Justice for the Victims of Operation Condor
The Genocide Report
May 27, 2016
Victims of Argentina’s Operation Condor carried out in the 1970s, finally received justice when former junta leader Reynaldo Bignone (and others) were sentenced to 20-years in prison for the forced disappearance of more than 100 people. This latest sentence for Bignone, now 88, is in addition to his former conviction for crimes against humanity which included kidnapping and torturing 32 factory workers.
Operation Condor was a multi-state, government sanctioned campaign, launched by Augusto Pinochet of Chile in 1975. The campaign created death squads that kidnapped, tortured and executed persons labeled subversives and who had escaped from their country of origin and fled to other South American countries. The U.S.-backed regimes that participated in Operation Condor included Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The conclusion of the landmark trial included sentences of eight to 25 years for 14 former military officials. Among those sentenced was Manuel Cordero Piacentini, the Uruguayan army colonel who used the Buenos Aires repair shop Automotores Orletti to torture and execute his victims.
The guilty verdict and lengthy prison sentences are an important step in human rights. Up to this point, proving in court that Operation Condor even existed had been a struggle. One of the hurdles to the conviction was the fact that many of the bodies of victims have never been recovered. Prosecutors argued that the continued efforts to cover up their crimes make them ongoing and therefore statutory limits do not apply.
Critical evidence introduced in the trial included a declassified FBI agent’s correspondence from 1976, which detailed the conspiracy to share intelligence and to eliminate dissidents throughout South America. The U.S. later determined that Operation Condor’s reach extended beyond the boundaries of South America and included Washington, D.C. and across Europe.
Featured image: Mariana Zaffaroni (front left), stands next to her grandmother at a demonstration in Montevidio. Her parents were killed as part of Operation Condor in Buenos Aires in 1976. Photo: Matilde Campodonico/AP