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Discovery Sheds New Light On Operation Condor

by Raul Pierri

MORE on Operation Condor
(IPS) MONTEVIDEO -- Newly discovered files from the "archive of terror" uncovered in Paraguay are expected to strengthen legal actions against the architects of Plan Condor, the collaborative repressive operations of South America's Southern Cone dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.

Approximately 200 bound volumes were discovered on Feb. 26 by officials of the Paraguayan People's Defender's Office (Ombudsman) at the Documentation Center of the National Police. The books contain detailed information about intelligence activities that took place during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).

These documents will fatten the "archives of terror," the dictatorship's confidential reports found in 1992 by Paraguayan attorney and human rights activist, Martin Almada.

They serve as proof of the ties among the secret services of the past dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The files that came to light on Feb. 26 will be made available to the judges investigating those responsible for Plan Condor, such as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), considered its principal ideologue, Almada told IPS.

Plan Condor was a pact between the dictatorships to hunt down political dissidents across borders. Some of the individuals were handed over clandestinely to the security forces of their country of origin, but others were assassinated in the country where they had sought refuge.

The discovery of the archives of terror in 1992 became a political occurrence throughout the Southern Cone, prompting numerous arrest warrants for the top figures of the Stroessner regime, and complicating things for several members of the military in Argentina and Uruguay.

Stroessner's chief of detectives, Pastor Coronel, is serving prison time in Paraguay, as is Benito Guanes Serrano, former commander of the armed forces and head of the dictatorship's military intelligence.

The Paraguayan courts have cited Antonio Campos Alum, former chief of police, as "accused of rebellion" and "fugitive." This is the same status of the former dictator himself, currently living in exile in Brazil.

Almada personally handed over copies of the Paraguayan police reports implicating Pinochet in Plan Condor to Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon when the former dictator was under house arrest in London and Garzon was seeking his extradition to try him for crimes against humanity.

Chilean judge Juan Guzman indicted Pinochet last year as an accessory in 18 kidnappings and 57 killings of dissidents occurred during the so-called "caravan of death," though the appeals court stayed the legal proceedings citing the failing mental health of the former dictator.

Pinochet faces human rights violations charges in France, where attorney Sophie Thonon is investigating the disappearance of five French citizens during the Chilean dictatorship. The appeals court decision in Santiago has no bearing on legal actions originating in Paris-based courts.

Judges in Argentina, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland have also petitioned for Pinochet's extradition for human rights crimes, some of which were committed within the framework of Plan Condor.

"We have found what I would call a gold mine"
Some of the newly discovered documents will be placed in the hands of federal Argentine judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who last year indicted former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla for the forced disappearance of 72 foreigners in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

Canicoba Corral has requested the extradition of Stroessner and of the former chief of Chile's National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Manuel Contreras. The magistrate is also investigating former secretary of state Henry Kissinger as a potential witness.

The files found in Asuncion also reveal that Stroessner's repressive forces continued operating until October 1990, even after the transition to democracy had begun following the coup led by Andres Rodriguez in February 1989.

The Paraguayan Department of Investigations continued spying illegally on political organizations and informing the top police brass about the comings and goings of individuals involved in political and social activism, according to the documents.

The materials found on Feb. 26 "will fortify the judicial actions against Stroessner, his accomplices and accessories to the crimes," said Almada, adding that the texts would be handed over "to the Ombudsman's Office, entrusted with ensuring compliance with the law of compensation for the victims of the dictatorship."

They will also be studied at an international seminar on state terrorism, scheduled to take place in Asuncion in December, marking the 10 years since the first secret archives of the Paraguayan police were found, he said.

Almada said he will be promoting seminars throughout the region to analyze the unique role of judges and attorneys in Plan Condor.

He will also urge universities in Latin America, Europe and the United States to send experts to sift through "this mountain of documents in whose bowels we will find the names of victims and perpetrators."

The activist pointed out that the Paraguayan Judiciary was the supporter of an "unjust and inhumane status quo, protecting the death squads, the telephone wiretaps, the orders against reporting, the bans on books, the censure of films and the closures of media outlets."

The Paraguayan Ombudsman's Office had found similar books two weeks ago in three Asuncion police stations. All were brought before the court of Jorge Bogarin Gonzalez, and later before the Judiciary's Documentation Center to be analyzed.

This documentation "is of fundamental importance, because with it many people are going to be able to prove they suffered persecution," Manuel Paez Monges, president of the Ombudsman's Office, told the local media this week.

"We have found what I would call a gold mine. We have discovered records of investigations (by the dictatorship) that shine with details," said ombudsman adviser Juan Francisco Ammiri in an interview with the daily ABC Color.

Almada announced that he would issue a special invitation to Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, "victim of the Condor operation," to have a look at the Paraguayan dictatorship police's secret files.

"I invite Cardoso to visit the secret archives of his protege Alfredo Stroessner so that he sees 'live and direct' the documents that implicate the United States, promoter of state terrorism in Latin America," he stated.

Among the victims of Plan Condor were the former commander of the Chilean army Carlos Prats (who served under president Salvador Allende, 1970-1973), and Uruguayan legislators Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutierrez Ruiz. All three were assassinated in Buenos Aires.

The documents in the archives of terror also shed light on an operation to kidnap children born to mothers in captivity and changing their names before they were "adopted" by military or civilian collaborators with the dictatorships.

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Albion Monitor March 30, 2002 (

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