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  • Italy sentenced 24 to life for disappearing Italian origin Latin Americans during Operation Condor.

    Italy sentenced 24 to life for disappearing Italian origin Latin Americans during Operation Condor. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 July 2019

Italy sentences 24 South American dictators and military personnel to life imprisonment for disappearing Italians during the 1970s and 80s Operation Condor.

An Italian court in Rome sentenced 24 military personnel from Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Peru to life imprisonment Monday for disappearing Italians during Operation Condor during which left-wing activists were hunted by military dictatorships in South America. 

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The present ruling changed the January 2017 judgment which sentenced only eight people to life in prison and 19 others were acquitted. 

Among the sentenced is former Uruguayan military personnel Jorge Nestor Troccol, the only person present during the whole process as he lives in Italy after escaping from the justice of his country in 2007. He was also acquitted in the previous judgment. 

The other accused were not present during the trial. In the first instance, all the eight people were also sentenced to life in absentia as none of them were present. 

Among the sentenced are the Bolivian dictator Luis Garcia Meza , who died in April 2018; his interior minister, Luis Arce Gomez; the former Peruvian president Francisco Morales Bermudez ; his prime minister Pedro Richter Prada, who died in July 2017; former Peruvian military officer German Ruiz; and former Uruguayan Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Blanco.

All of them have been convicted of voluntary homicide and ordered to pay the costs of the trial. 

The process began 20 years ago in Italy when relatives of the disappeared filed a complaint in 1999, a year after the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested. 

He had tried to purge responsibilities of making a number of Latin American citizens with Italian origins disappear also the disappearance of political opponents and left activists under the Operation Condor. 

Operation Condor was set up in 1975 in Santiago de Chile by the military dictatorships in South America’s southern cone. Key member countries of Operation Condor were Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, with Peru and Ecuador occasionally participating. The joint operations aimed to track down left-wing activist across South America.

An estimated 60,000 people were killed by the Latin American states in the clandestine operation, 30,000 in Argentina alone. Another 30,000 were disappeared and 400,000 imprisoned during the Plan.

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