Operation Condor: From the Terror Archives and the Letelier assassination to the Berrios case, Samuel Blixen, Introduction by Roberto Bergalli

Virus, December 1998, 268pp.

The 21 September 1976 assassination by car bomb in Washington of one-time Allende minister Orlando Letelier provoked outrage among the Chilean opposition. the United States political class and, above all, the secret service agencies were left dumbfounded by the daring displayed by one of their own creatures: the Pinochet regime.

The disappearance from Urugyauan soil in the early '90s of Chilean citizen Eugenio Berrios - a scientist working with the DINA (Secret police) and implicated in the Letelier assassination- together with the uncovering of the Terror Archives in Paraguay in December 1992 made available definitive evidence regarding what was by then a long-established certainty: "co-ordination of repression in the Southern Cone, whereby, in the mid-1970s, the dictatorships had set up a supranational structure, was still up and running under democracy and committed not just to monitoring popular movements but also to protecting military personnel wanted by the courts."

At the heart of "Operation Condor" - as this set-up was dubbed - was a centralised system for the collection and exchange of intelligence and involving assassination, kidnapping or clandestine extradition operations against militants from the Latin American left who had fled to or gone into exile in neighbouring countries or, indeed, beyond the shores of the Americas. This Security Co-ordination arrangement could count upon the full commitment of the intelligence services of Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.

Samuel Blixen, researcher and journalist, a regular contributor to the Uruguayan weekly Brecha not only guides us through the complex warp and weft of the Berrios case and the Letelier assassination, but poses an essential question: To what extent do the "viable democracies" which have emerged from the military-supervised transition wield real control over the civilian and military authorities? What role have armies enjoying impunity and "clean slate" legislation appointed for themselves at a time when widening economic gaps may trigger social unrest akin to that which preceded the military dictatorships in the 1960s?

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Translated by: Paul Sharkey.