The CIA’s “Operation Condor”: Dirty War, Death Squads and The Disappeared
by Tito Tricot
This article was originally published in 1999. Image Chilean Sociologist Tito Tricot
“These military regimes hunted down dissidents and leftists, union and peasant leaders, priests and nuns, intellectuals, students and teachers and other people not just guerrillas (who, under international law are also entitled to due legal process). These illegal military regimes defied international law and traditions of political sanctuary to carry out their ferocious state terror and destroy democratic opposition forces.”
“Operation Condor … involved the intelligence agencies…in a joint effort to eliminate perceived enemies of those regimes throughout the world.” – Daniel Brandt, Public Information Research, USA.
“Operation Condor…involved the intelligence agencies…in a joint effort to eliminate perceived enemies of those regimes throughout the world.”
– Daniel Brandt, Public Information Research, USA.
A museum in Chile showing pictures of Chilean murder and kidnapping victims
murdered and kidnapped in the South American Dirty War (Credit: AP)
Operation Condor was the name given to a secret union of intelligence services of six US-supported, South American military governments- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, which operated during the 1970s into the early 1980s.
Under Operation Condor the intelligence agencies were to use their joint resources to round up thousands of people who were suspected of involvement with leftist groups and imprison them in camps or secret detention centres. Many were tortured, interrogated, then executed and secretly buried, becoming known as the disappeared. Those that escaped their own dictatorship’s security services were often captured and tortured in other Condor countries and eventually returned from where they fled to be executed. Condor agents also located and killed dissidents in operations outside Latin America, in several European nations and the USA.
The most active period of this multinational secret police and army cooperation against leftwing and other opposition was between 1975 to 1978. The overall result of this massive political repression and terrorist dirty war, was that an estimated 35,000 people were murdered, many disappearing without a trace. Hundreds of thousands of others were imprisoned and tortured.
The Historical Beginnings Of Condor
The historical roots of Operation Condor go back a long way, when the US began telling South American military commanders about the growing dangers of communism in the region, at the Inter-American Conference in Mexico City in 1945. Agreements on mutual military assistance and cooperation followed in 1951. They also covered the supply of US arms and funding, the use of US military advisers, and the training of Latin American officers in the USA and the US army’s School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone.
The move towards “continental defence against communism” was accelerated after the victory of Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba in 1959.
The following year General Bogart, the head of US Southern Command invited his Latin American military counterparts to a meeting in his military base in Panama. The outcome of this was an annual Conference of American Armies [CAA] the first was held in Panama. It was then transferred to the American Military College at West Point and from 1965 it met every two years. This Wrest Point meeting place was the roots of the later secret Operation Condor.
Fearful of leftwing opposition movements, at its second meeting US and Latin American military commanders speeded up links between their intelligence agencies. The CAA established a standing committee in the Canal Zone to exchange information and intelligence. From then on a continental communications network functioned and regular secret intelligence meetings were held between Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia and others. Files and other information was supplied by military intelligence services, security police and death squads and made available by these countries and circulated between them through a network of military attaches.
In 1968, General Porter, the head of the US Southern Command explained the strategy for combating radical and socialist movements in Latin America and it sounded very close to the eventual structure of Operation Condor. He said, “In order to facilitate the coordinated employment of internal security forces within and among Latin American countries, we are…endeavouring to foster inter-service and regional cooperation by assisting in the organisation of integrated command and control centres; the establishment of common operating procedures and the conduct of joint and combined training exercises.”
At the 10th meeting of the CAA, in Caracas, Venezuela on the 3rd of September 1973, General Fortes, commander of the Brazilian army, said as far as collective action was concerned, in the struggle against communism, “the only effective methods are the exchange of experience and information, plus technical assistance when requested.” On this basis, the CAA decided to “strengthen information exchange in order to counter terrorism and control subversive elements in each country.”
As Chile [in 1973] and other South American countries one by one came under repressive military regimes, up until 1976, Argentina was the only country in the region where thousands of Chilean, Uruguayan, Bolivian and other political exiles were able to find refuge. The response of the Argentine police and armed forces was to become more repressive and the military formed a death squad, the Argentine Anti-communist Alliance [AAA].
In March 1974, Chilean, Uruguayan, and Bolivian police leaders met with the deputy chief of the Argentine federal police, Alberto Villar [who was also a joint founder of the AAA], to investigate ways of working together to wipe out the presence of thousands of ‘subversive’ political exiles in Argentina. The Chilean representative, the general of the military police, proposed that a member of the military or police be placed in each embassy as a security agent to coordinate operations with the police and armed forces of each country. The meeting also decided to create “an intelligence centre where we can obtain information on individual Marxists and exchange programmes and information about politicians. We must be able to move freely across the frontiers between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and operate in all three countries without an official warrant.” Villar promised delegates that the Argentine Federal Police’s Foreign Affairs Department would deal swiftly with any foreigners that the neighbouring juntas wanted eliminated.
The Violent Birth Of Operation Condor
By August 1974, the bodies of foreign, especially Bolivian refugees began to appear on various Buenos Aires rubbish tips. On September 30, a bombing in Buenos Aires carried out by a Chilean military unit led by a CIA agent [Michael Townley] killed Chilean General Carlos Prats, [he had been the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, until the coup of September 1973] who was a leader of the opposition to the dictatorship of General Pinochet.
Police and military units and crossed borders at will to carry out covert operations. In March and April 1975, over two dozen Uruguayans exiles were arrested in Buenos Aires by Argentinian and Uruguayan police, who jointly interrogated them in Argentine police stations.
In May, Paraguayan police arrested two men representing a united underground opposition organization. The men were Jorge Fuentes Alarcon a leading member of the Chilean group MIR [Movement of the Revolutionary Left] and Amilcar Santucho, from Argentina’s ERP [Peoples Revolutionary Army]. These Chilean and Argentine guerrilla groups had joined with other organizations from Uruguay and Bolivia to resist the region’s oppressive military regimes. Fuentes and Santucho were on their way to Paris for an opposition meeting when captured.
The military operation that followed the arrests involved the intelligence agencies of at least four countries, including the US FBI. One FBI officer Robert Scherrer’s job included maintaining intelligence liaisons with various regimes. Fuentes was interrogated by Paraguayan and Argentine intelligence officers, as well as US embassy officials in Buenos Aries, who then passed on information to the Chilean secret police [Dina]. Documents indicate these combined intelligence efforts may have led to the formal launch of Operation Condor several months later.
Fuentes was interrogated for four months, then turned over to the Chilean DINA. Jorge Fuentes was last seen alive inside Chile’s most feared secret detention centre, Villa Grimaldi, near Santiago. Other DINA victims testified years later to human rights groups, that they saw Fuentes after he arrived from Paraguay “badly wounded from the tortures.” They told that he was kept in a cage and was driven insane by continuing DINA torture before disappearing.
Operation Condor’s Formal Launch
On August 25, Colonel Contreras, head of Chile’s National Intelligence Directorate [DINA] visited the CIA headquarters in Washington, where he held a long secret meeting with Vernon Walters, deputy director responsible for Latin America. The leader of the Chilean Junta Pinochet had given Contreras wide powers destroy “the cancer of communism” in Chile, but Contreras efforts extended far beyond Chile.
On September 25, Colonel Manuel Contreras from DINA wrote a letter to his Paraguayan counterpart, Pastor Coronel, thanking him for his cooperation. Contreras says, “I am sure that this mutual cooperation will continue and increase in the accomplishment of the common objectives of both services.”
At its meeting of 19-26 October 1975, in Montevideo, Uruguay, the CAA [Conference of American Armies] gave the approval for a proposal prepared by Contreras for a “meeting of national intelligence services.”
Contreras’s main proposal was for the establishment of a continental database “similar to Interpol database, but dealing in subversion.”
Another long letter soon followed, Contreras invited three top Paraguayan intelligence officials to attend a “strictly secret” meeting in Santiago with intelligence chiefs from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay. Chile paid all expenses for this, “First Working Meeting on National Intelligence” which took place on November 25-December 1, 1975. In his introduction Contreras described the meeting as, “the basis of excellent coordination and improved activities of the national security of our respective countries.”
These representatives of the security forces forged an agreement to set up a joint “information bank” and “task forces” to cooperate in a war to destroy the opponents of imperialism and military rule. Thus a more organized system of units operated across national borders, spying on, kidnapping, torturing and murdering dissidents and other people from these countries.
Although the Condor countries committed themselves to a war against communism, it included human rights activists, writers, priests, trade unionists, students and others. Judges, intellectuals and journalists who criticised torture or corruption were seen as opponents and treated as the ideological enemy. The Argentinians outdid all the other dictatorships in the zeal and ferocity of their annihilation campaign.
In one of the most gruesome cases of joint operations between the military commands of Argentina and Chile the bodies of 119 abducted in Chile turned up in Argentina with fake documents. The Argentine security forces had tried to pass the disappeared victims off as Argentinians who had died in inter-faction party strife.
But Operation Condor’s state terror extended outside Latin America, with the exiled leaders of democratic, leftist and revolutionary groups and other political opponents of the rightist regimes hunted wherever they took refuge and assassinated. An “anti-subversion” network was set up in Europe based on Italian fascist terrorist groups. On October 6, 1975, Bernardo Leighton, Chile’s former vice president and a founding member of the Christian Democratic Party and his wife were shot by a hit squad.
Both survived their severe wounds, but Mrs Leighton was left paralysed.
Despite this failed killing, Pinochet had a meeting with a leader of the Italian rightwing groups, Stefano Delle Chiaie, who agreed to continue to help Chile’s regime. Regular bilateral meetings of Condor and CAA continued as usual as did death squad activities with devastating effects during 1976. Among other high profile killings were those of an Uruguayan senator, Zelmar Michilini, who was assassinated in June 1976. The former left-wing military leader and former president of Bolivia, Juan Torres was also shot dead in Argentina. On June 8, in a friendly meeting in Santiago, Chile, Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State, in the Nixon and Ford administrations told General Pinochet “that the people of the United States are wholeheartedly behind you, and wish you every success.”
That same year the most well known action of Condor was carried out in Washington. Orlando Letelier, the minister of defence and foreign affairs in the elected government of Allende of Chile, had escaped to the US, and was carrying out a campaign to isolate the Pinochet dictatorship. On September 21, Letelier and his American aide Ronni Moffet  were killed when a bomb ripped the car they were travelling in apart. This was a major Condor blunder. Such actions and the scale of repression made the existence of Condor difficult to continue to hide.
The newly elected US president Jimmy Carter had made human rights part of his election platform. He was not prepared to countenance Condor-style operations, especially in the US. And he did not want the sort of exposure that pointed towards the involvement the US intelligence agencies in such activities. Some US investigators were determined to identify those responsible.
The trail led eventually to Michael Vernon Townley, a US citizen and former CIA agent, with ties to the fascist Chilean group Patria y Libertad, who organised the murders. Townley left the US and returned to Chile after the 1973, CIA-backed coup. With his skills as an electronics and bugging expert he joined the Chilean secret police, DINA. The Chilean regime was forced to extradite him to the US in 1978. In return for informing on his Cuban exile accomplices and naming DINA commander Colonel Manuel Contreras as the man who ordered the killings, Townley was given a reduced sentence. Later Townley was given a new identity by the US government under its Witness Protection Program. A number of countries have since expressed an interest in speaking to Townley, but the US has resisted these overtures.
A More Discreet Condor Continues Its Crimes
The FBI’s chief officer in Argentina filed a special report on Phase Three of Operation Condor, the policy of international “targeted assassinations” only to have extracts find they’re way into the US press. This resulted in a US Congressional Committee of inquiry was established. The Chileans responded by sacking Contreras and disbanding Dina [only to replace it by another secret police organization]. It is believed that the Carter administration forced the member countries to closure down Condor, as part of the US’s new strategy of promoting the re-establishment of democracy in Latin America. Leaks exposing the existence of Condor were embarrassing and to some it had outlived its usefulness.
Representatives of all the Condor states met in Buenos Aires between 13-15, December 1976 to discuss the future direction. The Argentinians, with the support of Paraguay, pushed for a more guarded and secure way for continuing their campaign. The meeting decided to work more closely with the Latin American Anti-Communist Federation [CAL].
CAL held its third meeting in Asuncion, Paraguay, in March 1977. All the top leadership of the dictatorships, including the Argentine President, General Videla and General Leigh, a member of the Chilean junta attended it. Also present were a variety of Latin American torturers and death squad members. The spread of leftist social and political movements in Central America and the rise of radical ideas inside sections of the Catholic Church alarmed them. A plan put forward by the Bolivians, named after the Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer, was adopted.
Its purpose was to “eradicate” the supporters of liberation theology in the church. Under this plan, hundreds of priests, nuns, bishops and lay members of religious communities were murdered. It culminated in the execution of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The Argentinians took charge of most of the coordination of the repression throughout Latin America. Their soldiers, police and civilians were entrusted with death squad operations. The Argentinians also sent several military missions to Central America to assist the local armed forces and secret police in “anti-subversive” efforts. In early 1979, they initiated “anti-subversive” training courses in Buenos Aires for the military forces of allied states.
Intelligence meetings of the various national security agencies, as well as the CAA, continued with the assistance of the US military. In 1977, the CAA met in Managua, Nicaragua and in Botoga, Colombia in 1979.
Operation Condor Emerges In A New Form
In 1979, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua was overthrown and this gave renewed encouragement to the other dictatorships to work together to standardise their regional operations. General Mason, of Argentina chaired CAL’s fourth meeting in September 1980; the meeting favoured the adoption the brutally efficient Argentine model throughout Latin America.
From April 1980, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil were pursuing the formation of an “international anti-terrorist organisation”, Condor in a new form.
Meanwhile CAL was coordinating the massacres carried out by the death squads and security forces in Central America. The Agremil files continued to circulate among the general staff of Condor, resulting in the organizing of cross border arrests, exchanges of prisoners and international torture and killing squads.
Following the election of the Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1981, the next CAA meeting was held in Washington. The victory of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua gave fresh impetus to the anti-subversion efforts of the dictatorships. On December 1, 1981 the US administration released $19 million to fund the training of an initial contingent of 500 Contras [Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries] by Argentine army officers.
The representatives renewed their agreements on exchange of information about “terrorists” and decided to set up a permanent CAA headquarters in Santiago.
The End Of Operation Condor
In 1985, the Argentine dictatorship gave up power, in the wake of a military defeat and popular discontent. Chile and Paraguay were left to fight the “anti-terrorist” war. As covert US intervention increased in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America the Reagan administration entrusted more of it’s secret war to the CIA, CAL and the private sector agencies. As the last of the military regimes collapsed and more democratic governments returned to the region, so finally Operation Condor had outlived its usefulness and ceased to function. Its existence and brutal atrocities were by now hard to hide.
Uncovering Condors Secrets
In 1993, a Paraguayan ex-political prisoner acting on a tip-off took a judge who was investigating human rights cases to a police station in Asuncion and there they discovered a vast cache of documents of police terror. These uncensored files, known as the “archives of terror” show the inner workings of the Paraguayan political police and state terror network, Operation Condor.
They also document the presence of Nazis in the southern cone of South America and their activities in Condor. According to estimates there are between 500,000 to 700,000 individual pages of documents and photos.
The release of the secret files, along with the release of documents under freedom of information, [with limitations as CIA files are exempt from declassification] in the US and new assertive judicial investigations are shedding fresh light on Latin Americas worst era of political repression.
This information is helping to pull together a more complete picture of Condor and the role of US agencies, as well as aiding the judicial investigations of US, Spanish, Brazilian, Argentine and others in uncovering human rights crimes against their citizens. For instance the case of the Swiss-Chilean student Alexei Jaccard, who was abducted off the streets of Buenos Aires in May 1977. He was taken to the infamous torture centre at the Navy School of Mechanics, from which he then “disappeared”.
These documents are also of benefit to long grieving relatives seeking knowledge of missing family. Among others the widow of Paraguayan, Federico Tatter, who because of his opposition to the dictatorship of General Stroessner fled to Argentina in 1963 and was kidnapped in Buenos Aires in 1976. His wife obtained photographs from human rights groups showing him as a prisoner of Paraguayan police.
The Role Of The United States
“Operation Condor” is the code name for the collection, exchange and storage of intelligence data concerning socalled “leftists,” communists and Marxists, which was recently established between cooperating intelligence services in South America in order to eliminate Marxist terrorist activities in the area. In addition, “Operation Condor” provides for joint operations against terrorist targets in member countries…A third and most secret phase of Operation Condor involves the formation of special teams from member countries who travel anywhere in the world to non-member countries to carry out sanctions up to assassination against terrorists or supporters of terrorist organizations.” This September 28, 1976 cable marked “secret foreign political matters” and with lines deleted is from the FBI’s legal attache` in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer. For a long time it was the only released document that mentions Condor, the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency recently declassified a more complete version of the above information. Also other material has come to light about the US role.
The declassification of long-secret files is confirming US government agencies more actively cooperated with the Condor regimes repressive activities than had previously been acknowledged. These files confirm the US not only knew about Condor but aided and facilitated Condor operations as a matter of secret and routine policy. In 2001, Prof. J. P. Mc Sherry of Long Island University who has written articles on Condor discovered a document that she described as “another piece of increasingly weighty evidence suggesting that US military and intelligence officials supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor.”
The State Department cable dated October 13, 1978 is from US Ambassador to Paraguay Robert White, to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. “ On October 11, I called on chief of staff General Alejandro Fretes Davalos… he read me the …minutes resulting from the visit of General Orozco, chief of Chilean intelligence to Asuncion…The document is basically an agreement to coordinate all intelligence resources in order to control and eliminate subversion…They keep in touch with one another through a US communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone Which covers all Latin America. This US communications facility is used by student officers to call home…but it is also employed to coordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries. They maintain the confidentiality of their communication through the US facility in Panama by using bilateral codes… obviously this is the Condor network which all of us have heard about over the last few years.”
In a final comment White makes a recommendation, “The two FBI agents here tell me there is likelihood Condor will surface during Letelier trial in the US. If General Fretes Davalos is accurate in describing the communications it uses as an encrypted system within the US communications net… it would seem advisable to review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in the US interest.”
With Latin American officers using American facilities to transmit intelligence, this would have clearly provided US officials with the opportunity to closely monitor Condor activities and know exactly what operations were undertaken. Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, said the cable implied “foreknowledge, cooperation and total access to the plans and operations of Condor. The degree to which the USA knew about and supported these operations has remained secret until now, the layers of the onion are peeling away here,” he said.
“This document opens a pandora’s box of questions on the US knowledge of and role in Operation Condor,” said Peter Kornbluh.
Former Ambassador White, who now runs the Center for International Policy, a research organization said in a recent interview that he received no response to his message to Secretary Vance. “What it suggests to me is that people in the US government really actively worked not to have this knowledge, this evidence, in play.”
The Panama base mentioned above houses the headquarters of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the US Special Forces, the Army School of the America’s (SOA), among other facilities. Tens of thousands of Latin American officers were trained at the SOA, which used torture manuals released by the Pentagon and the CIA. American officers trained there have confirmed that the base is the centre of the hemispheric rightwing alliance. A military graduate of the School said, “The school was always a front for other special operations, covert operations.” An Argentine navy officer whose unit was organized into “kidnap commandos” (or “task forces”) in 1972, said that the repression was part of “a plan that responded to the Doctrine of National Security that had as its base the School of the Americas, directed by the Pentagon in Panama.”
An Uruguayan officer who admitted working for the CIA in the 1970s said that the CIA not only knew of Condor operations, but also supervised them.
Another amazing piece of recently released information is the admission by the CIA in September 2000, that DINA chief Manuael Contrearas was a CIA “asset” between 1974 and 1977, and that he had received a large unspecified payment for his services. During this period Contreras was known as “Condor One,” the leading organiser and champion of Operation Condor. The CIA did not divulge this information in 1978, when a US Federal Grand Jury indicted Contreras for his role in the Letelier-Moffitt assassinations. Contreras was sentenced to a prison term in Chile after the fall of the military junta for this crime. He was also convicted in absentia in Italy for the Leighton assassination attempt. The CIA says that it only asked Contreras about Condor after the assassinations of Letelier and Moffitt in 1976. This is hardly credible, when one considers that Condor informed the CIA of previous assassination plans. As well the CIA helped organise and train the DINA in 1974 and retained the services of Contreras as an asset for a year after the Letelier and Moffitt murders. The CIA destroyed the files on Contreras in 1991.
In other known cases of US agencies collaboration with Condor according to declassified US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports, the CIA had played a key role in setting up the computerized links (Condortel) to coordinate the intelligence and operations units of the Condor states.
The USA, Condor Crimes and Conclusions
Declassified US documents make clear that US security officers saw Condor as a legitimate “counterterror” organization. One 1976 DIA report stated “ that one Condor team was structured like a US Special Team” and described Condor’s “joint counterinsurgency operations.” In this report it was noted that Latin American military officers bragged about their Condor activities to their US counterparts and among each other. Numerous other CIA, DIA, and State Department documents refer to Condor as a countersubversive organization and some describe its assassination role in a matter-of-fact way.
The documentary record is still fragmented and many files continue to be classified as secret, but we know that security forces in Latin America classified and targeted people for torture and murder on the basis of their political ideology (or even perceived ideology) rather than illegal acts.
These military regimes hunted down dissidents and leftists, union and peasant leaders, priests and nuns, intellectuals, students and teachers and other people not just guerrillas (who, under international law are also entitled to due legal process). These illegal military regimes defied international law and traditions of political sanctuary to carry out their ferocious state terror and destroy democratic opposition forces.
US training, doctrine, organizational models, technology transfers, weapons sales, finance, military aid and ideological attitudes profoundly shaped the security forces of the region. Viewed in this context, US national security strategists and their counterparts in Latin America regarded large sections of the society as potentially subversive. They adopted the Cold War National Security Doctrine, a political doctrine of internal war and counterrevolution that targeted “internal enemies.” During these years the military in one country after another ousted their civilian governments in a series of US-backed coups, even in such long standing democracies as Chile and Uruguay and installed repressive totalitarian regimes.
The new documentary evidence shows something of the USA’s central role in financing, training and collaborating with institutions that carried out torture, assassinations and coups in the name of national security. The CIA denies that it provided information to governments that would have resulted in people being killed. But the past history of the CIA as well as recent evidence show that this can’t be believed. The CIA aided these regimes because they were anti-socialist allies, and the ends were assumed to justify the means, resulting in appalling atrocities.
There is still a lot we don’t know. With only a couple of exceptions, those that kidnapped, tortured and killed have not been tried. The US National Security Archive has called on the US government and the intelligence community, the NSA, CIA, DIA and others to fully divulge their files on Condor. Hopefully with the continued pressure of lawyers and human rights activists we will get further information that will expose assistance to Condor and provide some truth and accountability of the US role in the Latin American repression.
War criminals like former generals Pinochet of Chile and Videla of Argentina and others must be tried for their human rights crimes. And it is evident that other leading figures in the US political, military and intelligence establishment like George Bush, Henry Kissinger, Richard Helms, Cyrus Vance belong in the same dock as the dictators.
In Latin America fragile civilian governments are struggling with the effects of decades of state terror excesses and control their still powerful military/security organizations. And while institutionalised torture and executions are not as widespread it has not ceased. In May 2000, the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the Organization of American States (OAS) reviewed 10 years of anti-subversion cooperation in Latin America. Many of the Latin American states have concluded new intelligence agreements among themselves and with the US aimed at greater cooperation against “terrorism.”
The Conference of American Armies (CAA) still meets regularly (in Argentina in 1995 and Ecuador in 1997). A military conference on intelligence services organized by the Bolivian Army was also held in March 1999 and attended by the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuala. These meetings and agreements confirm the continuing role of the Latin American armed forces in social control when faced with serious domestic opposition for social change.
With US agencies unwilling to reject security doctrines that rationalise violations of human rights as a legitimate means to an end and security in the Americas so important to the US, the USA’s public espousal of rights and freedoms does not mean democracy and human rights have priority.
It would not take much for another form of Operation Condor to rise again if the interests of the USA and its allies were challenged.
And so the continental scale covert extermination campaign that was Condor vanished from Latin America leaving an estimated toll of 35,000 people dead (more than 10,000 of them in Argentina) and leaving their grieving families still trying to learn what had happened to their disappeared love ones. And while Condor was proceeding, the rightist military regimes in each of these Latin American countries were carrying out mass murders of citizens that resulted in the deaths and disappearances of an estimated 350,000 people and the imprisonment and torture of hundreds of thousands of others. Millions of people also became exiles and political refugees.
“…our people want Pinochet brought to trial for the crimes he committed against humankind. Crimes that should never be forgotten, because that’s the first step towards forgiveness and oblivion. We do not have the right to forget or forgive; it would be an insult to every raped victim, to every person thrown into rivers or the ocean, it would be an insult to all those who were savagely tortured and then murdered by the military under general Pinochet’s command.”
Tito Tricot is a Sociologist and Director of Center For Intercultural Studies (ILWEN) in Santiago, Chile.