jpino at SPAMkent.edu
Fri Jun 9 13:42:22 MDT 2000
Brazil Opens Files on Region's Abuses in
Age of Dictators
New York Times
June 9, 2000
By LARRY ROHTER
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 8 --
Throughout the 1970's, the military
dictatorships of South America organized a
secret program, known as Operation
Condor, to kidnap and kill one another's
opponents. Now the democratic
governments that succeeded them are
joining together, albeit tentatively and
somewhat reluctantly, in an effort to
untangle the true extent and toll of that
The sudden burst of activity is the result of
an Argentine judge's request, made last
year, for information about three Argentine
citizens who disappeared here when both
countries were under military rule. To the
surprise of almost everyone, Brazil's highest
court recently ordered that all documents
relating to the case and to Operation
Condor be supplied to Argentine
According to historians and human rights
groups, Operation Condor was a
cooperative effort that involved the military,
the police and intelligence forces of
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay
and Uruguay. Each nation's "apparatus of
repression" exchanged information with its
counterparts in neighboring countries and
kidnapped, tortured and killed guerrillas and
other exiles from those countries on behalf
of its colleagues.
In Argentina, for example, at least 118 exiled Uruguayans, 51
Paraguayans, 49 Chileans and 9 Brazilians were "disappeared,"
according to tallies compiled by human rights groups.
Operation Condor, named for the large bird that flies above the
the Andes, appears to have been a Chilean initiative, and
interest in its
activities has heightened as a result of the judicial case
Augusto Pinochet, that country's former dictator.
Fewer exiles were killed here than in Chile or Argentina. But
military dictatorship began much earlier, in 1964, and recently
documents indicate that Brazil's security apparatus began
and military intelligence from neighboring countries as early as
The issue is one of particular interest to President Fernando
Cardoso and his Cabinet. As Georges Lamaziere, the president's press
secretary, noted recently of the current administration, "a good
its members were victims of previous governments," including Mr.
Cardoso himself, who spent several years in exile in Chile and
"Fortunately, even though the memories are painful, we can regard
a page that has been turned but should not be forgotten," Mr.
said last month in his first public comment on the matter. His
has also said that Brazil would pay a $72,500 indemnity to the
the three missing Argentine leftists, who are said to have been
Rights groups, however, have complained that the Cardoso government
has been slow to produce documents that would clarify other
still being investigated.
Brazil's armed forces, backed by the minister of defense, Geraldo
Quintao, have said variously that requested documents never
they appear to have been destroyed, or that to make them public
violate a law requiring that such records be kept secret for 30
"I don't see why they should be opened," Mr. Quintao, a civilian,
week. "No country opens its intelligence archives immediately
The inability of the armed forces to produce relevant records is
in view of the spate of investigative reports that in recent
filled the pages of Brazilian newspapers and magazines. All of the
accounts are based on official documents that have been leaked to
reporters, and some include detailed interviews with former military
officers who remember specific episodes of cooperation with
Paraguayan and Uruguayan authorities.
None of the material that has come to light thus far indicates
involvement of any American government agency in Operation Condor.
But the United States was clearly aware of the effort: the first
mention of Operation Condor came in a 1976 cable from the American
Embassy in Buenos Aires, and American agents worked closely with
security officials in the region, many of whom had studied at the
States-run School of the Americas.
Lawyers and human rights groups, along with relatives of the
who want to make peace with the past, are eager to examine the
Though Paraguay made public thousands of pages of police files in
no country involved in Operation Condor has yet opened its military
archives for inspection, and the originals of many documents are
to have vanished.
Inspired by the Pinochet case and using the Paraguayan records and
material recently uncovered here, Brazilian and Paraguayan
human rights groups are seeking to bring Gen. Alfredo Stroessner,
Paraguay's former dictator, to justice. Overthrown in 1989 after
in power, General Stroessner now lives in exile in Brazil, but an
under way here to have him expelled or extradited to Paraguay.
The flurry of investigations has also revived speculation about
of João Goulart, who was president when the military seized power
Mr. Goulart died in exile in Argentina in December 1976 of what was
officially said to be a heart attack, but no autopsy was
performed, and his
family had only limited access to his body when it was returned
The Goulart family has always suspected that the former president
have been poisoned or that someone tampered with his medicine, fears
that have been fed by the recent publication of a September 1976
document that shows the military here was convinced that he was
to return to Brazil. In an effort to clarify the circumstances of
Goulart's death, a congressional inquiry has just begun, and family
members this week authorized the exhumation of his remains.
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