Operation Condor: A criminal conspiracy to forcibly disappear people

Operation Condor was a formal system to coordinate repression among the countries of the Southern Cone that operated from the mid-1970s until the early eighties. It aimed to persecute and eliminate political, social, trade-union and student activists from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.

Operation Condor was officially founded on November 28, 1975 in Santiago, Chile during the closing session of the First Meeting of National Intelligence, and it was signed by intelligence representatives from Argentina (Jorge Casas, Navy captain, SIDE−the Argentine State Intelligence Secretariat), Bolivia (Carlos Mena, Army major), Chile (Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, head of the DINA−the National Intelligence Office), Uruguay (José Fons, Army coronel) and Paraguay (Benito Guanes Serrano, Army coronel).

In Paraguay’s Archive of Terror, a copy was found of the formal invitation sent by the Chilean National Intelligence Office (DINA) on October 29 of that year to General Francisco Brites, Chief of the Paraguayan National Police, “to promote coordination and establish something similar to what Interpol has in Paris, but devoted to subversion.” Although no representative of Brazil signed the inaugural agreement, that country’s cooperation in repressive activities against political opponents of the member countries has been proven.

Within the context of Operation Condor, the coordinated repression passed through different phases:
-In the first, a centralized database was created on guerrilla movements, left-wing parties and groups, trade unionists, religious groups, liberal politicians and supposed enemies of the authoritarian regimes involved in the operation.
-In the second, people considered political “enemies” at the regional level were identified and attacked.
-In the third and final phase, operations were carried out to track down and eliminate persons located in other countries in the Americas and Europe.

The United States played a fundamental role in the consolidation of these phases. Operation Condor ultimately had a computerized databank – stored on computers provided by the CIA – with information on thousands of individuals considered to be politically suspect, as well as photo archives, microfiches, surveillance reports, psychological profiles, reports on organization memberships, personal and political histories, lists of family members and friends.

This publication analyzes Operation Condor’s particular characteristics and traces back the cases that, after 16 years, culminated in a verdict on May 27, 2016. The first judicial complaint filed in Argentina in relation to Operation Condor was presented in 1999, and it skirted various obstacles, including the impunity laws in force at the time. In this trial, the voices of hundreds of witnesses were heard, contributing testimony regarding 172 victims of Operation Condor and Automotores Orletti, the most important clandestine detention center for the Operation’s victims in Argentina.

Table of contents

1
Coordinated repression
2
Condor I, II and III
3
Orletti II
4
Some of the stories told during the trial
5
The right to truth
6
The accused and the victims
7
The verdict

Author: CELS