Antonio Vañek was born on 9 August 1924 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied at the Inter-American School of Defence, in Washington, and was naval attaché in the United States in 1975. The next year he chaired the Legislative Advice Commission (CAL), an organism that attempted to replace the National Congress activity during the dictatorship. He was Commandant of Naval Operations during 1977 and part of 1978. Then, he became head of operations at the Navy General Staff.
Disappearance was one of the main means of political repression throughout the “National Reorganisation Process” (Proceso de Reorganización Nacional). Hundreds of children victims of this crime were abducted along with their parents or were born at secret detention centres where young pregnant women were transferred. Figures provided by the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo show that at least 400 children were disappeared. Those children were allegedly handed over to families unconnected with subversive ideas.
During the dictatorship, the necessary infrastructure to give birth was allegedly used at secret detention centres – the children were then moved away from their parents and handed over to third persons. The babies were allegedly abducted at the Naval Mechanical School (Escuela Mecánica de la Armada – ESMA) as well as at the secret detention centres known as “El Pozo”, Banfield; “Olimpo”; “El Vesubio”; “Automotores Orletti” and “La Cacha”.
Vañek was the second-in-command at the ESMA, only beneath the head of the Navy, Emilio Massera. Throughout his mandate, the births of Ana Castro, María Del Carmen Moyano De Poblete, Miriam Ovando, María Hilda Perez De Donda, Susana Beatriz Pegoraro, Cecilia Viñas De Penino, Susana Leonor Siver, Liliana Carmen Pereyra, Liliana Clelia Fontana, Alicia Elena Alfonsín De Cabandie, Cristina Greco, Patricia Mancuso, Silvina Labayru, Mirta Alonso De Hueravillo and María Graciela Tauro’s children took place in secret.
The proceeding for the disappearance of the babies was opened as a result of a complaint filed by the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo on 30 December 1996. At that time, the so-called “Laws of Forgiveness” were in force. However, the “theft of babies” was not exonerated. The Supreme Court of Justice declared these laws unconstitutional in 2005.
Vañek was charged with the abduction of minors of ten years old in the proceeding known as “Systematic Plan” (“Plan Sistemático”) – open for 34 cases of appropriation of minors committed during the military rule.