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Landmark Operation Condor Trial Underway in Buenos Aires

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Late is always better than never.

A landmark trial charging 25 former high-ranking military and political figures with gross human rights abuses got underway in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.

The charges stem from their involvement in Operation Condor, a transnational collaboration between Southern Cone nations that involved kidnapping, torture, disappearance and assassination founded by the Chilean secret police in November 1975. In short, the elimination of dissidents by any means necessary.

Via the National Security Archive, who provided some declassified documents to Argentine prosecutors:

Prominent victims of Condor include two former Uruguayan legislators and a former Bolivian president, Juan Torres, murdered in Buenos Aires, as well as former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 26-year old American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Washington D.C.

The historic trial charges 25 high-ranking military officials, including former Argentine presidents Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, with conspiracy to “kidnap, disappear, torture and kill” 171 opponents of the military dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the victims are approximately 80 Uruguayans, 50 Argentines, 20 Chileans and a dozen from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador who were targeted by Condor operatives. The kidnapping and disappearance of two Cuban Consulate officials in Buenos Aires on August 9, 1976, is also part of the prosecution.

“Condor was a latter day rendition, torture and assassination program,” noted Carlos Osorio, who directs the Archive’s Southern Cone Documentation project. “Holding these officials accountable for the multinational crimes of Condor,” he said, “cannot help but set a precedent for more recent abuses of a similar nature.”

Besides Generals Videla and Bignone, those indicted included 22 Argentine military intelligence officers and agents. In preparation for the trial, prosecutors sought the extradition of several foreign high ranking officers from Chile and Paraguay among other Condor countries. The only foreigner sitting at the courtroom, however, is Uruguayan Army Major Manuel Cordero, charged with participating in death squads and torture at the infamous Orletti Motors secret detention center in Buenos Aires. He was extradited by Brazil where he was living.

and

.. (The documents include) the first briefing report, from August 1976, to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the secret police collaboration in the Southern Cone to “find and kill” opponents of their military regimes.

Kissinger was an unapologetic supporter of each of the regimes involved, which at the time were all right-wing military dictatorships. The U.S. provided technical assistance and military aid to each of of the operation’s participating countries until at least 1978.

Here’s a great 13-minute segment from Democracy Now on the operation which includes good details on the Letelier and Moffitt car bombing and the investigation into the murders.

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