Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 20:50:22 -0600 (CST)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: LATIN AMERICA: The 'Mercosur of Terror' or Integrated Repression
Article: 52104
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 402.0 **/
** Topic: LATIN AMERICA: The 'Mercosur of Terror' or Integrated Repression **
** Written 2:37 PM Jan 13, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

The ‘Mercosur of Terror’ or Integrated Repression

By Mario Osava, IPS, 10 January 1999

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 10 (IPS)—The southernmost region of the Americas is today united through trade and economic cooperation under the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR), but in previous decades, its countries were linked in a totally different type of integration.

The military regimes which ruled the region's nations in the 1970s and 1980s were involved in a joint operation against their respective opponents—real or suspected—details of which are now being released thanks to the detention in Britain of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Operation Condor, as it was called, involved even the bi- national hydroelectric plant Itaipu, on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, according to a recent article in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, which has been publishing a series of reports on the MERCOSUR of Terror.

Close to 200 of the 10,000 workers who built the hydroelectric dam in the 1970s were spies for the repressive forces, reporting on the movement of subversives of any nationality, according to a retired Brazilian policeman who worked then in the border area.

Documents that prove the use of Itaipu as a strategic point were discovered in 1992 near Asuncion by Paraguayan lawyer Martin Almada, in the police's secret documentation department which houses the so- called Archive of Terror.

Almada, a lawyer and professor who was jailed and tortured by the police under former dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1974-1977), has sent some of the documents to Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who is trying to obtain the extradition of Pinochet in order to try him for the killing of citizens of several countries, including Spain.

The documents on Itaipu were in Paraguay because all the infiltrated agents working at Itaipu were registered as Paraguayan officials. But there are also documents in Portuguese, like a report on 19 militants of the Argentine guerrilla group People's Revolutionary Army.

The Condor's egg was laid by the United States in the 1960s, while it trained Latin American military officials in counterinsurgency. But the joint operations took form in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Bolivia after Pinochet's military coup in 1973, according to Almada.

During the government of the socialist Salvador Allende (1971- 1973), Chile attracted thousands of political exiles and guerrillas from elsewhere in Latin America, especially the Southern Cone. Almost all were fleeing military dictatorships or trying to survive the extermination of their groups.

Pinochet's coup was characterized by the persecution of foreigners and the killing of Allende supporters. At least five Brazilians were murdered by the Chilean military.

Survivors of the Santiago National Stadium, transformed into a giant detention center after the coup, said they had been interrogated by Brazilian agents.

One of the survivors is Jose Araujo Nobrega, a former policeman who had joined the urban guerrilla struggle in Brazil in the 1960s, but was later jailed. Nobrega had ended up in Chile after being exchanged for a kidnapped ambassador.

After the coup, he was arrested and taken to the stadium in a group that the military decided to execute outside the complex. Wounded in the foot, he pretended to be dead and hid under the other bodies. He later managed to escape and obtain refuge in an embassy.

The death of five Brazilians, either under torture or after being shot, was acknowledged in 1993 by the Chilean government, which has granted the families compensation, although three of the bodies were never found.

Their stories, and details of the integration of the repressive aparatuses of the military dictatorships in the six countries, are told in 'Operation Condor', a book by Brazilian journalist Nilson Mariano.

But the Movement for Justice and Human Rights in the south Brazilian city of Porto Alegre has identified another three Brazilians who disappeared in Chile after the coup.

Similar cases occurred in all the countries of the sub-region. There are documented stories and evidence of Brazilians imprisoned in Argentina who later disappeared, and of Argentines killed in Brazil.

In 1976, an auto workshop in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Flores served as a center for torturing foreign prisoners, according to the few survivors.

Two Uruguayans, Lilian Celiberti and Universindo Diaz, were imprisoned and tortured in Brazil in 1978 and taken to Uruguay, in a case that became a scandal in the local press and brought Operation Condor out into the public.

In Argentina in the 1970s, Chilean general Carlos Prats, head of the Armed Forces that remained loyal to his country's constitution, and Bolivian Juan Jose Torres, a general who at first supported a coup in Bolivia but who later adopted leftist positions, were also killed, demonstrating that borders did not protect exiles.