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Italy sentences Operation Condor participants
Latinamerica Press
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Former leaders of military dictatorships received life sentences for the disappearance and death of Italian citizens.

On Jan. 17, a court in Rome sentenced eight repressors accused of the disappearance and death of over 40 Italian citizens as part of Operation Condor, the repressive coordinating body of the South American dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. Former dictators Luis García Meza (1980-81), from Bolivia, and Francisco Morales Bermúdez (1975-80), from Peru, are among those sentenced.

Also sentenced were ex-military members Luis Arce Gómez (former Interior Minister under García Meza), Chileans Hernán Jerónimo Ramírez and Rafael Ahumada Valderrama, Peruvians Pedro Richter Prada (former Interior Minister under Morales Bermúdez) and Germán Ruiz Figueroa, as well as Uruguayan former Chancellor Juan Carlos Blanco. However, the judges of the Third Court of Rome acquitted the other 19 accused (five Chileans, one Peruvian and 13 Uruguayans), something that was a great disappointment for relatives of the victims.

Uruguay’s Vice-President, Raúl Sendic, who attended the sentencing, said he felt “disappointed” with the acquittal of the Uruguayan repressors, adding that he will coordinate with the relatives of the victims about the next steps to take sentence. However, he mentioned that the sentence will be appealed. “There is too much pain, too much accumulated pain,” he said.

Although most of the acquitted Uruguayan repressors are currently serving prison sentences in their country, two of them, ex-Colonel Pedro Mato and ex-Navy Captain Néstor Jorge Fernández Troccoli, fled Uruguay making use of the impunity law of 1986 that granted amnesty for dictatorship-era human rights crime, that was abolished in 2011. Mato fled to Brazil, while Fernández Troccoli headed to Italy and processed his Italian nationality in 2002.

During the trial, Fernández Troccoli read a statement in which he denied all the charges and accused Uruguay of treason, “the country that called on me to combat the communist subversion.” For the Italian court, Fernández Troccoli  — a member of the intelligence services of the Uruguayan Navy, and accused of participating in the kidnapping of Italian-Uruguayan citizens in Buenos Aires in 1977 — and those others acquitted were just following orders.

The grounds for the court decision will be made public in April, but everything seems to indicate that the sentences fell on the political leaders, and not on those that carried out the deeds, added to which is that some of the crimes are not classified in the Italian Penal Code or have already prescribed.

Fort the Italian Public Prosecutor, the sentence proved the existence of Operation Condor “as a systematic operation to eliminate the political opposition, thanks to an agreement among some countries” and “the responsibility borne by the highest authorities of the military dictatorships.”

The Peruvian case
The inclusion in the trial of 95 year old former Peruvian dictator Francisco Morales Bermúdez drew the attention of many. Peru was not part of Operation Condor during the regime of General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-75) as his was considered a progressive government by his peers in the Southern Cone. When Morales Bermúdez ousted Velasco in 1975, the tendency was for a stronger repression towards the opposition sectors.

Although the regime of Morales Bermúdez would not have participated directly in Operation Condor, there was a close relationship between the armed forces of Peru and Argentina. This close relationship permitted that in between 1977 and 1980 Argentine military members kidnap in Lima four members of the opposition to the Argentine dictatorship: university professor Juan Carlos Maguid, Noemí Esther Gianetti de Molfino, María Inés Raverta and Julio César Ramrez, the last three were active members of the Montoneros leftist group.

Maguid, Raverta and Ramírez, who were taken to Bolivia, are still considered disappeared, while Gianetti de Molfino, a member of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, was found dead in Madrid in July 1980, one month after she was kidnapped from Peruvian territory.

Similarly, 13 Peruvian opposition politicians were deported to Argentina in 1978 under the dictatorship of Jorge Videla (1976-81), among them two vice-admirals loyal to Velasco, accused of subversive activities.

According to journalist Cesar Lévano, one of those deported, the operation was coordinated from high up in the ranks, between Vice-Admiral Jorge Parodi Galliano, Minister of the Navy of Peru, and Vice-Admiral Emilio Massera, a member of the military junta in Argentina. The Peruvians were made to board a plane belonging to the Air Force, which brought them to Jujuy, in the north of Argentina. Their lives were saved thanks to a journalist from Jujuy who was surprised at seeing a Peruvian military aircraft and published the names of the passengers.

For Jorge Bracamonte, the executive secretary of the National Coordinator of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, “the Italian sentence is emblematic because, regardless of the time past, what it tells us is that justice, although long in coming, is served, and all those who have committed crimes and perpetrated attacks against the lives of Peruvians and citizens from different parts of the world, have to be made accountable for their actions.”

However, Bracamonte considers that there is little probability that the sentence to Morales Bermúdez can be made effective, but it has a symbolic and restorative meaning. The old age of the former dictator and the fact that Italy would have to start an extradition process makes it more difficult that the sentence be carried out.

“This will help to understand that those whom the Latin American dictatorships combated, were the defenders of social and human rights, as well as politicians in their respective countries,” he said.  —Latinamerica Press.


Peruvian dictator Francisco Morales Bermúdez (left) maintained links with his Argentine counterpart Jorge Rafael Videla (right) in the framework of the Operation Condor / lamula.pe
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