to Fernandez’s leftist government. She and various members of Fernandez’s 2007-2015 government accuse current President Mauricio Macri of being behind the decision by investigating magistrate Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi to order her arrest.
The magistrate has also cited for questioning the Mothers’ two legal representatives, Sergio and Pablo Schoklender, three former governors, a provincial boss and Julio de Vido, a former planning minister. De Vido was one of the most powerful members of the Cabinet of Fernandez.