Yet it was under a democracy that Ms. de Bonafini’s reputation began taking a hit. A tireless fighter for human rights under the dictatorship, she became increasingly partisan.
She criticized every democratic government until the election in 2003 of Néstor Kirchner, a leftist populist president who restarted the trials of the generals that had stalled under his predecessors. Ms. de Bonafini grew close to Mr. Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who succeeded her husband as president in 2007. Both allied themselves with authoritarian leftist leaders in the region.
When hijacking terrorists rammed jetliners into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. de Bonafini celebrated the attack. “The most terrorist state is the United States,” she said. When she heard the news, she recalled, she “felt a great joy, not because of the deaths, but because the monster had finally been touched.”
She took on Argentina’s Supreme Court, calling its justices “scumbags who receive money for their sentences,” and urged her followers to take over the Palace of Justice. She criticized the country’s democratically-elected Parliament as “nothing but a nest of rats.”
Abroad, she supported the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist guerrilla organization known as FARC, as well as the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, a Basque separatist movement in Spain. Both were widely considered terrorist organizations until they disbanded. She hobnobbed with Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and attended an international youth meeting organized by leftist student groups in North Korea in 1989.
After the return to democracy, her extremism led the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo to split in two, with one wing composed of moderates and the other, led Ms. de Bonafini, espousing a more radical agenda. It was Ms. de Bonafini, however, who would continue to dominate the human rights movement in Argentina, thanks in part to her closeness to Argentina’s government.
She ended her days mired in a corruption scandal. The judiciary is investigating whether her organization embezzled some of the hundreds of millions of Argentine pesos donated by the Kirchners to build social housing for the poor.
Despite the investigation, Ms. de Bonafini is still widely honored by Argentines for her fight for justice in her country, where more human rights groups have been started to find those who disappeared under the dictatorship. In an interview last year with the newspaper El País, she said, “Our struggle will continue — the Argentine people will continue it.”