Operation Condor

VI. The concealment of State crimes in “Operation Condor”

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VI. The concealment of State crimes in “Operation Condor”
50. Reparatory justice gains importance in the face of one of the most shocking aspects of “Operation Condor”: the concealment of the State crimes perpetrated in the context of this Operation, from the planning to the execution of its criminal policies. A study published in Asunción in 2002, indicates that:
“Rarely in the recent history of Latin America has the truth about massive plans and actions of repression taken so long to come to light as in the case of Operation Condor. Only recently, a quarter of a century later, is it possible to know a significant part of the documented history of those acts. It is still far from being the complete and final version. This has been because the criminal acts committed involved the repressive forces of several countries and because the secret pact signed in the 1970s continued afterwards, through networks of concealment and impunity. […]

Operation Condor, which only now is beginning to be reconstructed based on the documentary evidence that has begun to emerge, is a paradigmatic example of the effects of State terrorism. […] Even though its winding-up was meticulously planned, Condor has ended up losing the fight against remembrance.”49

51. Indeed, “Operation Condor” (formally created in November 1975, but with some previous activities in 1973-1974, and which, in 1976, achieved its highest level of repression, and in 1980 entered into decline), was planned by the “intelligence services” of the countries of the Southern Cone,50 to implement a State extermination policy, characterized by the concealment of transborder “counterinsurgency” operations by death squadrons (illegal and arbitrary detentions, abductions, torture, murders or extrajudicial executions, and the forced disappearance of persons). The participating States endowed it with a para-State structure – to further a State criminal policy – which enabled those who held power to hide the atrocities and avoid the application of international law and human rights guarantees, with total irresponsibility and impunity.51

52. The reports and testimony of survivors – only recently published – of the atrocities committed in the countries of “Operation Condor” are terrifying; in addition to the above-mentioned crimes, the most macabre forms of torture were perpetrated, together with collective executions, the kidnapping of babies and young children and alteration of their identities, confinement in clandestine prisons (and clandestine cemeteries), the use of fierce dogs against detainees in infrahuman conditions, and micro-fractures caused by the wheels of vehicles passing over the hands and feet of detainees52 - forming a Dantesque picture of horrifying torments. The concern to conceal the crimes was permanent:

“During the war to exterminate those who were opposed to the dictatorship, the military tried to hide the corpses, the evidence of their crimes. Almost two thousand political prisoners were thrown into the sea alive, from cargo aircraft. Thousands of others were buried in clandestine cemeteries.”53
53. The macabre “death flights” were carried out on a weekly basis, taking 15 to 20 prisoners each time, who were told that they were being transferred to “ordinary prisons,” and who, “believing that they would be released from the torment of torture, boarded the [Argentine Navy] cargo aircraft with relief”; because:
“the executioners had the problem of where to hide the thousands of dead, since the clandestine cemeteries were full. The solution was to throw the condemned men into the sea so that they would be eaten by sharks.”54

The atrocities of “Operation Condor” reveal that human evil has no limits. In the context of this Operation, the case of Dr. Agustín Goiburú is today considered “paradigmatic of the cooperation of the [Paraguayan and Argentine] intelligence services.55 Since the participating States concealed their criminal policy, it is not surprising that, following the discovery, of the “Terror Files” (the main documentary source in Latin America of the evil “Operation Condor”), in Paraguay in December 1992, “hundreds of habeas data were filed by former political prisoners or their next of kin.”56

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