‘Operation Condor’ was a secret plan adopted by the national armies of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay aimed at the persecution and killing of leftist dissidents, including political opponents, unionists and students.
The plan, which initially involved the creation of an anti-terrorism communications network, was ideated on 28 November 1975 in Santiago Chile, during the First Conference of National Intelligence Services and agreed upon by representatives of the intelligence of Argentina (Jorge Casas), Bolivia (Carlos Mena), Chile (Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda), Uruguay (José Fons) and Paraguay (Benito Guanes Serrano). Despite not signing the foundational document, Brazilian authorities later agreed on and participated to the plan.
Operation Condor rapidly morphed into a brutal program of abduction, torture and murder which contributed to the disappearance of an estimated 50,000 nationals from the six countries combined. The integrated operation focused on all citizens who were deemed a threat, with secret police indiscriminately disappearing both active leftist dissidents and common citizens who may have expressed discontent with regimes in power at the time.
Within the context of Operation Condor, the coordinated repression passed through different phases.
In the first, a centralized database was created on guerrilla movements, left-wing parties and groups, trade unionists, religious groups, liberal politicians and supposed enemies of the authoritarian regimes involved in the operation.
In the second, people considered political enemies at the regional level were identified and attacked.
In the third and final phase, operations were conducted to track down and eliminate persons located in other countries in the Americas and Europe.
Declassified documentation available shows that various US government agencies had early knowledge of the scope of the repressive coordination and did not make much effort to stop it until it had reached the third phase.
In 1999, criminal proceedings for facts related to Operation Condor were initiated by Argentinian prosecution after several complaints were filed by some of the victims. The trial involved 17 former military officials:
- Humberto José Ramón Lobaiza,
- Felipe Jorge Alespeiti,
- Bernardo José Menéndez,
- Antonio Vañek,
- Eduardo Samuel Delío,
- Federico Antonio Minicucci,
- Néstor Horacio Falcón,
- Eugenio Guañabens Perelló,
- Carlos Humberto Caggiano Tedesco,
- Carlos Horacio Tragant,
- Juan Avelino Rodríguez,
- Santiago Omar Riveros,
- Reynaldo Benito Bignone,
- Luis Sadi Pepa,
- Rodolfo Emilio Feroglio,
- Enrique Braulio Olea, and
- Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini.
All of them were accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy dedicated to the enforced disappearance of 105 people, among other crimes.
Separate proceedings involved Miguel Ángel Furci who was accused of illegally depriving the liberty of 67 people and torturing them while in captivity at the Automotores Orletti Clandestine Detention Center.
On 27 May 2016, Argentina’s Federal Tribunal No. 1 convicted all co-accused of conspiracy to forcibly disappear people, with the exceptions of Juan Avelino Rodríguez and Carlos Horacio Tragant who were acquitted. The court sentenced Santiago Omar Riveros and former Uruguayan military official Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini to 25 years in prison. Reynaldo Benito Bignone and Rodolfo Emilio Feroglio to 20 years. Humberto José Ramón Lobaiza to 18 years. Antonio Vañek, Eugenio Guañabens Perelló and Enrique Braulio Olea to 13 years. Luis Sadi Pepa, Néstor Horacio Falcón, Eduardo Samuel Delío, Felipe Jorge Alespeiti and Carlos Humberto Caggiano Tedesco to 12 years. And Federico Antonio Minicucci was sentenced to 8 years in prison. All of the accused belonged to Argentina’s military forces with the exception of Cordero, who was extradited from Brazil for this trial.
In addition, the court sentenced Miguel Ángel Furci, a former Argentine intelligence agent, to 25 years in prison for being co-perpetrator of the crime of illegal deprivation of liberty, aggravated by violence and threats, committed against 67 people during their captivity in the clandestine detention center known as Automotores Orletti.
For the first time in history a court ruled that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to forcibly disappear people across international borders.