July 11, 2019– Mary Greeley News – An Italian court granted 24 life sentences to South American government and military officials for abducting 23 Italian dissidents living in the continent during ‘Operation Condor.’
The convictions include Francisco Morales Bermúdez, president of Peru from 1975 to 1980; Juan Carlos Blanco, a former foreign minister in Uruguay; Pedro Espinoza Bravo, a former deputy intelligence chief in Chile; and Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli, a former naval intelligence officer in Uruguay.
Jointly presented by the victims’ relatives, the case began 20 years ago in an appeals court in Rome, with citizens from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Italy also among the two dozen convictions. Around sixty thousand civilians are estimated to have died during the secret U.S.-backed campaign implemented by right-wing dictatorships in South America during the seventies and eighties.
“Operation Condor spared no one,” said Francesca Lessa, a research fellow at Oxford University’s Latin American Centre. “Refugees and asylum seekers were especially targeted, while children – illegally detained with their parents – had their biological identity stolen and replaced by that of adoptive families.”
According to a database recording the crimes of the coordinated regional repression, at least 496 people of 11 nationalities were kidnapped under the auspices of Operation Condor.
Declassified documents suggest some victims were drugged, their stomachs were slit open and they were dropped from planes into the Atlantic Ocean. Other victims’ bodies were cemented into barrels and thrown into rivers.
Monday’s verdict was the result of years of pressure from the families of those who disappeared. “For decades, the victims’ relatives have been seeking justice,” Lessa said. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, impunity dominated South America, with former politicians and military officials involved in Condor Operation still enjoying immunity. Bringing them before a judge to take responsibility for their crimes was not a simple undertaking.”
The crimes took place in the 1970s and 1980s. “Many of the perpetrators were growing old and may never be brought to justice,” said Jorge Ithurburu, a lawyer for 24 Marzo, a Rome-based NGO. “The more time passed the more the witnesses of those atrocious crimes aged or died.”
Aurora Meloni, 68, whose husband, Daniel Banfi, was kidnapped and murdered in Buenos Aires in 1974, told the Guardian: “We’ve never given up and today we all won. Today’s ruling is not only for my husband … today’s ruling is dedicated to all the people killed and kidnapped under Condor.”
Operation Condor was a United States–backed campaign of political repression and state terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents, officially and formally implemented in November 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America.
The program, nominally intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas, was created to suppress active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments’ neoliberal economic policies, which sought to reverse the economic policies of the previous era.
Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor is highly disputed. Some estimates are that at least 60,000 deaths can be attributed to Condor, roughly 30,000 of these in Argentina, and the so-called “Archives of Terror” list 50,000 killed, 30,000 disappeared and 400,000 imprisoned.
American political scientist J. Patrice McSherry gives a figure of at least 402 killed in operations which crossed national borders in a 2002 source, and mentions in a 2009 source that of those who “had gone into exile” and were “kidnapped, tortured and killed in allied countries or illegally transferred to their home countries to be executed . . . hundreds, or thousands, of such persons—the number still has not been finally determined—were abducted, tortured, and murdered in Condor operations.”
Victims included dissidents and leftists, union and peasant leaders, priests and nuns, students and teachers, intellectuals and suspected guerillas.
Although it was described by the CIA as “a cooperative effort by the intelligence/security services of several South American countries to combat terrorism and subversion,” guerrillas were used as an excuse, as they were never substantial enough to control territory, gain material support by any foreign power, or otherwise threaten national security.
Condor’s key members were the governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. Ecuador and Peru later joined the operation in more peripheral roles.
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with Henry Kissinger
The United States government provided planning, coordinating, training on torture, technical support and supplied military aid to the Juntas during the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and the Reagan administrations. Such support was frequently routed through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
On 16 February 2007, a request for the extradition of Kissinger was filed at the Supreme Court of Uruguay on behalf of Bernardo Arnone, a political activist who was kidnapped, tortured and disappeared by the dictatorial regime in 1976.
The editors of the New York Times defended Henry Kissinger, arguing that he should be given a pass for his role in Condor and other dirty works because “the world was polarized, and fighting communism involved hard choices and messy compromises”.
Chilean Socialist Party presidential candidate Salvador Allende was elected by a plurality of 36.2 percent in 1970, causing serious concern in Washington, D.C. due to his openly socialist and pro-Cuban politics. The Nixon administration, with Kissinger’s input, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to encourage a military coup that would prevent Allende’s inauguration, but the plan was not successful.
On September 11, 1973, Allende died during a military coup launched by Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet, who became President. A document released by the CIA in 2000 titled “CIA Activities in Chile” revealed that the United States, acting through the CIA, actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende, and that it made many of Pinochet’s officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military.
Kissinger took a similar line as he had toward Chile when the Argentine military, led by Jorge Videla, toppled the elected government of Isabel Perón in 1976 with a process called the National Reorganization Process by the military, with which they consolidated power, launching brutal reprisals and “disappearances” against political opponents.
An October 1987 investigative report in The Nation broke the story of how, in a June 1976 meeting in the Hotel Carrera in Santiago, Kissinger gave the bloody military junta in neighboring Argentina the “green light” for their own clandestine repression against leftwing guerrillas and other dissidents, thousands of whom were kept in more than 400 secret concentration camps before they were executed.
During a meeting with Argentine foreign minister César Augusto Guzzetti, Kissinger assured him that the United States was an ally, but urged him to “get back to normal procedures” quickly before the U.S. Congress reconvened and had a chance to consider sanctions.
According to declassified state department files, Kissinger also attempted to thwart the Carter Administration’s efforts to halt the mass killings by the 1976–83 military dictatorship.
Former CIA Station Chief John Stockwell writes that one of the favorite tactics of the CIA during the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s was to control countries by manipulating the election process.
“CIA apologists leap up and say, ‘Well, most of these things are not so bloody.’ And that’s true. You’re giving politicians some money, so he’ll throw his party in this direction or that one, or make false speeches on your behalf, or something like that. It may be non-violent, but it’s still illegal intervention in other country’s affairs, raising the question of whether or not we’re going to have a world in which laws, rules of behavior are respected,” Stockwell wrote.
Documents illustrate that the Reagan and Bush administration supported computer manipulation in both Noriega’s rise to power in Panama and in Marcos’ attempt to retain power in the Philippines. Many of the Reagan administration’s staunchest supporters were members of the Council on National Policy.
credit: In part with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Kissinger