Sunday, October 10, 2010

Operation Condor

Operation Condor provides the background for Reagan policy in Central America in the 1980s. This term has been assigned to the cooperative efforts of Latin American dictators and/ or national militaries to gather intelligence of dissidents and often kill them. The Condor allies were Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. Condor's roots go back to President Dwight Eisenhower, who briefed John F. Kennedy on plans to rid Latin America of leftists and prepared the way for major US investments. These cooperative efforts were underway from the 1950s but seem to have taken a more organized form after their intelligence chiefs met in Caracas in September, 1973. The C.I.A. laid the groundwork by arranging meetings and urging intelligence officers to meet counterparts in other countries and to organize.

On September 11, 1973, the forces of General Augusto Pinochet, with much help from the C.I.A., overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende. The president and some of his aids died defending themselves; he had refused to permit a militia to be organized in his defense. Subsequent U.S. Senate hearings revealed that ITT also played a role in the coup. Potential opponents, numbering 13,500, of the new regime ere rounded up in two stadiums, where hundreds were killed. Brazilian soldiers were on hand to instruct colleagues on the most effective torture techniques.

Victor Jara, a legendary folk singer, had his hands broken so he could not play a guitar, and then was shot forty-four times. A roving death squad, under General Sergio Arellano Stark, was sent to northern prisons where other opponents had been gathered. The executions were called the Carnaval of Death. The Pinochet regime was to eventually imprison 80,000, and another 3,200 were disappeared. Still another 200,000 fled. The Chileans sometimes pushed mutilated bodies out of choppers over dry land. Pinochet also liked mass graves, to better terrify people. The terror was necessary in part so that the generals could carry out economic reforms with the assistance of scholars called the “Chicago Boys,” Chileans and Americans who had studied Milton Friedman’s ideas at the University of Chicago. Their plans concentrated wealth in the top 10% of society and reduced the standard of living for most other Chileans. State industries were privatized; the safety net was slashed; and economic regulations were greatly reduced. Chile because the first real laboratory for the testing of neoconservative economics. Pinochet was an active supporter of Operation Condor, and his participation led to the assassination of Allende’s close friend Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C.

The C.I.A. and military promoted exchanges of information among the CONDOR states and made available its vast computer resources. The US, as in the case of Chile, would conduct economic warfare that would benefit the right wing forces in South America. There was never a threat that Communists would make headway there. The US wanted to remodel those societies and economies on the basis of Milton Friedman’s theories.

In 1974, the C.I.A. suggested to the Nixon administration that Condor activities be coordinated out of Miami. There is no way of knowing if this suggestion was followed. Argentine intelligence did establish a center in Florida for the laundering mof money and procurement of arms.

The military seized power in Uruguay in 1973; and the Argentine generals took over three years later. In Argentina, care was taken to avoid the public executions, but repression was equally effective. The Argentine rightists did engage in some public terror, just enough to keep people in line. For example police might board city busses and pull people off by their hair. Sometimes the early morning arrests occurred after light, just to frighten neighbors. Graves were sometimes barely covered. The Argentines called this “the dirty wear,” implying their opponents employed violence. Recently, in sentencing the former Buenos Aires police commissioner to prison, Judge Carlos Rozanski noted that a one-sided “genocide…took place in the Republic of Argentina between 1976 and 1983.” Rightists in the CONDOR countries targeted leftist guerillas and others who opposed them. This included the “Dirty War” in Argentina and similar activities in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile.

The Argentines were the most thorough in disappearing people. They would cut open bodies before dumping them into the ocean so they would not float or be found. Union members were preyed upon in the latter. In all about 50,000 people were murdered and another 30,000 disappeared , while hundreds of thousands were incarcerated. One one occasion, their activities extended to a September, 1976 car bombing in Washington, DC, where Orlando Letelier, former Chilean ambassador to the UN, and his American assistant Ronni Moffitt and were murdered in a car bombing. Recently declassified documents prove that both the C.I.A. and the State Department had enough advance knowledge to prevent the bombing. Some State Department personnel were so concerned about Condor that they drafted a list of admonmitions to be sent to the three countries involved. One was a warning against assassinations. The document reached Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who ordered that “no further action be taken on this matter.” This occurred days before Letelier was murdered.
At about that time, the Uruguayan secret police put out a contract on Congressman Edward Koch because he wanted to cut off that nation’s aid. Condor operative usually were trained at the School of the Americas where they learned that that rounding up progressives, populists, and s was a desirable policy. They also used the torture manual provided at the SOA. The rightist regimes used American torture techniques and used them to break and refashion personalities. Activists were prodded to abandon compassion and a desire to help others. They were placed in situations where they betrayed others and learned there was nothing wrong with selfish and ruthless behavior. Paraguayan materials released in 1993 revealed that these intelligence forces employed former Nazis and that Israeli agents pursuing Nazis were murdered. Two prominent Nazis involved in Condor were Walter Rauf and Klaus Barbee. Stefano Delle Chiaie, an Italian Fascist, was active in Bolivia. The documents showed that these agencies had extensive ties with drug traffickers and the C.I.A..

The public reaction to the murder of the highly respected Orlando Letelier brought an end of Condor as a carefully coordinated and efficient inter-state assassination operation. It had been particularly effective in rooting out enemies of General Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Much pleased by these results, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher heaped honors on him. General Pinochet worked closely with a secretive former Nazi enclave in southern Chile called Colonia Dignidad. It was founded in 1961 by Paul Schafer, a former corporal and a very active pedophile. Germans who located there were forced to turn over their children to the leadership and were not permitted to leave. The enclave played a role in Operation Condor and Pinochet used it as a political prison, where people were murdered.

J. Patrice McSherry of Long Island University has demonstrated that the US was a secret partner in Operation Condor. Ambassador to Paraguay Robert White complained to the State Department that the military and C.I.A. facilitated communications between the murderous Latin American intelligence groups. It also provided the agencies with special encoding machines. The C.I.A. had close ties to Manuel Contreras, head of the Chilean intelligence agency (DIN) and mistakenly made one payment to him. AS late as 2001, a French judge attempted to question Henry Kissinger about US involvement. The former Secretary of State fled France rather than appear before the judge. There is also an effort to question Kissinger in connection of the murder of US journalist Charles Horman, who was killed by the Chilian military after the US back coup in that country in 1973. Prosecutors in Spain, Argentina, and Chile have expressed a desire to question Kissinger about Condor.

Frank Teruggi, another American reporter, met the same fate as Horman. There are documents that prove that the C.I.A. helped the Condor organization nab sociologist Jorge Isaac Fuentes and deliver him the Chilean intelligence. The F.B.I. assisted by checking out his contacts within the US.

For years, talk about Condor was just the stuff of fiction and those wild “conspiracy theorists.” Then the reformist government of Paraguay released four tons of documents on these terroristic activities. The role of the US in helping the Southern Cone countries round up dissidents is clear. Moreover, the US taught the intelligence people in these countries methods of torture.

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