This week a new detail of the shadowy military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet was revealed, after the Swedish newspaper ‘Dagens Nyheter’ reported on the mechanism that the Chilean military regime used to establish diplomatic ties with the Scandinavians, among them the Swedes, then governed by the social democrat and Prime Minister Olof Palme, a critic of the South American dictatorship.
These were illegal international adoptions of children who, according to the Southern Cone leaders, were reported to be in vulnerable conditions, abandoned by their parents, but in reality had been kidnapped under all kinds of deception. In this way, they disguised the theft of minors as a humanitarian cause, to give them a more prosperous future, in exchange for diplomatic openness and a good image abroad.
Following these reports, entitled ‘Children at all costs’, the Swedish government announced that it will set up a commission of inquiry that will cover at least 60,000 cases of adoptions carried out since 1950, with Chile and China as the protagonists with the largest number of possible irregularities.
Lena Hallengren, Swedish Minister of Social Affairs, remarked that the study will last two years and will seek to align itself with the judicial inquiry that is underway in Chile in order “not to make two parallel investigations”, although she admitted that the South Americans are taking longer than expected.
In 2018, Chilean Justice opened inquiries under Judge Mario Carroza to analyze irregular adoptions abroad – including nations such as Sweden – during the Pinochet dictatorship. During that time, from 1973 to 1990, approximately 2,000 children were taken in by Swedish families as part of a campaign to ease tensions between the two countries.
The peak of adoptions to Sweden came after a visit by Monica Madariaga, Pinochet’s cousin and twice minister of the regime, to Stockholm in 1970, according to reports by Chilean researchers. The Swedish Adoption Center and Swedish extreme right-wing civilians sympathetic to the dictator also played a transcendental role.
The basis of this historical exploration are the findings that Karen Alfaro – doctor in History at the Austral University – and José Luis Morales – professor of History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona – obtained after reviewing diplomatic documentation at the Chilean Embassy established in Swedish territory and documents from the General Historical Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, among others.
“The adoptions became part of a political game to lift Chile’s international isolation”, they both sentenced with their work.