US Media Revises History of US Role in ‘Operation Condor’ Terror Campaign
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez isn’t the only significant event unfolding in Latin America this week.
In a historic trial that has received little attention, former US-backed military dictators and their conspirators are being prosecuted in Argentina for their role in Operation Condor, a brutal campaign involving the disappearance and murder of tens of thousands of political dissidents throughout Latin American in 1970s and 1980s.
With U.S. backing, dictators and generals in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil collaborated to hunt down and assassinate dissidents opposed to their rule. The Argentina case accuses 25 suspects of violating human rights, including former dictators Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone. The trial marks the first specially focused on Operation Condor and its victims across Latin America.
One of the most horrific forms of forced disappearance during this era was the “death flight”, where people were kidnapped, drugged and thrown into the ocean alive, with their families never knowing their fate.
This coordinated effort by rightwing dictatorships to terrorize and eliminate leftist activists was made possible by the United States, which violently replaced democratically elected governments with US-friendly dictators to force neoliberalism down the throats of the people of Latin America. Violent tyranny was the only way the US could implement austerity, privatization, deregulation and the lifting of trade barriers, policies that plunged the masses into poverty and created skyrocketing wealth inequality that can still be seen today. The only winners were the elite few and, surprise surprise, US corporations. (If you’re unfamiliar with US involvement in Latin American economies, I highly recommend reading “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein.)
Americans would likely be surprised to learn that the United States was fully aware and even encouraged the brutal political repression that followed and is actively protecting its perpetrators today. As I write this post, Luis Posada, who participated in Operation Condor (among other terror campaigns) lives freely in Miami, Florida, despite being wanted by several Latin American countries. In other words the US is harboring a terrorist.
Perhaps this is why the US media has largely ignored the trial. And for the few outlets who have covered it, the instrumental role of the United States in Operation Condor has gone unmentioned, like in this CNN article. The Christian Science Monitor, to its credit, includes two sentences about the US role but not until the very end of the article.
Rather than bury or omit the US role, the Associated Press opted to revise history altogether by portraying the US as responsible for uncovering human rights abuses:
A key piece of evidence is a declassified FBI agent’s cable, sent in 1976, that described in detail the conspiracy to share intelligence and eliminate leftists across South America.
The actual conspiracy went further than that: the U.S. government later determined that Chilean agents involved in Condor killed the country’s former ambassador Orlando Letelier and his U.S. aide Ronni Moffitt in Washington, D.C., in September 1976, and tracked other exiles across Europe in efforts to eliminate them, as well.
With hundreds of witnesses and over a dozen defendants, the trial could take up to two years. As the prosecution continues to unfold, don’t hold your breath for the mainstream press to give us the whole story.
(Counterpunch has an eye-opening article that lays out how the rightwing military dictatorships and neoliberalism of the past gave rise to the leadership and policies of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It’s a great read.)