April 29, 2000

Brazil to open 'Operation Condor' files for Argentina

                  SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Seeking to raise a longtime curtain of secrecy,
                  Brazil's high court has ordered classified files opened to an Argentine judge
                  investigating how the two countries cooperated in the past to eliminate political

                  In an alliance known as "Operation Condor," the countries allegedly cooperated
                  with other military dictatorships in South America two decades ago to kill their

                  Even with the return of democracy, governments have seemed reluctant to probe
                  the wounds and provoke the still-influential armed forces by investigating the

                  In an unprecedented decision, the Brazilian high court approved a request by an
                  Argentine judge to view classified documents related to the disappearance of
                  three Argentine citizens in Brazilian territory 20 years ago, local media reported
                  this week.

                  The ruling was issued March 20, but only made public in the Brazilian press this

                  The investigating judge, Claudio Bonadio, from Buenos Aires, is investigating the
                  role of Brazilian and Argentine officials in the 1980 disappearances and wants to
                  hear testimony from Brazilian military and police officials.

                  Court officials were not available for comment Saturday.

                  Jair Krischke, president of the Justice and Human Rights Movement of Rio
                  Grande do Sul state, provided Bonadio with a list of 10 Brazilian security officials
                  who may be linked to these cases, the Rio newspaper Jornal do Brasil reported
                  this week.

                  Operation Condor was part of the anti-communist doctrine that prevailed for
                  decades in South America. In Argentina alone, as many as 30,000 people were
                  killed or disappeared. Similar regimes existed in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and other

                  Police and military forces routinely crossed borders in pursuit of their enemies.

                  Even if the new investigation points to suspects, it's unlikely anyone will be
                  punished. Luis Francisco Carvalho Filho, a prominent human rights lawyer in
                  Sao Paulo, said Saturday the statute of limitations already has expired.

                  "The statute doesn't prohibit the cases from being fully investigated," Carvalho
                  Filho told The Associated Press. "But legal responsibility for those crimes could
                  be waived because they occurred 20 years ago."

                  Meeting in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires last week to discuss trade, the
                  defense ministers of Brazil and Argentina commented cautiously about the high
                  court's decision.

                  "We will respect judicial proceedings," Argentine minister Ricardo Lopez Murphy
                  told reporters, while Brazil's Geraldo Magela Quintao said only that "all
                  investigations are positive."