When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror

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He returned to Washington to alert authorities that something needed to be done urgently. Of course, the CIA responded immediately. They sent Dan Mitrione. The OPS helped local police for many years in the s, training them and providing weapons. Mitrione was reportedly the man who made torture routine, applying in his words, "the precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect. He led a coup in June , with the blessing of the CIA, and remained in power until , when he, in turn, was overthrown by the military.

Under Bordaberry and Operation Condor, hundreds of people were murdered, tortured, imprisoned, kidnapped and disappeared. In , Che Guevara was murdered after having led a guerrilla war in Bolivia against the oligarchy. The CIA-backed mission to assassinate the revolutionary leader had international repercussions.

Washington’s silent war against Hezbollah in Latin America

Meanwhile, in , General Juan Jose Torres took power and implemented reforms to benefit workers and those living in poverty. Hope returned to Bolivia. Banzer ruled the country for the next seven years, working within Operation Condor and the CIA to silence all dissent. Two years after leading a guerrilla movement against the Bolivian oligarchy, Che Guevara was murdered.

In Chile, the CIA used different tactics but the results were the same. The agency led a smear campaign against the government of Chile, as it is currently doing in Venezuela. They used national and international media to demonize socialist President Salvador Allende. By causing scarcity through extortion, through torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearances and assassinations, the CIA and right-wing forces in the country attempted to destabilize the country especially after Allende nationalized natural resources.

On Sep. Augusto Pinochet led the military all the way to the presidential palace with the backing of the CIA, who provided him with all the necessary weapons and armored vehicles. War planes dropped bombs on the palace. Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for the loyalty of the people with my life. And I tell you with certainty that the which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever. They are strong and they may be able to dominate us, but the social processes cannot be halted nor with crime nor by force.

Pinochet ruled for 17 years, with the official victim toll at 40, Salvador Allende, another victim of the many covert coups carried out by the United States. The Dirty War from was marked by detention centers, torture centers, massacres, rape of women and children and disappearances. In total, 30, people are believed killed, with 13, disappeared. There is compelling evidence to show that for over 30 years, members of the U. Castro also claimed to have knowledge of the perpetration of large massacres of civilians by Army Department 5.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a believer in liberation theology, was murdered as he was officiating mass in When the U.

When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was an exponent of liberation theology and paid for it with his life. The aid would resume under President Reagan. Ambassador Truco's shocked denials highlight a central aspect of Condor and of the Latin American regimes' purely domestic modes of repression: secrecy.

Indeed, these programs were implemented fully covertly, thus giving these regimes "plausible deniability" while enabling them to deliver an extremely clear message to their political opponents. It is this system of shadows , of illegal activities fully visible but denied by the authorities, of supposedly "out of control" and "independent" death squads targeting political opponents while official responsibility is hidden, of people being "disappeared", leaving their families with no possible recourse and faced with official silence, that created the pervasive feeling of dread and terror that hovered over Latin America for so many years.

Playing the terrorism card then and now.

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In his recent interview with Charlie Rose, President Bashar al-Assad repeatedly referred to the opposition forces fighting against his regime as terrorists. Similarly, the Egyptian military has been quick to, in the words of Paul Pillar, "play the terrorism card " to explain and justify its recent uses of force.


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  2. Operation Condor: Setting precedent from one 'war on terrorism' to the next.
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  5. Latin America Is the Murder Capital of the World!

As Pillar pointedly notes, it seems clear that "the fact that the United States has made the subject such a preoccupation following one event twelve years ago has unquestionably increased the value of this particular card". But it is just as evident that "many dictators and crackdown artists would shout the T-word as a justification for their actions regardless of what the United States does or says".

Countless states and governments have used the concept of terrorism to delegitimise their enemies and the cause they claim to fight for and thus justify the use of often profoundly immoral methods against them. Operation Condor is yet another such case, a fascinating example of a group of states insisting that they are fighting terrorism while operating what can only be described as an international terrorist network of their own.


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  • Secrecy is fundamentally inimical to democratic rule, as it erodes trust while distorting and polluting public discourse. The chain of secrecy and unaccountability must be broken, and transparency restored, illuminating today's practices as well as yesterday's.

    Brazil’s search for truth

    Operation Condor also warrants special attention because of the central place that Latin America played in the birth of the American discourse on terrorism in the s. Indeed, when Reagan decided, for the first time, to put the " f ig ht against terrorism " at the heart of the American foreign policy discourse, he did so mostly in reference to the Western Hemisphere, and specifically to El Salvador and Nicaragua.

    In doing so, the Republican president essentially imported the discourse [Fr. In El Salvador, military aid went to a regime with intimate ties to the infamous death squads and whose extraordinarily gruesome methods clearly amounted to terrorism. In Nicaragua, the CIA mined harbours, produced torture manuals and funded, trained and armed the "Contras", whose methods often fit any reasonable definition of terrorism.

    Latin America Is the Murder Capital of the World - WSJ

    In sum, and just as the Condor states had done before, during the s the US claimed to be fighting terrorism while resorting, directly and indirectly, to terrorism. Secrecy and impunity: setting bad precedents. All over Latin America, various Truth Commissions and high profile trials have brought some level of legal and historical accountability.

    Former leaders have been convicted of a variety of extremely serious crimes, and have served long prison sentences. To a great extent, these developments were made possible by ambitious declassification projects undertaken under Presidents Bill Clinton Chile and George W Bush Argentina.

    From Operation Condor in Latin American Dirty Wars to the U.S. War on Terror Post-9/11

    However, no US official has ever been held accountable for his or her role in Latin America. For example, Kissinger has been called to testify several times by Latin American judges. These demands have all been rejected by the US. Last March, Argentina opened a major trial into Operation Condor. For John Dinges, the US should welcome this trial as an opportunity to learn the right lessons from history. As he explains after observing some troubling similarities between the Letelier assassination and the logic that appears to underlie certain targeted killings practices of the Obama administration, "the tendency of a state to feel that they can move against their enemies in the most effective way possible is still there, and it is certainly not limited to dictatorships".

    During a visit to France in May , Kissinger received a summons to appear at the Palais de Justice in Paris to answer questions about his role in Condor. The next day, he was on a plane back to the US. None of this was covered in the American media, while the US government continues to block the declassification of hundreds of documents related to Condor.

    Similarly, over the last few years, legal scholars as well as major civil rights and human rights organisations have strongly criticised President Obama for the lack of transparency and accountability that have so far characterised many of his "counter-terrorism" policies, and notably the practice of targeted killings. They have also expressed the fear that current US practices may " set a dangerous precedent for abusive regimes around the globe to conduct drone attacks or other strikes against persons who they describe in vague or overly broad terms as terrorists", a prospect that appears more and more likely as, for example, China is reported to be "dispatching its own drones into potential combat arenas".

    Shlaudeman notes that the Condor states themselves made mention of such a precedent in order to justify their counter-terrorism operation: "They consider their counter-terrorism every bit as justified as Israeli actions against Palestinian terrorists and they believe that the criticism from democracies of their war on terrorism reflects a double standard. As this remark clearly highlights, precedents get set on the basis of cold, realist assessments of the impunity that has historically accompanied such policies when used by powerful enough states.

    Regrettably, when President Obama's suggested, in January , that we need to "look forward as opposed to looking backwards", thus putting behind us what appear to have been very serious crimes, he further strengthened just such a logic.

    Only then can we hope to avoid the setting of dangerous precedents. Only then can we hope to make sure that the past represented by Condor was not simply a prologue of things to come. Explore how your country voted on global issues since , as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly. We dialled more than 35, random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

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