Friday, December 28, 2007

South America: Southern Cone regimes collaborated on cross-border kidnapping, secret detention centers and torture

On the fifteenth anniversary of the discovery of the Archive of Terror in Paraguay, the National Security Archive posted Spanish-language documents that reveal new details of how the Southern Cone military regimes collaborated in hunting down, interrogating, and disappearing hundreds of Latin Americans during the 1970s and 1980s.

The collaboration, which became officially known as “Operation Condor,” drew on cross-border kidnapping, secret detention centers, torture, and disappearance of prisoners—rendition, interrogation and detention techniques that some human rights advocates are comparing to those used today in the Bush administration’s counterterrorism campaign.

The selection of documents include uncensored records relating to the pivotal case of Chilean Jorge Isaac Fuentes Alarcón and Argentine Amílcar Santucho, who were detained in Paraguay in May 1975, and whose interrogation under torture led to the decision by Chilean secret police chief Manual Contreras to formalize coordination against the left among the Southern Cone military states. One document posted today for the first time is the list of questions created by Argentine intelligence agent José Osvaldo Ribeiro [Alias Rawson] to be used in the interrogation of Santucho and Fuentes Alarcón in Paraguay. Chilean agents subsequently rendered Fuentes Alarcón to a secret detention camp in Santiago from where he was disappeared.

The Archive also posted a “thank you” note to the Paraguayan secret police from Col. Contreras for the handling of Fuentes Alarcón, as well as Contreras’s invitation to, and supplementary documents for, the first Condor meeting in November 1975—documents found several years ago in the Paraguayan Archive that have been widely used in books about Operation Condor. The posting includes communications between “Condor 1” (Chile) and “Condor 4” (Paraguay), records of meetings between the D-2 of the Paraguayan intelligence service, and officials from SIDE (the State Intelligence Service) in Argentina, and SID (the Defense Intelligence Service) in Uruguay, and documents related to the coordinated efforts to capture Montoneros in Asunción in 1980—among other facets of the Condor coordination during the era of military dictatorships in the Southern Cone.

"These documents provide a historic passkey into the horror chambers of the Southern Cone military regimes," said Carlos Osorio, who directs the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. "The atrocities they record from the past remain relevant to the debate over the conduct of counterterrorism operations today and in the future."

Since its discovery in December 1992, the Archive of Terror has become a leading source of evidence for international human rights proceedings in courts across the world, as Paraguayan researchers such as Alfredo Boccia Paz, Rosa Palau and Miriam Gonzalez have worked tirelessly to locate and provide documents to lawyers and judges in countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Their book, Es mi informe: los archivos secretos de la policía de Stroessner (This is my Report: the Secret Archives of Stroessner’s Police), first identified some of the most significant documents from this unique collection.

Since 1998, the National Security Archive has worked with the Paraguayan Center on Documentation and Archive for the Defense of Human Rights (CDyA) that oversees the Archive of Terror. The National Security Archive has collaborated with the Center to create a fully digitalized collection of more than 300,000 records—the Digital Archive of Terror (ATD). This unique data base, now being posted in sections on the world wide Web, is designed to facilitate ongoing research on human rights crimes, and the discovery of new evidence on the history of state-sponsored terrorism in the Southern Cone.

Documents can be downloaded HERE