12. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1
- Counterterrorism in the Southern Cone
The security forces of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay have for some time engaged in a formalized exchange of information on leftist terrorists. Moreover, these governments jointly carry out operations against subversives on each other’s soil. This effort, dubbed “Operation Condor”, is not publicly known.2 One aspect of the program involving Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina envisages illegal operations outside Latin America against exiled terrorists, particularly in Europe. Because the existence of Condor is known to foreign security services, such activities have so far been frustrated. The extent of cooperation in Condor is unusual in Latin America, even though the exchange of intelligence information by governments facing a common problem is a routine practice throughout the world.
The military-controlled governments of the Southern Cone all consider themselves targets of international Marxism. Having endured real and perceived threats from leftist terrorists, these governments [Page 48] believe that the very foundations of their societies are threatened. In most cases, government leaders seek to be selective in the pursuit and apprehension of suspected subversives, but control over security forces generally is not tight enough to prevent innocents from being harmed or mistreated. Cultural and historical developments in the region go a long way toward explaining, if not justifying, the often harsh methods. In Hispanic law, for instance, a suspect is presumed guilty until proven innocent. In addition, most Latin American constitutions have provisions for states of seige or other emergency clauses which greatly increase the governments’ powers of arrest, detention, and censorship.
There is a long history of bilateral efforts to control subversion in the Southern Cone countries. The regional approach eventually formalized in Condor, however, apparently was endorsed in early 1974 when security officials from all of the member countries, except Brazil, agreed to establish liaison channels and to facilitate the movement of security officers on government business from one country to the other.
Among the initial aims of Condor was the exchange of information on the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta (JCR), an organization believed to consist of representatives of terrorist groups from Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay. The JCR [less than 1 line not declassified] coordinates activities and provides propaganda and logistical support for its members. The Junta has representatives in Europe, and they are believed to have been involved in the assassinations in Paris of the Bolivian ambassador to France last May and an Uruguayan military attaché in 1974. The attaché had been involved in the successful campaign to suppress Uruguay’s terrorist Tupamaros, a member group of JCR.
Condor’s overall campaign against subversion reportedly was intensified last summer when members gathered in Santiago to organize more detailed, long-range plans. Decisions included:
—The development of a basic computerized data bank in Santiago. All members will contribute information on known or suspected terrorists.
—Brazil agreed to provide gear for “Condortel”—the group’s communications network.
—Uruguay consented to join Chile and Argentina in covert operations against JCR activities [less than 1 line not declassified]
The basic mission of Condor teams to be sent overseas reportedly was “to liquidate” top-level terrorist leaders. Non-terrorists also were reportedly candidates for assassination; Uruguayan opposition politician Wilson Ferreira, if he should travel to Europe, and some leaders of Amnesty International were mentioned as targets. Ferreira may have been removed from the list, however, because he is considered to have [Page 49] good contacts among US congressmen.3 A training course was held in Buenos Aires for the team heading overseas. More recently Condor leaders were considering the dispatch of a team to London—disguised as businessmen—to monitor “suspicious activity” in Europe. Another proposal under study included the collection of material on the membership, location, and political activities of human rights groups in order to identify and expose their socialist and Marxist connections. Similar data reportedly are to be collected on Church and third-world groups.
Evidence, although not conclusive, indicates that cooperation among security forces in the Southern Cone extends beyond legal methods. Last May, for example, armed men ransacked the offices of the Argentine Catholic Commission on Immigration and stole records containing information on thousands of refugees and immigrants. The Argentine police did not investigate the crime—a signal that Latin refugees, principally from Chile and Uruguay were no longer welcome. A month later, 24 Chilean and Uruguay refugees, many of whom were the subjects of commission files, were kidnapped and tortured. After their release, some of the refugees insisted their interrogators were security officers from Chile and Uruguay. A number of Uruguayans were held in Buenos Aires last summer for two weeks and then flown to Montevideo in an Uruguayan plane. Uruguayan military officers offered to spare them their lives if they would agree to allow themselves to be “captured” by authorities—as if they were an armed group attempting to invade the country. Moreover, two prominent political exiles in Argentina were killed under mysterious circumstances.
Condor also is engaged in non-violent activities, including psychological warfare and a propaganda campaign. These programs heavily use the media to publicize crimes and atrocities committed by terrorists. By appealing to national pride and the national conscience, these programs aim to secure the support of the citizenry in the hope they will report anything out of the ordinary in their neighborhoods. Propaganda campaigns are constructed so that one member country publishes information useful to another—without revealing that the beneficiary was in fact the source. For example, Bolivia and Argentina reportedly are planning to launch a campaign against the Catholic Church and other religious groups that allegedly support leftist movements. Bolivia will collect information on the groups and then send it to Argentina for publication.[Page 50]
The Condor communications system uses both voice and teletype. Member countries communicate via radio and each is required to maintain an open channel. No commercial equipment is used, but each country can monitor the conversations of another over the Condor net. Sensitive data, not of concern to all members, are forwarded via diplomatic pouch. [less than 1 line not declassified] Condor suffers from some organizational inefficiency, but this factor has not inhibited its overall effectiveness. Condor has tightened security measures [less than 2 lines not declassified] Security has been strengthened at Condor’s operations center in Buenos Aires, and compartmentation has been increased. In addition, once a Condor member has declined to participate in an operation, he is excluded from all further details of that particular plan. Hence, less active members, such as Paraguay and Bolivia—[less than 1 line not declassified]—may not be aware of many operations.
Outside the Condor umbrella, bilateral cooperation between other security organizations in the region also is strong. For example, intelligence organizations in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile work together closely. Each security organization assigns advisers to the other countries primarily to identify subversives in exile.
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Subject Files, Box 65, Terrorism, 5/77–1/78. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified] No drafting information appears on the paper. In the top right-hand corner of the first page, Pastor wrote: “File Terrorism.”↩
- For more on Operation Condor, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–11, Part 2, Documents on South America, 1973–1976, Documents 238 and 367.↩
- For more on Ferreira’s efforts to raise the issue of human rights in Uruguay, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–11, Part 2, Documents on South America, 1973–1976, Document 343.↩