SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A 42-year-old lawyer who was stolen at birth during the rule of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and raised in the United States has traveled thousands of miles to South America to meet his biological mother for the first time.
"She didn't know about me because they took me at birth and told her I was dead," Jimmy Lippert Thyden said in a TikTok video while on the plane to meet his mother for the first time. "When she asked for my body, they told her they had disposed of it."
"So we've never held each other, we've never hugged."
Walking down a street in mother's hometown of Valdivia some 740km (460 miles) south of the Chilean capital, with a bouquet of flowers in hand, Lippert Thyden tearfully hugged Maria Angelica Gonzalez, his biological mother, and told her he loved her.
He traveled to Chile with his wife and two daughters, who met their grandmother for the first time.
Lippert Thyden reconnected with his family thanks to a DNA tracing via MyHeritage.com and Nos Buscamos, a Chilean non-governmental organization which helps reconnect people separated during the 17-year dictatorship. Thousands of people were disappeared and tens of thousands tortured during Pinochet's rule, which ended in 1990.
Nos Buscamos founder Constanza del Rio created the organization after failing to find information about her own biological family. The NGO says it has managed to help some 400 people reconnect to their family.
"This case is one of hundreds or thousands of cases of child trafficking during the dictatorship and democracy," del Rio said. "These children were declared as dead and sold to foreigners for $10,000 or $15,000."
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Fabian Cambrero and Sarah Morland; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)