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Argentina: Eduardo de Pedro, the Argentine minister who fights against stuttering | International

Eduardo de Pedro, during a public event in Buenos Aires, in 2019.RS

Eduardo Wado de Pedro is the son of victims of the Argentine dictatorship. His story is brutal. In 1978, when he was a year and a half, his mother put him in a bathtub and used as a shield from the military bullets that ended up killing her in the house where they lived. De Pedro survived the shooting and was appropriated by a marriage of repressors. Three months later, he was recovered thanks to efforts by his family. Over time, he became a recognized human rights activist. Militated in the group Children of the disappeared and joined Kirchnerism. In December 2019, he was appointed Minister of the Interior. He made President Alberto Fernández a condition that he would not speak in public. Because De Pedro has fought a battle against stuttering since he was a child.

“It is a problem that I have not yet managed to overcome,” says De Pedro to MRT. “There are days when I still don’t know why I speak more fluently and other days when I get a lot of work. There are public exhibitions in which the disorder in the speech mechanism is such that it deconcentrates me from the content ”, he adds.

The Argentine minister is not the only leader who deals or has dealt with stuttering or disfluency, as it is called in medicine. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, suffered from it as a child and was teased at school, as he himself once recounted. Another president who fought and defeated disfluencia was former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. Perhaps the most famous stutterer is King George VI, father of Elizabeth II. De Pedro was not harassed by his classmates, like Biden, but he had a hard time during recess. He says that he faced all those who made fun of his problem, while remembering the epic that lived every time he had to say his name, give a lesson at school or ask for the tastes of the ice cream that he had decided to buy. He did, however, dedicate himself to politics, where being a good speaker is a value.

“I always had a very low profile, I spoke a lot with the leaders of the neighborhoods, as a social activist, but I did not appear in the first line. I saw my ideas reflected in others, that was my technique ”, he says. The “technique” served him until he was appointed minister and was forced to speak. “I did speech therapy, yoga, Buddhism, everything that exists. If there was a course, I would go; He recommended me a psychologist, I went; I’m always looking for the solution, ”he says. The issue was complicated by the pandemic, because “the zooms began.” “I saw a little red light to record and it was a trauma. The physical cost I have to speak is enormous. Talking involves more than 120 muscles, in addition to breathing, and I’m out of breath, ”he says.

Science has established different origins for disfluency. One of them refers to a structural abnormality that prevents the brain from coordinating the regions involved in speech. The stutterer feels that his ideas are faster than his ability to physically translate them into words: everything piles up, short of breath, and muscles do not respond. Anxiety and stressful situations only complicate the picture, because a vicious circle is created where the anxious cannot speak and cannot speak because they become anxious. Much has also been said about the impact that trauma can have on children’s speech. Pedro has a lot to tell in this regard.

In April 1977, a little over a year after the coup against Isabel Perón, the military assassinated her father, Enrique de Pedro, a law student who was active in the Peronist Youth and Montoneros. Some time later, a task force found the home of the mother, Lucila Révora, in the Floresta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The capture operation included a helicopter. “My mother is murdered while I was in the bathtub with her. He puts me in the bathtub because it was made of metal, he covers me with his body and the bullets hit him. Then I was kidnapped by a family of appropriators, some soldiers, ”recalls De Pedro. On January 13, 1979, someone abandoned him in the cathedral of Mercedes, a rural city in the province of Buenos Aires, and his family was able to get him back. “While growing up in that city where my mother had grown up, I became more and more interested in my parents’ story,” De Pedro wrote on his Facebook profile. The militancy took him to La Cámpora, the youth organization of Kirchnerism, and today he represents former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the presidential cabinet.

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Become a minister, stuttering became a problem. “I was forced to overcome the issue of cameras, which was my main fear. And then speaking in public. I can tell that the first time I spoke it forced me [el ministro de Obras Públicas, Gabriel] Katopodis. He invited me to an act by videoconference with the president and I said “I go, but I do not speak.” It was a trap. When the videoconference starts, he gives me the floor. I sweated, I skidded, but I spoke. These aid were important ”, says the minister. Now she recounts that she has “good days and bad days,” and that she found that stuttering often forces her listeners to pay more attention to her words. “Nobody assumes that if you stutter you can be a minister,” says De Pedro, “but it gives you a more resilient temperament, with the ability to face things.”

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