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  • Demonstrators hold images of people who disappeared, during the march towards Plaza de Mayo square to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the 1976 military coup, in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 24, 2019.

    Demonstrators hold images of people who disappeared, during the march towards Plaza de Mayo square to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the 1976 military coup, in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 24, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 April 2019

The U.S. declassified historical documents expose the role the country played in aiding Latin American dictatorships and will help continuing prosecutions against dictatorship crimes in Argentina. 

The United States presented on April 12 to Argentina its fourth and final installment of the Declassification Process on human rights abuses made during the military dictatorship in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, in documents that reveal some of the most horrific acts and crimes carried out by the Argentine rulers at the time which had received the full support of the United States government and its agencies. 

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The documents revealed that the United States provided support to military juntas that came to power in Latin America in the '80s, training them on harsh counterinsurgency techniques at the United States Army School of the Americas.

The information will vastly enhance the public record of a harsh era, said Carlos Osorio, the director of the Southern Cone Documentation Project at George Washington University’s National Security Archive.

"The amount of information the intelligence agencies had sent shivers through one’s spine," he said. "Imagine what it meant to know about atrocities in real time."

The records confirm that dozens of people who disappeared at the time were assassinated at the hands of the state. More than 1.500 former officials in the country have been put on trial for crimes including torture, thousands of forced disappearances and executions and the abduction of hundreds of babies. The records contain specific information that may help Argentina’s legal system close at least 400 pending investigations.

The local Argentine outlet Pagina12 published an article Saturday detailing some of the findings its journalists uncovered from the declassified documents. 

Oct. 26, 1975
The legal attaché in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, reports the arrest and execution of the leader of the Montoneros leftist movement, Marcos Osatinsky. The record says that Osatinsky was arrested and tortured by security forces. "The goal was to avoid an autopsy which would have clearly shown he had been tortured," says the records.

Dec. 3, 1976
According to the recently declassified document, "powerful military commanders" such as the head of the First Army Corps Guillermo Suarez Mason and the commander of the Campo de Mayo, the General Santiago Omar Riveros, together with the head of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police Aires (PPBA), agreed that "it is time to stop being so soft with the terrorists in the country and start a total war against them." From the PPBA they went further: "Until further notice, we do not want prisoners for interrogation, we do want only bodies," they affirmed. 

Aug. 16, 1977 
The documents further confirm how the CIA scored agreement among the member countries of the Condor Plan, regarding details on financing, staffing, training and the selection of objectives for the "Teseo" death squad to assassinate "subversives" abroad. The records detailed how "Teseo" operations were installed in Argentina and that each member country was to donate "$10,000 for operating costs". The expenses for the agents of the "assassination missions" are estimated at US$3,500 per person.

July 21, 1978
The United States Department of State summaries human rights violations in Argentina and describes a case of torture. The report also reveals that the Argentine army used injections of a powerful anesthetic, Ketalar, in order to captured wanted persons who were later "eliminated in the rivers or the ocean."

April 12, 1979 
This CIA report reveals that Montonero leader Norberto Habbeger who disappeared in Brazil in 1978 "was executed at the end of November or beginning of December 1978 by order of the Chief of the counterintelligence section of the Servicio de Intelligence of the Argentine Army (SIE)."

May 21, 1983
The records report that in late 1983 the Argentine security apparatus continued its assassination program. The report states: "At the beginning of April, six or seven were detained and widely interrogated. Then they were killed." Besides, the document notes that the information obtained in that operation "led to the capture of Raul Yaeger, who after being interrogated, was killed in an organized shooting in Cordoba on April 30."

The Argentina Declassification Project is the most significant transfer of declassified documents from one government to another. The process started in 2002 when the two countries decided to share top secret information from the United States Archives to the Argentine Commission on Historical Memory and other human rights organizations and public institutions seeking justice for the crimes committed under the dictatorship, in coordination with then Minister of Justice and Human Rights, German Garavano.

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