Hebe de Bonafini, radical Argentine leftist and fervent Fidel fan, is dead

She died this past Sunday at 93. One of the founders of the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, formed in 1979 in reaction to Argentina’s military dictatorship (which ended in 1983), she devolved from human rights activist to rabidly partisan political operative, which became her life. Albeit never an elected politician, she wielded significant influence in her country. Argentina officially declared three days of national mourning upon her demise.

Bonafini championed all leftist causes and regimes in the region, including Cuba’s and Colombia’s FARC terrorists, as well as the likes of Yasser Arafat. She even attended a congress in North Korea, obviously sponsored by its dictatorship. At home, she was closely allied to Néstor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernández, during their presidencies (which entailed generous government funding for her organization). There were allegations of corruption or certainly significant impropriety, but true or not, she was practically untouchable.

A crude and abrasive woman, she was notoriously prone to explosive public statements, which were guaranteed to get the media attention she apparently relished. Many were aimed at Argentine figures, as she was never shy about going for the jugular (being a national sacred cow didn’t hurt, and neither did her leftist orthodoxy or connections). However, her most inflammatory statement, which one could say defined her, was aimed at the United States.

When the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers took place, she was visiting Cuba. She celebrated the massacre, saying she felt no sorrow over it but gladness, since in her view it was deserved, and added she would not be a hypocrite by pretending otherwise. She could have said nothing, but that was not her style, and I suppose the opportunity to attack and make a big splash was irresistible. In 2005, on the death of John Paul II, she said he belonged in Hell. That same year, in a published interview, she said Cuban dissidents like the Ladies in White were basically lackeys of the US (which she painted as a kind of Great Satan), and that they represented US terrorism and death, whereas her own group represented love and life. She praised Cuba’s regime to the skies and said Cuba was “the future.”

For those not conversant with Spanish, I will translate the quote by Bonafini about Fidel Castro in the photo above:

We want to bring him love, loyalty, understanding [and that] we are always with him in all he does. A character like him, the greatest man produced by these past two centuries, one must follow without question.

And yes, when I first saw the news of her death, I was reminded of a certain incident in The Wizard of Oz.

3 thoughts on “Hebe de Bonafini, radical Argentine leftist and fervent Fidel fan, is dead”

  1. Bonafini, although some might dismiss her as a crazy old fanatic addicted to notoriety, was not so much an outlier as a distillation of “Latin” leftist ideology, and she reflected a certain reality which involves the whole region, not just isolated figures. In other words, she was a particularly extravagant example of a widespread and seriously problematic mentality, which she did not create and which certainly did not die with her.

  2. Her infatuation with Fidel is eminently “Latin.” A lot of it has to do with the prevalence of a virulent anti-Americanism which greatly admires anyone perceived as a David vs. the American Goliath, and which aspires to the same “heroic” antagonism and “resistance.” The whole business is ultimately delusional or at least willfully blind, but it’s a perfect fit for a world view which depends on a powerful scapegoat onto which all blame and guilt can be projected–and thus evaded, along with responsibility. It’s a great dodge.

  3. To some extent or in a way, Bonafini reminds me of a pathology that occurred in Cuba. It involved older women whose lives were nothing special, to whom nobody had ever paid much attention nor ever would have, and who had no prospects to improve their standing unless they radically re-invented themselves.

    They saw a chance to do that with the triumph of the “revolution” and became rabid “comecandelas,” actively and aggressively militant. They were prone to become heads of their neighborhood “Committee for the Defense of the Revolution,” a position which gave them power over others and made them feared and “important.” They were, of course, prepared to do harm as required by such a job.

    This was not the “new man” business; these women were entirely the products of pre-Castro Cuba and largely “over the hill” by the Castro era. That was the point—their time was running out, and they figured that becoming fanatical fidelistas was their last shot at being “somebody.” Both sad and disgusting.

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