National Security Archive Update, February 22, 2008
New York Times Story Draws Attention to 1980 Abduction, Disappearance Case
Washington D.C., February 22, 2008 - Declassified U.S. documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org) show that the U.S. government had detailed knowledge of collaboration between the Peruvian, Bolivian and Argentine secret police forces to kidnap, torture and "permanently disappear" three militants in a Cold War rendition operation in Lima in June 1980--but took insufficient action to save the victims.
The Archive's documents are part of a sweeping Italian investigation of Condor that has issued arrest warrants for 140 former top officials from seven South American countries and, in the words of today's New York Times, has "agitated political establishments up and down the continent."
The documents address what has become known as "the case of the missing Montoneros," a covert operation by a death squad unit of Argentina's feared Battalion 601 to kidnap three members of a militant group living in Lima, Peru, on June 12, 1980, and render them through Bolivia back to Argentina. (A fourth member, previously captured, was brought to Lima to identify his colleagues and then disappeared with them.) "The present situation is that the four Argentines will be held in Peru and then expelled to Bolivia where they will be expelled to Argentina," a U.S. official reported from Buenos Aires four days after Esther Gianetti de Molfino, María Inés Raverta and Julio César Ramírez were kidnapped in broad daylight in downtown Lima. "Once in Argentina they will be interrogated and then permanently disappeared."
Italy's indictments include General Morales Bermudez and his military deputy Pedro Richter Prada, among 138 other military officers from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay who were involved in the kidnapping, torture and disappearances of 25 Latin Americans who had dual Italian citizenship. The indictments, in a 250-page court filing by Italian judge Luisianna Figliolia last December, come after a six-year investigation by investigative magistrate Giancarlo Capaldo, who drew on hundreds of declassified documents provided by the National Security Archive's Southern Cone project. "These documents provide hard evidence of Condor crimes," according to project director Carlos Osorio, "that almost 30 years later still demand the resolution of justice."
The New York Times story, "Italy Follows Trail of Secret South American Abductions," noted that the Italian effort at universal jurisdiction "deals not only with individual cases involving Italian citizens but also with the broader responsibilities of Condor's cross-border kidnapping and torture operations." The story also suggested that Condor's allied effort to track down, kidnap, and secretly transport targets to third countries, according to historians, was "reminiscent of the United States' modern terrorist rendition program."
The Archive's Peter Kornbluh noted "sinister similarities between Condor and the current U.S. rendition, enhanced interrogation, and black site detention operations."
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