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Former dictator convicted for the Operation Condor
Latinamerica Press
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Court sentences those responsible for crimes committed by the apparatus of South American dictatorships.

For the first time an Argentine court proved that the “Plan Condor”, the repressive coordinating body of the South American dictatorships of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay in the 70s and 80s, operated as a criminal association to hunt down and eliminate opponents.

On May 27, the Federal Criminal Oral Court Nº 1 of Buenos Aires, made up of justices Adrian Grüenberg, Oscar Almirante, Pablo Laufer and Ricardo Ángel Basílico, condemned former dictator Reynaldo Bignone (1982-83) and 12 other Argentine and one Uruguayan military personnel to prison terms of between eight and 25 years as responsible for having caused the death of at least 105 people, of whom 45 were Uruguayan, 22 Chilean, 13 Paraguayan, 14 Bolivian and 11Argentinian.

In the trial, which began in 2013, it became clear that the kidnapping and murder of the victims was made possible by the existence of the Operation Condor.

The author of Operation Condor was the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-90). The declassification of documents by the US State Department and the discovery in 1992 of the “Archives of Terror” in Paraguay, along with documents from the military intelligence agencies of Argentina and Chile, among others, led to the founding date of the repressive apparatus.

On Nov. 28, 1975, the then head of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) of Chile, brought together military intelligence representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay to constitute “a formal system of repressive coordination among the Southern Cone countries, which was operational from the mid-70s to the start of the 80s, to persecute and eliminate political, social, union and student militants” of these countries, according to the Center for Legal and social Studies (CELS), the plaintiff in the court.

The repressive apparatus, which took the name of Operation Condor, allowed security agents to commit murder, kidnapping and torture, across international borders. Ecuador and Peru would join them later on; and it even spread to Spain, Italy and the United States.

Justice prevails
The annulment by the Supreme Court in 2005 of the Final Point and Due Obedience Laws, approved in 1986 and 1987 respectively by then president Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989), which prevented the repressors from being prosecuted, forced the state to investigate and punish those responsible. The trials against the repressors resumed at that time.

The information related to the trial dated back to 1999, when the first criminal complaint about the Operation Condor was presented. On Mar. 5, 2013, after a decade of investigation, the trial of 18 people accused of committing crimes against humanity, including former dictators Rafael Videla (1976-1981), who died in prison in 2013 while serving a life sentence, and against Bignone, was started.

The book Operación Cóndor: 40 años después (Operation Condor: 40 years later), published in December 2015 by the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights (CIPDH) includes a list of 377 confirmed victims of the Operation Condor of 10 nationalities, of which 219 went missing, 38 were assassinated, 84 were freed, 12 children were taken and later recovered their identities, 13 were expelled and 1 who fled. In addition, it recorded 126 unlawful movements of people across borders.

For Amnesty International (AI), the judgment opens the door “to further investigation and for all those responsible to face justice.”

“Today is a day to celebrate in South America,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, director for the Americas at AI, said. “This historic decision sends an important message: justice always prevails.”

“The sentence handed down today should be the first step toward true justice for the many victims of this Machiavellian operation that left a long trail of suffering and horror throughout Latin America,” Guevara-Rosas said. “The governments of the countries that contributed directly or indirectly to Operation Condor must spare no effort to ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice and that these horrible crimes never happen again.” —Latinamerica Press.

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