Former British Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo assured that the 40th anniversary of the Malvinas War does not move him so much because of the number itself, but because of the impact of time on some concepts, such as “corpse” or “body”, that he preferred to change to “people”, to reaffirm what he already believed in 1982: that the tombs of the Darwin Cemetery in which he buried the anonymous remains of fallen soldiers kept above all stories with names and surnames.
“A corpse, a body, have no more importance than an object, but a person has human rights, such as the right to their identity,” he explained in dialogue with Télam Cardozo, candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for the fourth time with the veteran Argentine Julio Aro, for the work carried out with the Fundación No Me Olvides for the identification of soldiers killed in the war.
Cardozo was 32 years old in 1982, when the British Army sent him to the Malvinas, three days after the ceasefire, and although his mission was to guarantee good containment conditions for the English troops after the end of the war, his knowledge of the language Spanish, acquired during a study stay in Zaragoza, led to a completely different task: recovering and burying the bodies of fallen Argentines.
“We found these dead boys everywhere. Some had been buried by their own friends, others were in the open air, in the snow, and my general told me: ‘Leave everything. You are going to do this job,'” he recalled. , passing through Mar del Plata to participate in a blood donation campaign.
The care that Cardozo put in burying the 237 deceased Argentines found, in a property located on the outskirts of Puerto Darwin, allowed years later to face the identification of the 123 whose name he had not been able to specify at the time.
“Initially I spoke of bodies and corpses, and those are not correct words, because they are people and a person has human rights, the right to their identity. And all this that we have done together is for that person, not for a body. There are words that change weight over the years, the wisdom that time gives,” said Cardozo.
Before the new anniversary for the War, he explained that “for a mother, the figure 40 does not mean anything. The important date is that of the birth of her son, because that was when he came into the world, and let it be 40, 50, 60 years or 10 doesn’t say that much.”
Cardozo recalled that half of the victims found had no identification “because they were young people from classes 62 and 63 who were doing their colimba.”
“In those cases I had to search their clothes, letters, documentation, driving licenses. If I could see two or three letters with the same name and surname, it was safe. If there was one and it was from a girl from a school in Quilmes, that said ‘dear Argentine soldier’, so it didn’t work for me. I’ve seen dead soldiers with ten letters that weren’t open on their clothes and it was that I was distributing them in the wells, “he said.
After the burial of the bodies was completed, Cardozo wrote a detailed report and sent a copy to the British Army, another to the headquarters of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, and another to Brasilia, actually intended for the Argentine Government, with whom he had not diplomatic relations.
“I kept a copy of the report, which was neither secret nor confidential. It was completely open to the experts, but not to the parents because there are some difficult details. It was a report that I felt was special and had to be very precise,” he recalled, and he said that it was that copy that arrived in October 2008 at the hands of Aro, who was passing through London for a series of meetings with English veterans.
Based on this information, the Argentine created the Don’t Forget Me Foundation, which began the work of collecting blood samples from relatives of those killed on the islands to carry out a DNA comparison.
Following an agreement between the Argentine and British governments, in December 2016 the International Committee of the Red Cross was entrusted, within the framework of the Malvinas Humanitarian Project Plan, with the identification of the graves, whose tombstones indicated “Argentine Soldier Only Known by God “.
“Every minute of the day I feel the honor of the miracle that we have seen during all this work, which is not just the work of Julio and Geoffrey. It is the work of a huge team, from the Red Cross, from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, from the mothers, who gave their blood for identification,” he said.
A few days ago, Cardozo visited Elma Pelozo, the mother of Gabino Ruiz Díaz, the first of the 119 soldiers recognized so far, who died during the war at the age of 19, in the Corrientes town of Colonia Pando.
The meeting must have been held in secret, since Cardozo’s previous trip to the country could not take place because a group of armed veterans blocked the access route to the place to prevent his arrival.
“I did not imagine, when I held Gabino in my arms before burying him, that one day I was going to meet his mother, and when with my hand I took that of this Argentine mother, I felt something very special, because I have lost my own mother 10 years. I feel a quiet and deep happiness to have this character in my heart forever, “said the British.
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Geoffrey Cardozo, the British veteran who prefers to think of people and not bodies