Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini
Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini was born on 15 September 1938 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He is a former colonel and agent in the Uruguayan army intelligence agency.
Along with others, he actively participated in the Condor Plan. This involved a group of countries which were governed by dictatorial regimes that decided to coordinate their efforts to remove political opposition, by regularly torturing opponents. These countries were; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. In this context of persecution, violence was used to systematically eradicate the “communist world”. The Condor Plan focused on three main areas; political vigilance of dissident refugees and those in exile, clandestine counter-insurgency measures and joint actions to eradicate specific groups or individuals. Dedicated assassination equipment operated within and outside the borders of the aforementioned countries (including equipment set up in the United States of America and Europe). A total of 30000 workers, students, political leftists and academics were held in clandestine torture centres and killed by the military regime in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
Manuel Cordero worked at the Orletti car centre, a former garage that had been converted into a torture centre in Buenos Aires; 300 people were tortured and killed at this site. One of the Uruguayan victims, Ana Inés Quadros, stated that she had been kidnapped in Buenos Aires in July 1976, tortured, and raped by Cordero in the Orletti car centre before being transferred to Uruguay where she was freed. Another example is the kidnappings of Marcelo Gelman and his wife, María Claudia García Irureta, in Buenos Aires, 1976, while García was seven months pregnant. Gelman was found dead in 1989, whereas García, who had been kidnapped in Orletti, gave birth to Macarena Gelman in Uruguay before disappearing.
Legal proceedings began in Argentina in 1999. At this point, the majority of crimes committed by the Argentine junta were still protected by amnesty laws that were adopted at the end of the dictatorship.
Legal proceedings began in Argentina in 1999. At this point, the majority of crimes committed by the Argentine junta were still protected by amnesty laws that were adopted at the end of the dictatorship. However, these laws were circumvented on the grounds that enforced disappearances were classed as “permanent crimes”, that is, crimes that would continue to be perpetrated until the victims were found, dead or alive. The withdrawal of the amnesty laws by the Constitutional Court in 2005 led to a significant number of victims being added to the case.
In 2004, Cordero fled to Santana Do Livramento, Brazil, to escape the Uruguayan justice system. Uruguay had also wanted to begin proceedings against him for the enforced disappearance of Uruguayans in Buenos Aires within the framework of the Condor Plan. For these crimes and his part in the Orletti car centre case, the federal court of Argentina requested his extradition in March 2005. In August 2009, the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil accepted the extradition which took place in January 2010. Cordero was placed in residential detention in Buenos Aires.
Tribunal investigations took place in 2008. Manuel Cordero was accused, along with Humberto José Román Lobaiza and Felipe Jorge Alespeiti, for violations against human rights and illegal detention. Cordero cannot be tried for acts of torture committed at the Orletti car centre because his extradition was only accepted by Brazil with the aim of him being tried for his part in crimes of illegal detention. The number 1 federal oral court decided to merge this case with three other cases related to the Condor Plan, and to have one set of “Condor Plan” proceedings for all. The accused were, among others, Jorge Rafael Videla, Reynaldo Benito Bignone, Santiago Omar Riveros y Luciano Benjamín Menéndez. The aim of the proceedings was to investigate the disappearance and murder of 106 people, the majority of whom were Uruguayan, in addition to people from Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Peru. It was thought that around 450 witnesses would appear in court over a period of two years.
The “Condor Plan” proceedings began on 5 March 2013. Lawyers of victims are attempting to prove that an illegal association existed between the dictators of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay with the aim of pursuing and eliminating opponents, with the support of the US government, and the support of, among others, the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.
This is the first case to investigate the Condor Plan in its entirety.
In December 1986, the Argentinean Parliament adopted a law called “final point,” which set a statute of limitation of 60 days for offences against international law committed in Argentina.
In May 1987, Parliament approved a second amnesty law called “due obedience,” which exempted from trial all military subordinates who had obeyed orders. This left only about thirty high-ranked military officers to face prosecution. The only crimes not covered by this law – and for which subordinates could still be tried – was theft, rape and the kidnapping of children. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of this law in June 1987.
By December 1990 the first amnesty decrees were signed.
In all, 1195 members of the military who had participated in the junta received amnesty: 730 because of the “final point” law, 379 with the “due obedience” law, 49 declared by the Supreme Court and 42 by amnesty decrees.
In mid-August 2003, the new Argentinean president, Nestor Kirchner, had the amnesty laws repealed and the absence of statutes of limitation for crimes against humanity recognized.
Prosecutions of those involved in the junta once again became possible in Argentina.
Twenty former military personnel are being held in Argentina for crimes committed within the framework of the “Condor” plan. The total number of soldiers in detention and charged under Argentinean law for human rights violations amounts to 120 – to which should be added two Argentineans held in Spain. Some of these proceedings concern cases where children were forcibly taken away at birth from their mothers who had been imprisoned for political reasons. In the opinion of the judges, the amnesty law never covered this crime. (Source: Le Monde, January 5, 2005).
On 14 June 2005, the Argentinean Supreme Court declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional, by 7 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention,– “Ley de Punto Final”; Ley 23.492- and the Due Obedience Law – “Ley de Obediencia debida”; Ley 23.521- sanctioned by President Alfonsin in 1987. The Court maintained that these laws violated article 75, paragraph 22 of the 1994 Argentinean Constitution, which gives constitutional status to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to the Genocide Convention, to the Torture Convention and to the Inter-American Convention, among others. According to the Court, following diverse decisions by the Inter-American Court and by other international bodies, the State has an obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those who have committed violations of the right to life, to humane treatment or those who have engaged in disappearances, an obligation which cannot be limited or abolished by the enactment of an Amnesty or Due Obedience Laws as ruled by the Inter-American Court in the case of Barrios Altos v. Peru.
This historical decision allows the domestic or international investigation, prosecution and punishment of members of the military suspected to have taken part in the torture, disappearance and/or killings of more than 30,000 persons in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
On 20 September 2006, during the course of the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, the court for the town of La Plata used the term “genocide” for the crimes committed by the military dictatorship (1976-1983). It was the first time these crimes were qualified as genocide by a court, just like human rights organisations had long argued they should be. This legal qualification is now contained in the judgment against former police officer Etchecolatz, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for torture, murder and abduction of opponents of the regime.
The court emphasised that the crimes were committed in the context of a genocide campaign organised by the state. For future procedures against former members of the police force and the military, this view could be of crucial importance.