ROME – 24 people have been sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court for their role in Operation Condor. They are condemned for the killing and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens. Among those sentenced are seven former members of the Chilean military.
The trial against participants of Operation Condor started in 2015 in Italy. Former military personnel from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru were investigated for their role in the kidnapping and killing of Italian citizens during the 1970s and 1980s.
In late May, a Rome court already demanded life imprisonment of the 24 high-profile South Americans and today all received their final sentence.
Chileans, Uruguayans, Bolivians and Peruvians Jailed
Among those sentenced today are Francisco Morales Bermúdez, who was president of Peru from 1975 to 1980, and Juan Carlos Blanco, a former foreign minister of Uruguay. Former Peruvian Prime Minister Pedro Richter Prada, who died in July 2017, was also convicted.
Another convicted criminal who already passed away is Bolivian ex-dictator Luis García Meza, who died in April 2018. His former interior minister, Luis Arce Gómez, is also part of the 24.
Among those convicted are seven former military personnel from Chile like Pedro Espinoza Bravo, a former intelligence chief. Other convicts are Hernán Ramírez, Rafael Ahumada Valderrama, Daniel Aguirre Mora, Carlos Luco Astroza, Orlando Moreno Vásquez and Manuel Abraham Vásquez Chauan.
Operation Condor was a large continental operation across South American countries that were under the rule of right-wing military dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1975 in Santiago, the head of Pinochet’s intelligence service, Manuel Contreras, laid out the plan with his counterparts from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, with the aim of repressing left-wing movements across the continent.
Activists, politicians, students and left-wing party members were tracked down, kidnapped and assassinated. Often entirely innocent civilians became victims because of the dictatorships’ paranoia and obsession with Marxist ghosts. Notorious are the death flights, where unconscious people were thrown out of airplanes above the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean.
Estimates about the numbers of casualties from Operation Condor differ. The 24 South American military leaders today were convicted for their role in the killing and disappearance of 23 Italian citizens, but according to a database at least 496 people were kidnapped under the Operation Condor system. 94 of them were Chilean.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.