Buenos Aires.- Thirty years since the end of the dictatorship in Argentina, 13 legal procedures and three hearings have ended with a court ruling on Operation Condor, unique thus far as the only such judgment of regional Latin American importance.
Fourteen former military and intelligence officers from Argentina and one from Uruguay were given sentences May 27 ranging from 25 to eight years in prison, for more than 100 illegitimate arrests and other crimes against humanity committed over 40 years within the framework of Operation Condor, a U.S. orchestrated plan to eliminate opponents of dictatorships in the region.
Two of the longest sentences mandated by Judge Oscar Almirante went to Santiago Omar Riveros (25 years) former head of the Campo de Mayo military garrison, and the dictator, one-time head of Military Institutes, Reynaldo Bignone, for 20 years.
Also sentenced to 25 years in prison were former intelligence agent Miguel Ángel Furci and Uruguayan Cordero Piacentini, for their role in the clandestine detention center operated in the Automotores Orletti car repair shop, the epicenter of persecution against Uruguayans in Argentina carried out by repressors from the two South American countries.
Cordero was convicted as "a key participant, legally responsible for the depravation of liberty in 11 cases," according to the ruling. Among the cases for which Piacentini was held liable was the disappearance of María Claudia García, the pregnant daughter-in-law of Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who died in 2014.
Gelman's granddaughter, Macarena, was given to a family close to the Uruguayan dictatorship shortly after birth, and recovered her identity in 2000, at the age of 23.
Macarena Gelman was present in the courtroom for the ruling and did not hide her satisfaction with the decision to imprison those responsible for her mother's disappearance and her own abduction.
Of the 32 individuals initially facing charges for "illicit association" and "aggravated depravation of liberty with the application of torture" in a total of 105 cases, only 17 reached the sentencing hearing, and two were absolved.
The rest were excluded for health reasons or died before the court verdict, as was the case with dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who died in prison in 2013, three months before the trial began in Federal Criminal Court No. 1.
Operation Condor was a repressive regional plan implemented by South American dictatorships dominating in the region during the 1970s and the first half of the 80s, in collaboration with U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA.
The total number of victims of this repressive operation of legalized extermination in Argentina has been set at 457, including Argentines (73), Bolivians (14), Chileans (59), Paraguayans (23), Peruvians (3) and Uruguayans (164), plus Brazilian citizens (10), as well as Germans and Spaniards.
The judicial process began in 1999 when a group of attorneys appealed to the Argentine courts, and after 13 years of prolonged legal efforts, the oral hearings were opened in March of 2013.
"And justice was finally served. They were years of nonstop work through legal channels to be able to prosecute the perpetuators of horrendous crimes, and also judge an extermination operation which had as its central coordinator the U.S. government," Argentine analyst Stella Calloni told PL. The writer and investigator published two books on the repressive plan, Operación Cóndor, Pacto criminal (2006) and Los años del Lobo: Operación Cóndor (1999), containing research which reserved as evidence in the trial. (PL)