A historic trial in Argentina which started March 8 is about to unveil hidden American participation in significant human rights violations in Latin America.
On trial are 25 members of the Argentine military who held power from 1976 until 1983. During the dictatorship nearly 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed. Many of them became part of the “diappeared” and were never seen again.
More than 500 witnesses are expected to testify during the trial which is scheduled to last for two years.
The campaign of terror known as “Operation Condor” involved military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Working together to track down and kill people they labeled as terrorists: activists, labor organizers, students, priests, journalists, guerrilla fighters and their families, Operation Condor was launched by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Available evidence shows that the American CIA and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were complicit from the start.
In August 2012, an Argentine federal judge issued a formal request to the Obama administration to make Kissinger himself available for questioning. The Obama administration has refused to respond.
While there have been several smaller trials beginning in 1998 when Pinochet was arrested in London, an avalanche of evidence that flowed across Europe has led to trials in Rome, Paris and Chile.
The trial itself is historic due to over 500 witnesses being called to testify in open court. Formerly, witnesses would give their testimony to judges in closed meetings and the testimony was never really made public.
Another first in this trial is the videotaping of proceedings, a rarity for Latin American courts.
Operation Condor was a Chilean invention. Augusto Pinochet had dominated his opposition in 1973 and by the next year there wasn’t any opposition left to speak of. Many of the people who had been part of the previous Chilean government had gone overseas.
Orlando Letelier, the former foreign minister and Chilean ambassador to the United States, and frequent lunch guest of Kissinger simply refused to return to Chile after Pinochet’s coup and was ultimately assassinated in Washington DC in 1976.
Other members of the former government were spread out: living all over Europe and Latin America, Pinochet wanted to go after them and Operation Condor was the result.
With many on his hit list living in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, Pinochet had to convince those governments to work with him.
Using the argument that the scattered individuals were participating in guerrilla operations and thus a threat to all of them, the other Latin American leaders fell in line.
As Argentina was the last country to give up its civilian government, the largest part of those in exile were living there. Created in 1975, the new government became a dictatorship in 1976.
By then the dictatorship was fully prepared to round up the exiles and hundreds of people were killed initially
A recently declassified record of a CIA briefing shows that American officials were aware that Latin intelligence services were casting their net wide in Operation Condor. It says, quote, “They are joining forces to eradicate ‘subversion’ … a word which increasingly translates into nonviolent dissent from the left and center left.”
Another CIA document compiled by Argentine intelligence details the number of dead and disappeared and sent by DINA (Chile’s version of the CIA) to Buenos Aires and says, “sending a list of all the dead,” which included the official and unofficial death toll. Between 1975 and mid-’78, he reported, quote, “they count 22,000 between the dead and the disappeared.”
In the 1970s, the United States was a major sponsor of military dictatorships that had overthrown some democracies with faltering civilian governments.
With full knowledge of the U.S., governments like Videla, Pinochet and Banzer in Bolivia were killing citizens with impunity.
As the killings grew and turned into mass killings, the U.S. was aware of the massacres. While there is no evidence that the U.S. knew about Operation Condor the day it was created, it is apparent from released documents that America was aware two months after the Latin American countries involved began their operations.
The transcripts of the meetings between Kissinger and the Argentine and Chilean leaders show Kissinger saying, “We support what you are doing. We understand that you have to assert your authority. Try your best to release some prisoners, because I’m under a lot of pressure in Congress, because the Democrats are trying to make me, you know, defend human rights. Do the best you can, but I understand what you’re doing.”
- Argentina’s former dictators on trial for Operation Condor (telegraph.co.uk)
- Trial over terrifying ‘Operation Condor’ under way (edition.cnn.com)
- Trial over terrifying ‘Operation Condor’ under way (cnn.com)
- WikiLeaks cables confirm collusion between Vatican and dictators (mumbailaity.wordpress.com)
- “Washington’s Pope”? Who is Pope Francis I? Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Argentina’s “Dirty War” (nsnbc.me)