The Miami Herald
Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Argentine ex-dictator held in 'Condor' probe

 BUENOS AIRES -- (AFP) -- Jorge Videla, Argentina's former military dictator, was placed Tuesday in detention, pending a probe of his alleged role in the Condor Plan, a bloody campaign by South American military governments in the 1970s and 1980s to crush political opposition.

 In a 500-page court order, federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral said he believed Videla took part in an multinational military conspiracy to crack down on real and alleged political foes in Latin America.

 Canicoba Corral told reporters it has been ``substantiated that there was a spurious agreement among the military governments of the Southern Cone'' of South America to wipe out opposition under the plan.

 The judge imposed a $1 million freeze on Videla's personal assets to cover court costs and any debts incurred.

 The Condor Plan, established in Santiago in 1975, was an operation by military dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, through which governments combined efforts to hunt down opponents -- real and perceived leftists -- who sought refuge in neighboring countries.

 Argentine courts earlier this year asked, in the course of a probe into the Condor Plan, for the extradition of Paraguayan former dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who was given asylum in Brazil two years ago, and the former head of the Chilean secret police, Manuel Contreras.

 Videla, the head of an Argentine military junta from 1976-81, has been under house arrest for three years in a federal case involving the abduction of babies born to
 mothers who were detained for alleged political offenses and who gave birth while in custody.

 The general on June 20 refused to testify in court after he appeared for questioning in a probe of torture and illegal detention during the 1976-83 period of military rule.

 He now becomes the first former military leader from the six South American nations involved in the Condor Plan to face justice in the alleged conspiracy.

 Separately, Argentine former president Carlos Menem, who was elected and served from 1989-1999, is under house arrest charged with leading an association that
 illegally sold arms in the 1990s to Ecuador and Croatia.

 Shortly after he was first elected president, Menem -- who was once jailed himself by the military government -- issued a blanket amnesty for actions of the armed forces in an effort to bring closure to the highly sensitive issue of past human rights abuses in the interest of national reconciliation.

 Since then, Argentine courts have selectively backtracked on amnesty in a few cases, including Videla's.

                                    © 2001