Graciela Fernandez Meijide, a 66-year-old mother whose son was kidnapped by death squads in 1976, has announced that she will run for president of Argentina in 1999 if she wins Sunday’s congressional elections for the Alliance party.
Meijide has been a member of the Senate since 1995, and says her son’s disappearance prompted her to enter politics. She says if she is elected, she will support the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group that searches for children who were orphaned by the death squads and given to military parents. She would be running against Buenos Aires’ Hilda Duhalde, the governor’s wife who is often compared to Eva Peron. Meijide said “Evita tried to build a welfare state and Mrs. Duhalde thinks she can milk that image by giving out eggs and flour to the poor. She should attack the roots of poverty.” She said politicians need to address government corruption and improve the justice system.
Argentina’s current president, Carlos Menem, says that Meijide is “only fit to be a housewife.” Mrs. Duhalde, who said Meijide “acts like a man,” only entered the congressional race because her husband forced her to, and claims she’d rather be at home. Meijide has criticized Menem for pardoning officials who were responsible for the disappearance of over 9,000 political leftists and dissidents during a military crackdown. She said that she would investigate corruption in Menem’s administration if elected. “I’m not seeking vengeance. I’m translating the pain into a fight for justice and better democracy,” Meijide said.