Latin countries urged to open files
Brazil hearings target claims of joint abuses by militaries
BY KEVIN G. HALL
Herald World Staff
RIO DE JANEIRO -- A human rights activist testified Wednesday
that some of
South America's intelligence services cooperated for decades in a notorious
program that resulted in numerous human rights abuses and appealed to the
various governments to open their files on Operation Condor.
Jair Krischke, head of the Justice and Human Rights Movement,
was the first
witness in hearings sponsored by a legislative committee as Brazil and its
neighbors intensify their efforts to unearth the human rights abuses committed in
the 1970s and 1980s by the region's military dictatorships.
Earlier this week, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
military files opened in a search for information about Operation Condor, a secret
pact that allegedly coordinated the campaign against leftist opponents by the
U.S.-backed military regimes in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Cardoso was responding to an Argentine judge who is investigating
the deaths of
three Argentines who disappeared in Brazil in 1980. Another Argentine judge
wants to question former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet about the 1974
Buenos Aires car-bombing death of Carlos Prats, who briefly headed Chile's
armed forces before Pinochet led a 1973 military coup.
Krischke produced documents that he said establish beyond doubt
Condor not only existed -- contrary to claims by former military leaders during the
era of dictatorships -- but also enjoyed the enthusiastic support of military
leaders, such as Col. Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, the once-feared head of the
Chilean secret police known by the Spanish acronym DINA.
In one letter, Contreras invited the chief of Paraguay's national
police to a secret
meeting to coordinate activities across their respective borders.
Among other things, Brazil's legislative hearings will probe the
death in Argentina of Joao Goulart, the Brazilian president who was ousted in
1964 by a military coup. He died during the height of Operation Condor.
In Paraguay, a United Nations mission is trying to preserve secret
about South American dictatorships as the ``Property of Humanity.'' The
documents purportedly show that Brazil supplied arms to help Gen. Hugo Banzer,
Bolivia's elected president since 1997, overthrow civilian President Juan Jose
Torres in 1971. Torres was murdered in Buenos Aires in 1976, allegedly as part of
In Uruguay, where one in 50 citizens is said to have been interrogated
1973-85 dictatorship, newly elected President Jorge Battle is fighting to get the
military to apologize for past abuses. Most of the 163 Uruguayans who
disappeared in those days are believed to have been killed in Operation Condor.
The secret archives discovered outside Asuncion, Paraguay's capital,
Brazilian military records could shed new light on the Latin American militaries'
battle against leftists and on what U.S. intelligence agencies, diplomats and
soldiers knew about the ``dirty war,'' as the campaign was called in Argentina.
A number of prominent U.S. officials, including former President
and CIA Director
George Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and officials in the
Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, could be dragged into the
investigations if there is evidence of American knowledge or complicity.
Operation Condor is blamed for a number of attacks on exiled leftists
1970s. The most prominent allegedly were carried out for Pinochet, including
bombings that killed opponents in Argentina, Italy and the United States. Former
Chilean Defense and Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his American aide,
Ronni Moffitt, died in a September 1976 bombing on Washington's Embassy
Brazil's O Globo newspaper, citing an unidentified former CIA
Sunday that the U.S. intelligence agency served as a bridge between Chile's and
Brazil's dictatorships. Contreras, Pinochet's intelligence chief, last week told
Chilean television that the CIA was behind the bombing that killed Prats.
But according to Chilean and Argentine press reports this month,
CIA and DINA agent Michael Townley, a state witness who was convicted in the
Letelier case in the United States, said in a secret deposition to an Argentine
judge that Contreras and DINA planned both the Prats and the Letelier attacks.
The Letelier investigation remains open in Chile and the United States.
Meanwhile, a U.N. mission is in Paraguay this week, requesting
so-called Terror Archives be preserved as the ``Property of Humanity.''
Incriminating documents have disappeared, with alternate rumors blaming the CIA
or sales by corrupt Paraguayan officials.
``It is important that our collective memory returns,'' Alain
Touraine, a French
intellectual who is leading the U.N. mission, said in a telephone interview Tuesday
Touraine conceded that UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Social and
Organization, usually preserves statues and buildings, but said: ``We are getting
to a moment of possible democratization [in the region] and addressing the past
is not only a sign or proof of a democratic process, but an instrument or tool to
form a democratic conscience.''
``What is clear is that documents have disappeared,'' Touraine said.
The newly uncovered Terror Archives must at least be filmed and
said. In the best case, he said, they would be moved to a secure location for
The documents found in Paraguay already have revealed that Brazil
important role in helping the Pinochet regime establish its secret police.
Thousands of Brazilians fled to Chile after the military coup in the 1960s, only to
be rounded up and interrogated by DINA in the 1970s, often with Brazilian agents
in the room.
``The Brazilians had a head start'' on terror, said David Fleischer,
a University of
Brasilia political science professor. Brazil's military government reportedly helped
Pinochet pattern DINA on Brazil's intelligence agency, known in Portuguese as
The documents in Paraguay also tell of a torture-training school
at Manaus in
Brazil's Amazon jungle. Newton Cruz, a former head of SNI, denied in the
Brazilian press this week that Operation Condor existed. The Manaus facility, he
said, was used just for jungle warfare training. Another Brazilian intelligence
official, Marival Chaves, told newspapers that all incriminating secret documents
about Operation Condor were destroyed before Brazil's military dictatorship ended
Operation Condor remains a burning issue in Chile, too. Next week
Court of Appeals resumes deliberating whether Pinochet can be tried for political
murder. At least 100 criminal complaints have been lodged against the ailing
84-year-old former strongman.
Almost daily, Chilean newspapers report new details of moves by
former colleagues to protect themselves.
Over the weekend, Gen. Sergio Arellano Stark, accused of leading
spree in the early days after the Pinochet coup, broke his silence, blaming
higher-ups and implying Pinochet must have known of abuses.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.