Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 22:37:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bill Koehnlein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Transnational Terror & the Latin American Dictators
Transnational terror & the Latin American Dictators
Marina Menendez Quintero, Tricontinental Magazine (Havana), no. 142, 8 October 1999
Summary: Histories merge together, the life and death of tens of thousands of Chileans, Argentines, Uruguayans, Paraguayans... Latin Americans trapped in a kind of shadowy spider web marked by long sessions of horror.
Almost two decades after the silent massacre carried out by the dictatorships on the pretext of stamping out communism, the past returns, or rather, it is revealed in all its cruelty because...it has always been present
The laws forged by the new democracies of the 80s favored the impunity of the guilty in the eyes of the law, but had the opposite effect on the people. Far from bringing about forgetfulness with the pardon issued to those who had waged genocide, they kept alive the rejection by survivors of torture and panic. The laws validated their demands for justice and the need to know the truth.
The detention of Augusto Pinochet in Great Britain stirred these feelings, explicit in many, hidden in so many others who had come out alive but scarred by the terror, or even worse, manipulated in the guise of the struggle against subversion with which the assassins had covered up their crimes.
As this edition goes to press we still do not know even if the Chilean ex-general will be extradited in spite of the good will of the Home Office Minister Jack Straw. Still less, therefore, can we foresee whether he will finally undergo any punishment for the crimes of torture or conspiring to commit torture which have been committed since November 1988.
This is the date to which the House of Lords is limited, due to the fact that it was then that Great Britain signed the Convention against Torture. The exdictator is presently being held in Great Britain, where he lives in luxury.
The legal proceedings that have been initiated so far could be held up for years. But analysts agree that the case against him argued by the Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, has already achieved something important: it has mobilized public opinion, beaten the fear of somany years and removed the cover of lies for those who were deceived.
The seven months of legal proceedings against Pinochet have not only served to polarize Chilean society, in the country and within the exile community, opening up the yawning gap people tried to close after the Pinochet dictatorship, between those who love "My General..." and those who cannot forgive him.
Together with the tens of new cases presented by Garzon to consolidate his arguments, more links in the chain that connected the Latin American dictators in a sinister extermination plan have appeared.
The military kept files on suspects and passed these names from one country to another. They themselves traveled to interrogate and torture.
Operation Condor, we now know, was a kind of international terror that with Augusto Pinochet as the craftsman, the brains, the promoter.
This is what Gladys Marin, secretary of the Chilean Communist Party affirms, in her book Return to Hope. Defeat of Operation Condor first published in Buenos Aires and later in Santiago.
According to the communist leader, Pinochet and the ex-chief of the Chilean DINA, Manuel Contreras, were the most important leaders in the plan involving 120 agents of other nationalities, whose labor led to, she says, 119 deaths.
Among the ringleaders whose names and surnames she gives figure 40 Argentines, 38 Chileans, 14 Bolivians, 13 Uruguayans, four Paraguayans and six Italians.
According to lawyer Martin Almada, himself a victim of Operation Condor when only a teacher in the suburbs of Asuncion, in Paraguay, believes that there are official documents that testify to the participation of around 46 thousand Latin Americans of various ranks in the hunt. But, he assures us, unofficially this figure could be doubled.
The present-day president of the American Association of Jurists, agrees with Gladys Marin in giving Pinochet the credit for Operation Condor. The Paraguayan ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner closely collaborated in the execution of the plan.
Almada has custody of the so-called Terror Files, five tons of paper and ten thousand photographs that make up the secret police documentation, discovered in Asuncion in 1992, after many years of searching and with the collaboration of an informer "whose name will never be given to the press".
In these bundles of paper he found documents which proved the links between Pinochet and the torture of twenty Spanish Jesuits and which he delivered to the Spanish judge Garzon in order to substantiate the case against the Chilean ex-dictator.
The Paraguayan lawyer, who asked for the extradition of Stroessner from Brazil, affirms that he "was a confidential friend of Pinochet, collaborated in the overthrow of Allende and put the Paraguayan Foreign Office at the disposal of the Chilean dictator for the assassination of the Allende Foreign Minister". Furthermore, he is sure that Pinochet gave Stroessner the files he found 20 years later.
He also accuses the Argentine ex-general Rafael Videla and Hugo Banzer, one-time leader of a coup détat and the present day Bolivian constitutional president, among other figures of Latin American political and military life, of implementing the Condor plan.
According to Martin Almada, INTERPOL was involved as well, as was the CIA, which was not only responsible for providing information, but also for supporting the dictators.
The most terrible part, Almada assures us, is that "today the Condor continues to fly". In statements he made to the Buenos Aires press, the President of American Jurists said that he had in his possession a document dated July 10th, 1997, in which a Paraguayan colonel replies to his counterpart in Ecuador "at your request I send you the list of Paraguayan subversives".
After his interview with Garzon in Madrid, Almada traveled to Barcelona. According to sources close to Almada, he proposed to visit various Latin American cities to build up support for his demand for the extradition of Stroessner and for justice to take its course.
IN THE FLESH
The workings of the Machiavellian machinery of torture and killing cannot only be found in documents, although these constitute the only type of evidence usually valid to try cases.
It is also proven by accounts such as that of Almada himself, kidnapped in Asuncion in 1974 on his arrival from university in Argentina. There, in La Plata, he had been noted down for his defense of a thesis in which he concluded that education in Paraguay only benefited the rich and accentuated national dependence.
Upon arrival in his country, he was taken before a secret military tribunal where he was shown photographs of what were supposed to be prisons of a so-called urban guerilla group. But the most surprising thing was not these images, but the different accents of the Latin American soldiers who made up that Inquisition.
It was still not the custom in Paraguay to use such torments such as the electric prod, or the hangings that later characterized the clandestine battle fields and prisons of Argentina and Uruguay. However, those that were applied to him in the police station to which he was later transferred were sufficiently painful and humiliating. "They pulled out my nails and clipped my ears and tongue. In a month, I underwent 200 torture sessions there."
In the Esboscada concentration camp, about 45 kilometers outside Asuncion, he learnt from the identity of the colonels who had beaten him in the police station from an imprisoned ex-policeman. They were Colonel Oteiza, of the Chilean Air Force, and the Argentine commissary, Hector Ray.
In Emboscada he also found out about other modus operandi that gave him the idea of the existence of a network, though he still did not really know what was involved, or what it was called.
Some people spoke to him about it. Doctor Gladys de Saneman was one of those who knew most about Condor among the 400 people, including 100 women and twenty children, held in that extermination camp. A Paraguayan of German origin, she had been kidnapped by the Argentine police and sent to Asuncion, to be returned again to the Buenos Aires military, or more specifically, to Alfredo Astiz, the so-called Blond Angel of Death.
Argentines like the lawyer Amilcar Latino Santucho, the brother of the famous guerilla, and members of the Paraguayan Communist Party such as Maidana and Rojas were his companions in misfortune.
Thus the Latin American military conspired. Thus they massacred. Thus the Transnational Terror functioned.
NEW LINKS IN THE CHAIN... MORE LIGHT
The recent accusations made in Argentina against Eduardo Rudolfo Cabanillas, general of the division and commander of the second army group in Rosario, shed more light on the way Operation Condor worked in that country.
This soldier is accused of having commanded the secret repression center Automotores Orletti, in the capital of Floresta, during the period of the dictatorship. Both Argentine and Uruguayan thugs worked there.
Outside it looked like any other workshop. Inside, it was another place of death under the direction of the Tactical Operation Base 18. (OT 18)
It was there that the grandchild of the prestigious Argentine poet Juan Gelman, one of most important of those who bring accusations against Cabanillas, went missing.
It was there that Maria Claudia Itureta Goyena de Gelman was seen alive at the beginning of October 1976. She was then eight months pregnant, and as a member of the Vatican Ministry of State later informed the grandfather, the baby was born in captivity. Juan Gelman continues to search for his grandchild.
Sara Mendez, an Uruguayan teacher who had gone to Buenos Aires fleeing from repression in her country, is also searching. She is the first woman to survive disappearance, and to demand the return of her baby.
The child was 21 days old when they were kidnapped from the bed in which they slept together. She was in the bed itself, and he in a little cradle which rocked when the soldiers who broke into the house began to beat her and torture her right there so that she would give them the name of the father.
They were taken to Automotores Orletti, though the child was immediately torn from his mothers arms. There she found other Uruguayans and witnessed the most horrible torture, which she has not been able to forget, "the death by beating and drowning of a kidnap victim by the name of Santucho".
She came out alive after five years in a prison in Purita Riales. Much later, when the dictatorship was over, she found out that a couple related by marriage to the military chief who had kidnapped her, Major Nino Gavazzo, of the Uruguayan Army, had adopted a child with the same distinguishing marks as her lost Simon, and with a birth date a day after his.
Sara and the father, Mauricio Gatti, who had gone into exile and also survived, spoke to the couple, but they refused to let the boy's DNA be tested. The Supreme Court of Justice left the decision to the young man, who is now 22 years old. But for him, this story is rather absurd and of little interest. He promises that one day he will have the tests, but so far he has refused to have any contact with his possible parents.
In the midst of laws that in one country or other keep those responsible from condemnation and punishment, the arrest of Pinochet is a tiny drop of justice for his direct or indirect victims.... a breath of wind that raises their spirits and makes them feel less impotent in the face of those they have lost.
Together with the elderly ex-dictator, yesterdays murderers also have less impunity today.
It is estimated that 10% of the adult population of Chile was victim of torture during the years of the dictatorship, and others were assassinated. The official figures say that in 17 years 4000 people were officially "disappeared", a million left the country fearing repression, hundreds of thousands were held in secret prisons or repression camps, hundreds were taken from their places of work, exiled, or executed after very brief trials or court-martials.
Uruguayan victims of disappearances agree that the most terrible torture was carried out in Argentina. Human Rights organizations assure us that the number of disappeared people reaches 30 thousand.
Today we know that the different branches of the army had their own systems of repression, and their own secret prisons. The Navy had its horror center in the Escuela Superior de Mecanica de la Armada (ESMA) right on the Avenida del Libertador, under the orders of the sadly famous General Massera.
It is said that the Navy prepared itself for illegal repression in the 70s. One of the principal assassins has confessed that at the end of 1975 two officers traveled to the United States to perfect the Massera's theories on how to carry out genocide.
Copyright 1999 Magazine TRICONTINENTAL. La Habana, Cuba. Todos los derechos reservados.