A feud between Argentina's president and the owners of the country's largest newspaper is intensifying, with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's supporters hoping that a court-ordered DNA test will prove that a press tormentor had ties to government-sponsored killings during Argentina's infamous Dirty War.
Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera are the adoptive children of Ernestina Herrera de Noble, the largest shareholder in Argentina’s Grupo Clarin, which controls Argentina's largest newspaper and cable network, and one of the largest television stations. They are heirs to a $1 billion fortune and, according to activists, the children of one of the roughly 30,000 Argentines murdered, or "disappeared," during Argentina's last dictatorship, which ended in 1983.
Children of the disappeared were sometimes illegally adopted by families close to the regime, and activists allege that's what happened in the case of the younger Nobles, something that could lead to jail time for their adoptive mother. But the children have refused to undergo genetic testing for a criminal investigation launched in 2001, saying their privacy is being violated.
A court-ordered test was scheduled to begin today based on clothing the Noble's turned over to the court. DNA results are likely weeks away.
The case has reopened old wounds from the so-called Dirty War of the 1970s and raised questions about whether the quest for justice for the disappeared is being politicized, because the apparent target of this investigation is a loud opponent of President Fernandez de Kirchner.
"It’s like the Borges story El Aleph," says Leonardo Filippini, a constitutional law expert, referring to a story by famed Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges about a point in space that allows an observer to see all other points in space at once. “There are some moments in which you can see everything.”
Filippini says the case touches upon the most profound political problems in Argentina since its democratic transition: the culpability of those who profited during the dictatorship; the struggle to respect privacy and freedom of the press; and whether it's wise for Argentina to revisit crimes committed a generation ago.
"Our identity is ours. It's a private thing, and I don't think it's up to the state...to come and tell us what is ours," Marcela Noble told the AP last week in a rare interview. Elisa Carrio, a leading opposition politician, called the law "revenge" and a “fascist” plot against the Nobles.
The DNA test was made possible last November when Congress passed a law – at Fernandez de Kirchner’s behest – that made it easier to collect the genetic samples of people suspected of being children of the disappeared. A major sponsor of the law was the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group that seeks to unite the adopted children of the disappeared with their biological families. The group is close to both Fernandez de Kirchner and her husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner.
The new law is the latest salvo in the government's battle with the Nobles, whose Clarin newspaper turned sharply critical of the administration in 2008, when a controversial export tax decree set off a wave of farmers’ strikes.
Last September, Fernandez de Kirchner pushed a media reform bill through congress designed to help break up the Clarin conglomerate. Her administration has cited the need for media plurality and the paper’s support for the government during the military dictatorship to justify the project.
Clarin critics, often lead by the 678 program on public television, a pro-government talk show, have accused Clarin of slanting coverage in an effort to destabilize the government.
(This article was updated after posting to correct the last names for Ernestina Herrera de Noble's adopted children.)