Two veterans from opposite sides of the South Atlantic war, former Argentine soldier Julio Aro and retired British Army colonel Geoffrey Cardozo, have been shortlisted for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday.
The two men worked shoulder to shoulder for several years to identify the remains of Argentine soldiers buried at Darwin Cemetery following the 1982 conflict. The nomination for their titanic work was first made by Mar del Plata University two years ago.
Soon after the war Cardozo, a medical corps officer, was entrusted with the task of picking up the bodies of the Argentine fallen and burying them at Darwin Cemetery.
In time he made the chance acquaintance of Aro, to whom he handed over key information for giving names to tombs marked with nothing more than the words "Argentine soldier only known to God."
Following a visit to Darwin Cemetery in 2008 when he noticed that almost half the tombs were nameless, Aro felt that he had to do something. He started contacting British war veterans, eventually making Cardozo’s acquaintance. Numerous meetings involving a back and forth of travel to both Britain and Argentina then followed.
By 2009 Aro had created the ‘No me olvides’ (“Forget me not”) foundation on the basis of the data, pushing the task of identification with the help of the Red Cross and the Argentine team of forensic anthropologists, while Pope Francis cast a benevolent eye over their work from the Vatican.
Over the last few years this combined effort has managed to give names to no less than 116 of the 123 bodies buried at Darwin Cemetery, of whom 88 had already been identified in 2017.
From Mar del Plata, where he now lives as a physical education teacher, Aro described himself as "deeply moved" by the nomination, also pointing out: "We already have a Nobel prize which gives us peace: the hugs and gratitude of the mothers and families."
Aro told the Mar del Plata-based newspaper La Capital that he and Cardozo are "both very happy,” adding that they had spoken in the wake of the news.
“I’ve already spoken to Geoffrey, who has also found out, as have the mothers [of the fallen]. My mobile is full of messages which break my heart. They treat me as a son and that moves me no end," he added.
If successful, the veteran would be Argentina’s third Nobel Peace Prize winner, preceded by then Foreign Minister Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1936), who brokered peace between Bolivia and Paraguay following the 1932-5 Chaco war, and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), an architect who confronted the horrors of Argentina’s brutal 1976-83 military dictatorship.
Ironically enough, the nomination came on the bicentenary of the Argentine flag being hoisted over the Malvinas islands for the first time.