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Operation Condor

For other uses of Operation Condor, please see Operation Condor (disambiguation)

Operation Condor (Spanish: Operacion Condor, Portuguese: Operacão Condor) was a campaign of political repressions involving assassination and intelligence operations officially implemented starting in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in South America from the 1950s to 1980s. This aimed both to deter democratic and left-wing influence and ideas and to control active or potential opposition movements against these governments. Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor will likely never be known, but it is reported to have caused thousands of victims, possibly even more.

Condor's key members were the right-wing military governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, with Ecuador and Peru joining later in more peripheral roles. These nations were ruled by dictators such as Jorge Rafael Videla, Augusto Pinochet, Ernesto Geisel and Alfredo Stroessner. The operation was jointly conducted by the intelligence and security services of these nations during the mid-1970s, in conjunction with a disputed degree of support supplied by the United States"Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America" J. Patrice McSherry ISBN 978-0742536876, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy,.


On 25 November 1975, leaders of the military intelligence of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay met together, with Manuel Contreras, chief of DINA (the Chilean secret police), in Santiago de Chile, officially creating the Plan Condor Condor legacy haunts South America, BBC, June 8, 2005 . However, cooperation between various security services, in the aim of "eliminating Marxist subversion", previously existed before this meeting and Pinochet's coup d'etat. Thus, during the Xth Conference of American Armies held in Caracas on September 3, 1973, Brazilian General Breno Borges Fortes, head of the Brazilian army, proposed to "extend the exchange of information" between various services in order to "struggle against subversion". (free access in French and in Portuguese) Furthermore, in March 1974, representants of the police forces of Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia met with Alberto Villar, deputy chief of the Argentine Federal Police and co-founder of the Triple A death squad, to implement cooperation guidelines in order to destroy the "subversive" threat represented by the presence of thousands of political exilees in Argentina . In August 1974 the corpses of the first victims of Condor, Bolivian refugees, were found in garbage dumps in Buenos Aires .

According to French journalist Marie-Monique Robin, author of Escadrons de la mort, l'ecole francaise (2004, Death Squads, The French School), the paternity of Operation Condor is to be attributed to General Rivero, intelligence officer of the Argentine Armed Forces and former student of the French. L’exportation de la torture, interview with Marie-Monique Robin in L'Humanite, August 30, 2003

Operation Condor, which took place in the context of the Cold War, was given at least tacit approval by the United States which feared a Marxist revolution in the region. The targets were officially leftist guerrillas (such as the MIR, the Montoneros or the ERP, the Tupamaros, etc.) but in fact included all kinds of political opponents, including their families and others, as reported by the Valech Commission. The Argentine "Dirty War", for example, which resulted in approximatively 30,000 victims according to most estimates, targeted many trade-unionists, relatives of activists, etc.

From 1976 onwards, the Chilean DINA and its Argentine counterpart, SIDE, were its front-line troops. The infamous "death flights", theorized in Argentina by Luis Maria Mendia — and also used during the Algerian War (1954–1962) by Marcel Bigeard — were widely used, in order to make the corpses, and therefore evidence, disappear. There were also many cases of child abduction.

On December 22, 1992, a significant amount of information about Operation Condor came to light when Jose Fernandez, a Paraguayan judge, visited a police station in the Lambare suburb of Asuncion to look for files on a former political prisoner. Instead he found what became known as the "terror archives", detailing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans secretly kidnapped, tortured and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Some of these countries have since used portions of this archive to prosecute former military officers. The archives counted 50,000 persons murdered, 30,000 "desaparecidos" and 400,000 incarcerated people.Martin Almada, "Paraguay: The Forgotten Prison, the Exiled Country"

According to these archives, other countries such as Peru also cooperated to varying extents by providing intelligence information in response to requests from the security services of the Southern Cone countries. Even though Peru were not at the secret November 1975 meeting in Santiago de Chile there is evidence of its involvement. For instance, in June 1980, Peru was known to have been collaborating with Argentine agents of 601 Intelligence Battalion in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of a group of Montoneros living in exile in Lima.

The "terror archives" also revealed Colombia's and Venezuela's greater or lesser degree of cooperation (Luis Posada Carriles was probably at the meeting that ordered Orlando Letelier's car bombing). In Colombia, it has been alleged that a paramilitary organization known as Alianza Americana Anticomunista may have cooperated with Operation Condor. Brazil signed the agreement later (June 1976), and refused to engage in actions out of Latin America.

Mexico, together with Costa Rica, Canada, France, the U.K., Spain and Sweden received many leftist intellectuals and common folk fleeing from the terror regimes. Operation Condor officially ended with the ousting of the Argentine dictatorship in 1983, although the killings continued.

Notable cases and prosecution


The Argentine Dirty War was carried on simultaneously with Operation Condor, the two overlapping between themselves. Indeed, the SIDE cooperated with the Chilean DINA in numerous cases of desaparecidos. Apart of the 1974 assassination of General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires, Uruguayan former MPs Zelmar Michelini, Hector Gutierrez and the ex-president of Bolivia, Juan Jose Torres were assassinated in the Argentine capital.

The SIDE also assisted Bolivian general Luis Garcia Meza Tejada's Cocaine Coup in Bolivia, with the help of Gladio operative Stefano Delle Chiaie and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (see also Operation Charly). The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers who had lost their children to the dictatorship, started demonstrating each Sunday on Plaza de Mayo from April 1977, in front of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, the seat of the government, to reclaim their children from the junta. The Mothers continue their struggle for justice to this day.

The National Commission for Forced Disappearances (CONADEP), led by writer Ernesto Sabato, was created in 1983. Two years later, the Juicio a las Juntas (Trial of the Juntas) largely succeeded in proving the crimes of the various juntas which had formed the self-styled National Reorganization Process. Most of the top officers who were tried were sentenced to life imprisonment: Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Eduardo Massera, Roberto Eduardo Viola, Armando Lambruschini, Raul Agosti, Ruben Graffigna, Leopoldo Galtieri, Jorge Anaya and Basilio Lami Dozo. However, Raul Alfonsin's government voted two amnesty laws in order to avoid the escalation of trials against militaries involved in human rights abuses: the 1986 Ley de Punto Final and the 1987 Ley de Obediencia Debida. President Carlos Menem then pardoned the leaders of the junta in 1989–1990. Following persistent activism by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other associations, the amnesty laws were overturned by the Argentine Supreme Court nearly twenty years later, in June 2005.

In Argentina, DINA's civil agent Enrique Arancibia Clavel, prosecuted for crimes against humanity in 2004, was condemned a life-sentence in General Prat's case. In 2003, federal judge Maria Servini de Cubria asked Chile for the extradition of Mariana Callejas, who was Michael Townley's wife (himself a U.S. expatriate and DINA agent), and Cristoph Willikie, a retired colonel from the Chilean army - all three of them are accused of this crime. But Chilean judge Nibaldo Segura from appeal court has refused in July 2005, arguing that they were already been prosecuted in Chile.

It has been claimed that Italian terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie - also an operative of Gladio "stay-behind" secret NATO paramilitary organization - was involved in the murder of General Carlos Prats. Along with fellow extremist Vincenzo Vinciguerra, he testified in Rome in December 1995 before judge Maria Servini de Cubria that DINA agents Enrique Arancibia Clavel and Michael Townley were directly involved in this assassination.


In Brazil, president Fernando Henrique Cardoso ordered in 2000 the release of some military files concerning Operation Condor. Italian attorney general Giancarlo Capaldo, who is investigating the disappearance of Italian citizens, probably by a mix of Argentine, Chilean, Paraguayan and Brazilian militaries, accused 11 Brazilians of being implicated in it. However, according to the official statement, "they could not confirm nor invalidate that Argentine, Brazilian, Paraguayan and Chilean militaries will be submitted to a trial before December." Radiobras Brazilian state website As of August 2006, nobody in Brazil has been convicted of human rights violations during the 21 years of military dictatorship there.

On April 26, 2000, former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, alleged that the ex-presidents of Brazil, João Goulart and Juscelino Kubitschek, were assassinated in the frame of Operation Condor and requested the opening of investigations on their death. They were purported to have died respectively of a heart attack and in an accident.Brasil examina su pasado represivo en la Operacion Condor, El Mostrador, 11 May 2000 Operacion Condor: presion de Brizola sobre la Argentina, El Clarin, 6 May 2000


When Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, as part of a failed extradition to Spain, which was demanded by magistrate Baltasar Garzon, a bit more information concerning Condor was revealed. One of the lawyers who asked for his extradition talked about an attempt to assassinate Carlos Altamirano, leader of the Chilean Socialist Party: Pinochet would have met Italian terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie in Madrid in 1975, during Franco's funeral, in order to have him murdered. Las Relaciones Secretas entre Pinochet, Franco y la P2 - Conspiracion para matar, Equipo Nizkor, February 4, 1999 But as with Bernardo Leighton, who was shot in Rome in 1975 after a meeting the same year in Madrid between Stefano Delle Chiaie, former CIA agent Michael Townley and anti-Castrist Virgilio Paz Romero, the plan ultimately failed.

Chilean judge Juan Guzman Tapia would eventually make jurisprudence concerning "permanent kidnapping" crime: since the bodies of the victims could not be found, he deemed that the kidnapping may be said to continue, therefore refusing to grant to the military the benefices of the statute of limitation. This helped indict Chilean militaries who were benefitting from a 1978 self-amnesty decree.

General Carlos Prats!

General Carlos Prats and his wife were killed by the Chilean DINA on September 30, 1974, by a car bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they lived in exile. In Chile, the judge investigating this case, Alejandro Solis, definitively relaxed Pinochet on this particular case, after the Chilean Supreme court rejected in January 2005 a demand to lift the ex-dictator's immunity. The direction of DINA, including chief Manuel Contreras, ex-chief of operation and retired general Raul Itturiaga Neuman, his brother Roger Itturiaga, and ex-brigadeers Pedro Espinoza Bravo and Jose Zara, are accused in Chile of this assassination. DINA agent Enrique Arancibia Clavel has been convicted in Argentina for this assassination.

Bernardo Leighton!

Bernardo Leighton and his wife were severely injured on October 5, 1976 by gunshots while in exile in Rome. According to the National Security Archive and Italian attorney general Giovanni Salvi, in charge of former DINA head Manuel Contreras' prosecution, Stefano Delle Chiaie met with Michael Townley and Virgilio Paz Romero in Madrid, in 1975, to prepare, with the help of Franco's secret police, the murder of Bernardo Leighton.

Orlando Letelier!

Another target was Orlando Letelier, a former minister of the Chilean Allende government who was assassinated by a car bomb explosion in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 1976. His assistant Ronni Moffit, a U.S. citizen, also died in the explosion. Michael Townley, General Manuel Contreras, former head of the DINA; and Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo also formerly of DINA were convicted for the murders. In 1978, Chile accepted to hand over Michael Townley to the USA, in order to reduce the tension about Orlando Letelier's murder. Michael Townley was then freed under witness protection programs. USA is still waiting for Manuel Contreras and Pedro Espinoza to be extradited.

In an op-ed published 17 December, 2004 in the Los Angeles Times, Francisco Letelier, the son of Orlando Letelier, wrote that the assassination of his father was part of Operation Condor, described as "an intelligence-sharing network used by six South American dictators of that era to eliminate dissidents." Augusto Pinochet has been accused of being a participant in Operation Condor, Francisco Letelier declared: "My father's murder was part of Condor."

Michael Townley has accused Pinochet of being responsible for Orlando Letelier's death. Townley confessed that he had hired five anti-Castro Cuban exiles to booby-trap Letelier's car. According to Jean-Guy Allard, after consultations with the terrorist organization CORU's leadership, including Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, those elected to carry out the murder were Cuban-Americans Jose Dionisio "Bloodbath" Suarez, Virgilio Paz Romero, Alvin Ross Diaz and brothers Guillermo and Ignacio Novo Sampoll. According to the Miami Herald, Luis Posada Carriles was at this meeting that decided on Letelier's death and also about the Cubana Flight 455 bombing.

Operation Silencio!

In 1991, a year before the "terror archives" were found in Paraguay, Eugenio Berrios, a chemist who had worked with DINA agent Michael Townley, was escorted from Chile to Uruguay by Operation Condor agents, in order to escape testifying before a Chilean court in the Letelier case.

This is known as Operation Silencio, that started in April 1991 in order to impede investigations by Chilean judges, with the spiriting away of Arturo Sanhueza Ross, linked to the murder of MIR leader Jecar Neghme in 1989. According to the Rettig Report, Jecar Neghme's death was carried out by Chilean intelligence agents Neghme Cristi Jecar Antonio, Memoria Viva, . In September 1991, Carlos Herrera Jimenez, who killed trade-unionist Tucapel Jimenez, flew away, before Berrios in October 1991. Berrios then used four different passports, Argentinian, Uruguayan, Paraguayan and Brazilian, lifting concerns about Operation Condor still being in place. In 1995, he was found dead in El Pinar, near Montevideo (Uruguay), his murderers having tried to make the identification of his body impossible.

In January 2005, Michael Townley, who now lives in the USA under witness protection program, acknowledged to agents of Interpol Chile links between DINA and the detention and torture center Colonia Dignidad, which was founded in 1961 by Paul Schafer, a Nazi accused of child-abuse and torture, arrested in March 2005 in Buenos Aires. Townley also revealed information about Colonia Dignidad and the Army's Laboratory on Bacteriological War. This last laboratory would have replaced the old DINA's laboratory on Via Naranja de lo Curro street, where Michael Townley worked with the chemical assassin Eugenio Berrios. The toxin that allegedly killed Christian-democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva may have been made in this new lab in Colonia Dignidad, according to the judge investigating the case.

U.S. Congressman Edward Koch!

In February 2004, John Dinges, a reporter, published "The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents" (The New Press, 2004). In this book, he reveals how Uruguayan military officials threatened to assassinate US Congressman Edward Koch in mid-1976. In late July 1976, the CIA station chief in Montevideo received information about it, but recommended that the Agency take no action because the Uruguayan officers (among which Colonel Jose Fons, who was at the November 1975 secret meeting in Santiago, Chile, and Major Jose Nino Gavazzo, who headed a team of intelligence officers working in Argentina in 1976, where he was responsible for more than 100 Uruguayans´ deaths) had been drinking when the threat was made. In an interview for the book, Koch said that George H.W. Bush, CIA's director at the time, informed him in October 1976 - more than two months afterward, and after Orlando Letelier's murder - that his sponsorship of legislation to cut off US military assistance to Uruguay on human rights grounds had provoked secret police officials to "put a contract out for you". In mid October 1976, Koch wrote to the Justice Departement asking for FBI protection. None was provided for him. In late 1976, Colonel Fons and Major Gavazzo were assigned to prominent diplomatic posts in Washington DC, but the State Department forced the Uruguayan government to withdraw their appointments, with the public explanation that "Fons and Gavazzo could be the objects of unpleasant publicity..." Koch only became aware of the connections between the threats in 2001.

Other cases!

The Chilean leader of the MIR, Edgardo Enriquez, was "disappeared" in Argentina, as well as another MIR leader, Jorge Fuentes; Alexei Jaccard, Chilean and Swiss, Ricardo Ramirez and a support network to the Communist party dismantled in Argentina in 1977. Cases of repression against German, Spanish, Peruvians citizens and Jewish people were also reported. The assassination of former Bolivian president Juan Jose Torres, in Buenos Aires in 1976, was also part of Condor. So was the murder of former Uruguayan deputies Hector Gutierrez and Zelmar Michelini, also in Buenos Aires and the same year. The DINA entered into contact even with Croatian terrorists, Italian neofascists and the Shah's SAVAK to locate and assassinate dissidents. Los crimenes de la Operacion Condor, La Tercera, 2001.

1976 was the year where Operation Condor as at its height. Chilean exilees in Argentina were threatened again, and had to go, once again, into clandestinity or/and exile. Chilean General Carlos Prats had already been assassinated by the Chilean DINA in Buenos Aires in 1974, with the help of former CIA agent Michael Townley. Cuban diplomats were also assassinated in Buenos Aires in the infamous Automotores Orletti torture center, one of the 300 clandestine prisons of the dictatorship, managed by the Grupo de Tareas 18, headed by Anibal Gordon, previously convicted for armed robbery, and who directly obeyed to the General Commandant of the SIDE, Otto Paladino. Automotores Orletti was the main base of foreign intelligence services involved in Operation Condor. One of the survivors, Jose Luis Bertazzo, who was detained two months there, identified Chileans, Uruguayans, Paraguayans and Bolivians there, who were interrogated by agents from their own countries. It is there that 19 years-old daughter-in-law of poet Juan Gelman was tortured (along with his son), before being transported to Montevideo, where she delivered a baby which was immediately stolen by Uruguayan militaries. Automotores Orletti el taller asesino del Condor, Juventud Rebelde, January 3 2006 (mirrored on El Correo.eu.org / According to John Dinges's Los anos del Condor, Chilean MIR prisoners in Orletti center told Jose Luis Bertazzo that they had seen two Cuban diplomats, 22 years-old Jesus Cejas Arias, and 26 years-old Crescencio Galanega, tortured by Gordon's group and interrogated by a man who specially came one day from Miami to interrogate them. The two Cuban diplomats, charged of the protection of Cuban embassador to Argentina, Emilio Aragones, had been kidnapped on August 9, 1976, in the intersection between calle Arribenos and Virrey del Pino, by 40 armed SIDE agents who blocked all side of the street with their Ford Falcon, the cars used by the security forces during the dictatorship. According to John Dinges, the FBI as well as the CIA were informed of their arrestation. Dinges published in his book a cable sent by FBI agent in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, on September 22, 1976, where he mentionned in passing that Michael Townley, later convicted for the assassination on September 21, 1976 of former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., had also taken part to the interrogatories of the two Cubans. Former head of the DINA confirmed to Argentine federal judge Maria Servini de Cubria on December 22, 1999, in Santiago de Chile, the presence of Michael Townley and Cuban Guillermo Novo Sampoll in the Orletti center, who traveled form Chile to Argentina on August 11, 1976, and "cooperated in the torture and assassination of the two Cuban diplomats." Anti-Castro Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles also boasted in his autobiography, "Los caminos del guerrero", the murder of the two young men.

U.S. involvement

CIA documents show that the CIA had close contact with members of the Chilean secret police, DINA, and its chief Manuel Contreras. Some have alleged that the CIA's one-time payment to Contreras is proof that the U.S. approved of Operation Condor and military repression within Chile. The CIA's official documents state that at one time, some members of the intelligence community recommended making Contreras into a paid contact because of his closeness to Pinochet; the plan was rejected based on Contreras' poor human rights track record, but the single payment was made due to miscommunication.

A 1978 cable from the US ambassador to Paraguay, Robert White, to the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, was published on March 6, 2001 by the New York Times. The document was released in November 2000 by the Clinton administration under the Chile Declassification Project. In the cable, Ambassador White related a speech with General Alejandro Fretes Davalos, chief of staff of Paraguay's armed forces, who informed him that the South American intelligence chiefs involved in Condor "[kept] in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which cover[ed] all of Latin America". According to Davalos, this installation was "employed to co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries". Robert White feared that the US connection to Condor might be publicly revealed, at a time when investigations were carried out in the US concerning the assassination of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant Ronni Moffit. White thus wrote in his cable that: "It would seem advisable to review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in US interest."

The "information exchange" (via telex) included torture techniques (i.e. near drowning or playing the sound recordings of victims who were being tortured to their families).

This demonstrates that the US facilitated communications for Operation Condor, and has been called by J. Patrice McSherry (Long Island Univ.) "another piece of increasingly weighty evidence suggesting that U.S. military and intelligence officials supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor."

It has been argued that while the US was not a key member, it "provided organizational, intelligence, financial and technological assistance to the operation."

Material declassified in 2004 states that "The declassified record shows that Secretary Kissinger was briefed on Condor and its 'murder operations' on August 5, 1976, in a 14-page report from Shlaudeman. 'Internationally, the Latin generals look like our guys,' Shlaudeman cautioned. 'We are especially identified with Chile. It cannot do us any good.' Shlaudeman and his two deputies, William Luers and Hewson Ryan, recommended action. Over the course of three weeks, they drafted a cautiously worded demarche, approved by Kissinger, in which he instructed the U.S. ambassadors in the Southern Cone countries to meet with the respective heads of state about Condor. He instructed them to express 'our deep concern' about 'rumors' of 'plans for the assassination of subversives, politicians and prominent figures both within the national borders of certain Southern Cone countries and abroad.'"

Ultimately, the demarche was never delivered. Kornbluh and Dinges suggest that Kissinger's order was not sent as the result of a cable sent by Assistant Secretary Harry Shlaudeman to his deputy in D.C which states "You can simply instruct the Ambassadors to take no further action, noting that there have been no reports in some weeks indicating an intention to activate the Condor scheme." McSherry, adds, "According to [U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Robert] White, instructions from a secretary of state cannot be ignored unless there is a countermanding order received via a secret (CIA) backchannel."

Kornbluh and Dinges conclude that "The paper trail is clear: the State Department and the CIA had enough intelligence to take concrete steps to thwart Condor assassination planning. Those steps were initiated but never implemented." Shlaudeman's deputy, Hewson Ryan, would later acknowledge in an oral history interview that the State Department was "remiss" in its handling of the case. "We knew fairly early on that the governments of the Southern Cone countries were planning, or at least talking about, some assassinations abroad in the summer of 1976. … Whether if we had gone in, we might have prevented this, I don't know," he stated in reference to the Letelier-Moffitt bombing. "But we didn't."

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations, was closely involved diplomatically with the Southern Cone governments at the time and well-aware of the Condor plan. According to L'Humanite, the first cooperation agreements were signed between the CIA and anti-Castro groups, fascist movements such as the Triple A set up in Argentina by Jose Lopez Rega, "personal secretary" of Juan Peron and Isabel Martinez de Peron, and Rodolfo Almiron (arrested in Spain in 2006). Latin America in the 1970s: "Operation Condor", an International Organization for Kidnapping Opponents, L'Humanite in English, December 2, 2006, transl. January 1, 2007

On May 31 2001, French judge Roger Le Loire requested a summons served on Henry Kissinger while he was staying at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris. Loire wanted to question Kissinger as a witness for U.S. alleged involvement concerning Operation Condor and for possible US knowledge concerning the "disappearances" of 5 French nationals under the Chilean junta. As a result, Kissinger left Paris that evening, and Loire's inquiries were directed to the U.S. State Department. Henry Kissinger rattrape au Ritz, a Paris, par les fantômes du plan Condor, Le Monde, May 29, 2001 (mirrored here)

In July 2001, the Chilean high court granted investigating judge Juan Guzman the right to question Kissinger about the 1973 killing of American journalist Charles Horman, whose execution at the hands of the Chilean military following the coup was dramatized in the 1982 Costa-Gavras film, Missing. The judge’s questions were relayed to Kissinger via diplomatic routes but went unanswered. [ http://www.guardian.co.uk/pinochet/Story/0,11993,735920,00.html Kissinger may face extradition to Chile], The Guardian, June 12, 2002

In August 2001, Argentine Judge Rodolfo Canicoba sent a letter rogatory to the US State Department, in accordance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), requesting a deposition by Kissinger to aid the judge's investigation of Operation Condor.

On September 10 2001, a civil suit was filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court by the family of Gen. Rene Schneider, former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, asserting that Kissinger gave the order for the elimination of Schneider because he refused to endorse plans for a military coup. Schneider was killed by coup-plotters loyal to General Roberto Viaux in a botched kidnapping attempt, but U.S. involvement with the plot is disputed, as declassified transcripts show that Nixon and Kissinger had ordered the coup "turned off" a week prior to the killing, fearing that Viaux had no chance. As a part of the suit, Schneider’s two sons are attempting to sue Kissinger and then-CIA director Richard Helms for $3 million. [ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1536547.stm Kissinger accused over Chile plot], BBC News, September 11, 2001 [ http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,550375,00.html Kissinger sued over Chile death ], The Guardian, September 12, 2001 [ http://www.usdoj.gov/osg/briefs/2005/0responses/2005-0743.resp.html Schneider v. Kissinger ], U.S. Department of Justice, June 28, 2005

On September 11 2001, the 28th anniversary of the Pinochet coup, Chilean human rights lawyers filed a criminal case against Kissinger along with Augusto Pinochet, former Bolivian general and president Hugo Banzer, former Argentine general and dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, and former Paraguayan president Alfredo Stroessner for alleged involvement in Operation Condor. The case was brought on behalf of some fifteen victims of Operation Condor, ten of whom were Chilean.

In late 2001, the Brazilian government canceled an invitation for Kissinger to speak in São Paulo because it could no longer guarantee his immunity from judicial action.

On February 162007, a request for 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.Piden extraditar a Kissinger por Operacion Condor, in: La Jornada, 2007-02-16 (in Spanish)

The "French connection"

French journalist Marie-Monique Robin has found in the archives of the Quai d'Orsay, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the original document proving that a 1959 agreement between Paris and Buenos Aires instaured a "permanent French military mission," formed of militaries who had fought in the Algerian War, and which was located in the offices of the chief of staff of the Argentine Army. It was continued until 1981, date of the election of socialist Francois Mitterrand. Argentine - Escadrons de la mort : l’ecole francaise, interview with Marie-Monique Robin published by RISAL, October 22, 2004 available in French & Spanish (“Los metodos de Argel se aplicaron aqui”, Pagina/12, October 13, 2004 She showed how Valery Giscard d'Estaing's government secretly collaborated with Videla's junta in Argentine and with Augusto Pinochet's regime in Chile. Conclusion of Marie-Monique Robin's Escadrons de la mort, l'ecole francaise . The first Argentine officers, among whom Alcides Lopez Aufranc, went to Paris to assist to courses during two years at the Ecole de Guerre military school in 1957, two years before the Cuban Revolution and when no Argentine guerrilla existed. "In practice, declared Robin to Pagina/12, the arrival of the French in Argentina led to a massive extension of intelligence services and of the use of torture as the primary weapon of the anti-subversive war in the concept of modern warfare." The anniquilation decrees signed by Isabel Peron had been inspired by French texts. During the Battle of Algiers, the police forces were put under the authority of the Army, and in particular of the paratroopers, who generalized interrogation sessions, systematically using torture and then disappearances. 30 000 persons disappeared in Algeria. Reynaldo Bignone, named President of the Argentinian junta in July 1982, declared in her film: "The March 1976 order of battle is a copy of the Algerian battle."

Green deputies Noël Mamère, Martine Billard and Yves Cochet deposed on September 10, 2003 a request for the constitution of a Parliamentary Commission on the "role of France in the support of military regimes in Latin America from 1973 to 1984" before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, presided by Edouard Balladur. Apart of Le Monde, newspapers remained silent about this request. MM. Giscard d'Estaing et Messmer pourraient être entendus sur l'aide aux dictatures sud-americaines, Le Monde, September 25, 2003 However, deputy Roland Blum, in charge of the Commission, refused to hear Marie-Monique Robin, and published in December 2003 a 12 pages report qualified by Robin as the summum of bad faith. It claimed that no agreement had been signed, despite the agreement found by Robin in the Quai d'Orsay « Serie B. Amerique 1952-1963. Sous-serie : Argentine, n° 74. Cotes : 18.6.1. mars 52-août 63 ». RAPPORT FAIT AU NOM DE LA COMMISSION DES AFFAIRES ETRANGÈRES SUR LA PROPOSITION DE RESOLUTION (n° 1060), tendant a la creation d'une commission d'enquête sur le rôle de la France dans le soutien aux regimes militaires d'Amerique latine entre 1973 et 1984, PAR M. ROLAND BLUM, French National Assembly

When Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin traveled to Chile in February 2004, he claimed that no cooperation between France and the military regimes had occurred. Argentine : M. de Villepin defend les firmes francaises, Le Monde, February 5, 2003

Reporter Marie-Monique Robin thus declared to L'Humanite newspaper: "French have systematized a military technique in urban environment which would be copied and pasted to Latin American dictatorships." L’exportation de la torture, interview with Marie-Monique Robin in L'Humanite, August 30, 2003 . The methods employed during the 1957 Battle of Algiers were systematized and exported to the War School in Buenos Aires. Roger Trinquier's famous book on counter-insurgency had a very strong influence in South America. She declared being shocked to learn that the DST French intelligence agency communicated to the DINA the name of the refugees who returned to Chile (Operation Retorno). All of these Chileans have been killed. "Of course, this puts in cause the French government, and Giscard d'Estaing, then President of the Republic. I was very shocked by the duplicity of the French diplomatic position which, on one hand, received with open arms the political refugees, and, on the other hand, collaborated with the dictatorships."

Marie-Monique Robin also demonstrated ties between the French far right and Argentina since the 1930s, in particular through the Catholic fundamentalist organization Cite catholique, created by Jean Ousset, a former secretary of Charles Maurras, the founder of the royalist Action francaise movement. La Cite edited a review, Le Verbe, which influenced militaries during the Algerian War, notably by justifying the use of torture. At the end of the 1950s, the Cite catholique installed itself in Argentina and organized there cells in the Army. It greatly expanded itself during the government of General Juan Carlos Ongania, in particular in 1969. The key figure of the Cite catholique was priest Georges Grasset, who became Videla's personal confessor and had been the spiritual guide of the Organisation de l'armee secrète (OAS) pro-French Algeria terrorist movement founded in Franquist Spain. This Catholic fundamentalist current in the Argentine Army explains, according to Robin, the importance and length of the French-Argentine cooperation. In Buenos Aires, Georges Grasset maintained links with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of Society of St. Pius X in 1970 and excommunicated in 1988. The Society of Pius-X has four monasteries in Argentina, the largest one in La Reja. There, a French priest declared to Marie-Monique Robin: "To save the soul of a Communist priest, one must kill him." There, she met Luis Roldan, former Under Secretary of Cult under Carlos Menem, President of Argentina from 1989 to 1999, who was presented by Dominique Lagneau, the priest in charge of the monastery, as "Mr. Cite catholique in Argentina". Bruno Genta and Juan Carlos Goyeneche represent this ideology.

Argentine Admiral Luis Maria Mendia, who had theorized the practice of "death flights", already used during the Algerian War (1954-62) by General Marcel Bigeard, testified in January 2007, before the Argentine judges, that a French intelligence "agent," Bertrand de Perseval, had participated in the abduction of the two French nuns, Leonie Duquet and Alice Domont. Perseval, who lives today in Thailand, denied any links with the abduction, but did admit being a former member of the OAS, and having escaped for Argentina after the March 1962 Evian Accords putting an end to the Algerian War (1954-62). Referring to Marie Monique Robin's film documentary titled The Death Squads - the French School (Les escadrons de la mort - l'ecole francaise), Luis Maria Mendia asked before the Argentine Court that former French president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, former French premier Pierre Messmer, former French embassador to Buenos Aires Francois de la Gorce, and all officials in place in the French embassy in Buenos Aires between 1976 and 1983 be convoked before the court. Disparitions : un ancien agent francais mis en cause, Le Figaro, February 6, 2007 Besides this "French connection," he has also charged former head of state Isabel Peron and former ministers Carlos Ruckauf and Antonio Cafiero, whom had signed the "anti-subversion decrees" before Videla's 1976 coup d'etat. According to ESMA survivor Graciela Daleo, this is another tactic which pretends that these crimes were legitimate as the 1987 Obediencia Debida Act claimed them to be and that they also obeyed to Isabel Peron's "anti-subversion decrees" (which, if true, would give them a formal appearance of legality, despite torture being forbidden by the Argentine Constitution) “Imparti ordenes que fueron cumplidas”, Pagina/12, February 2, 2007 Alfredo Astiz also referred before the courts to the "French connection". Astiz llevo sus chicanas a los tribunales, Pagina/12, January 25, 2007

Legal actions

Chilean judge Juan Guzman, who had inculpated Pinochet at his return to Chile after his arrest in London, started suing some 30 torturers, including former head of the DINA Manuel Contreras, for the disappearance of 20 Chilean victims of the Condor plan. Latin America in the 1970s: "Operation Condor", an International Organization for Kidnapping Opponents, L'Humanite in English, December 2, 2006, transl. January 1, 2007

In Argentina, the CONADEP human rights commission led by writer Ernesto Sabato investigated human rights abuses during the "Dirty War", while the 1985 Trial of the Juntas judged the highest responsibles of the state terrorist acts. However, the amnesty laws (Ley de Obediencia Debida and Ley de Punto Final) put an end to the trials, until their overturn by the Argentine Supreme Court a few years ago. Criminals such as Alfredo Astiz, sentenced in absentia in France for the disappearance of two French nuns, Alice Domont and Leonie Duquet, will now have to answer for their involvement in Condor.

Chilean Enrique Arancibia Clavel was condemned in Argentina for the assassination of Carlos Prats and of his wife. Former Uruguayan president Juan Maria Bordaberry, his minister of Foreign Affairs and six military officers, responsible for the disappearance in Argentina in l976 of Uruguayan opponents to the regime, have recently been arrested.

On 3 August, 2007, General Raul Iturriaga, former head of DINA, was captured in the Pacific costal town of Vina del Mar Claudia Lagos and Patrick J. McDonneln Pinochet-era general is caught, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2007 . He had previously been a fugitive, on the run from a five-year jail term. He had been sentenced for the kidnapping of Luis Dagoberto San Martin, a 21 years-old opponent of Pinochet. Martin was captured in 1974 and taken to a DINA detention centre, where he "disappeared." Iturriaga was also wanted in Argentina for the assassination of General Prats .

Nevertheless, according to French newspaper L'Humanite, "in most of those countries, lawsuits launched against the authors of crimes of "lese-humanity" from the 1970s to 1990 have owe more to flaws in the amnesty laws than to a real will of the governments in power, which, on the contrary, wave the flag of "national reconciliation". It is sad to say that two of the pillars of the Condor Operation, Alfredo Stroessner and Augusto Pinochet, never paid for their crimes and died without ever answering charges about the "disappeared" - who continue to haunt the memory of people who had been crushed by fascist brutality.".

See also

  • History of Argentina
  • History of Bolivia
  • History of Brazil
  • History of Chile
  • History of Paraguay
  • History of Peru
  • History of Uruguay
  • Dirty War
  • Amnesty Law
  • Films depicting Latin American military dictatorships

South American intelligence agencies

  • DINA
  • DIM
  • SNI
  • SIDE

Intelligence agents and terrorists involved in Operation Condor

  • Stefano Delle Chiaie, Italian terrorist, also an operative for Gladio "stay-behind" NATO clandestine structure
  • Michael Townley, US expatriate, DINA agent involved in Orlando Letelier's 1976 murder in Washington D.C.
  • Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban anti-Castro terrorist who participated in Operation Condor and worked for the Venezuelan DISIP (currently in the US)
  • Virgilio Paz Romero, who participated to Orlando Letelier's 1976 assassination and the attack against Bernardo Leighton in Rome Declassified documents available on the National Security Archive website
  • Alianza Anticomunista Argentina (aka Triple A)
  • Italian secret services

Prominent Victims of Operation Condor

A non-exhaustive list registering famous victims of Operation Condor follows:

  • Martin Almada, educator in Paraguay, arrested in 1974 and tortured for three years
  • Victor Olea Alegria, member of the Socialist Party, arrested on September 11, 1974 and "disappeared" (head of DINA Manuel Contreras was convicted in 2002 for this crime)
  • General Carlos Prats, who immediately preceded Pinochet at the head of the Chilean army, assassinated in Buenos Aires in 1974
  • Bernardo Leighton, Christian-Democrat who narrowly escaped murder in Rome in 1975 organized by Italian terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie
  • Carlos Altamirano, leader of the Chilean Socialist Party, targeted for murder by Pinochet in 1975
  • Attempted assassination against Emilio Aragones, the Cuban ambassador in Buenos Aires, in 1975, organized by leader of the CORU, Orlando Bosch
  • Volodia Teitelboim, member of the Communist Party of Chile, targeted for murder alongside Carlos Altamirano, in Mexico in 1976
  • "Disappearance" of two Cuban diplomats in Argentina, Crecencio Galanega Hernandez and Jesus Cejas Arias, whom transited through the detention center, disguised as an automobile center, Orletti, in Buenos Aires (August 9, 1976 - see Lista de centros clandestinos de detencion (Argentina)); both were questionned by the SIDE and the DINA, under knowledge of the FBI and the CIA Document dated September 22, 1976, sent by Robert Scherrer from the FBI to the US embassy in Buenos Aires, with a copy of a SIDE document concerning the interrogation. In his memoirs, Cuban Luis Posada Carriles qualifies these murders as "successes" in the "struggle against communism". See Proyecto Desaparecidos: Notas: Operacion Condor Archives, , October 31, 2006 (Retrieved on December 12, 2006)
  • Pascal Allende, nephew of Salvador Allende and president of the MIR, escaped assassination attempt in Costa Rica in March 1976
  • Orlando Letelier, murdered in 1976 in Washington D.C. with his assistant Ronnie Moffit
  • US Congressman Edward Koch, who became aware in 2001 of relations between 1970s threats on his life and Operation Condor
  • Christian-Democrat and president of Chile from 1964 to 1970 Eduardo Frei Montalva, who may have been poisoned in the early 1980s according to current investigations
  • former Bolivian president Juan Jose Torres, assassinated in Buenos Aires in 1976
  • Hector Gutierrez Ruiz, former Uruguayan deputy, assassinated in Buenos Aires in 1976
  • Zelmar Michelini, former Uruguayan deputy, assassinated in Buenos Aires in 1976
  • Jorge Zaffaroni and Maria Emilia Islas de Zaffaroni, maybe members of the Tupamaros, "disappeared" in Buenos Aires on September 29, 1976, kidnapped by the Batallon de Inteligencia 601, who handed them out to the Uruguayan OCOAS (Organismo Coordinador de Operaciones Anti-Subversivas)SIDE cable, National Security Archive
  • Poet Juan Gelman's son and daughter-in-law (whose baby was stolen by the Uruguayan militaries)

Archives and reports

  • National Security Archives, a NGO which publicizes the few CIA documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act
  • "Terror archives", discovered in 1992 in Paraguay, which permitted opening of prosecution cases against former or active militaries involved in Operation Condor
  • Rettig Report
  • Valech Report

Detention and torture centers

  • Colonia Dignidad, a bizarre and secretive German enclave in activity until 2005, put under state administration end of 2005
  • Esmeralda (BE-43)
  • Estadio Nacional de Chile
  • Villa Grimaldi

Other operations and strategies related to Condor

  • Operation Colombo, for which Augusto Pinochet was being judged at the time of his death
  • Caravan of Death, carried on a few weeks after the 1973 coup

Fictional references

  • Don Winslow's 2005 book The Power of the Dog is based on the actions and some of the consequences of Operation Condor.
  • In DC Comics, the father of the superheroine Fire was a key figure in Operation Condor.


  • Stella Calloni, Los anos del lobo and Operacion Condor: Pacto Criminal, Editorial Ciencias Sociales', La Habana, 2006.
  • John Dinges, "The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents" (The New Press, 2004)
  • Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountablity (New Press).
  • Marie-Monique Robin, Escadrons de la mort, l'ecole francaise ("Death Squads, the French School"). Book and film documentary (French, transl. in Spanish, Sudamericana, 2002).
  • Nilson, Cezar Mariano; Operacion Condor. Terrorismo de Estado en el cono Sur. Lhole-Lumen; Buenos Aires, 1998.
    • Paredes, Alejandro. La Operacion Condor y la guerra fria. . Universum. [online]. 2004, vol.19, no.1, p.122-137. ISSN 0718-2376.
  • Gutierrez Contreras, J.C. y Villegas Diaz, Myrna. Derechos Humanos y Desaparecidos en Dictaduras Militares, KO'AGA RONE'ETA se.vii (1999) - Previamente publicado en "Derecho penal: Implicaciones Internacionales", Publicacion del IX Congreso Universitario de Derecho Penal, Universidad de Salamanca. Edit. Colex, Madrid, Marzo de 1999
  • Informe de la Comision Nacional sobre prision politica y tortura. Santiago de Chile, Ministerio del Interior – Comision Nacional sobre Prision Politica y Tortura, 2005.

Footnotes and references

External links

  • Operation Condor on Nizkor's website
  • Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America, by J. Patrice McSherry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)
  • The Condor Years - How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents
  • Ed Koch Threatened with Assassination in 1976
  • Plan Condor on Disinfopedia
  • Nacimiento del Operativo Condor, article in Spanish by Dr Martin Almada on how the enquiry of his case led to the discover of the Lambare files.
  • Operation Condor - John Dinges John Dinges is a reporter, author of several books about Operation Condor. He has worked as a correspondent for the Washington Post in South America and is the former director of NPR.
  • History-of-Chile

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Operation_Condor

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