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Operation Condor (Spanish:Operación Cóndor) was a campaign of assassination and intelligence-gathering, dubbed counter-terrorism, conducted jointly by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay in the mid-1970s.
The right-wing military governments of these countries, led by dictators such as Videla, Pinochet and Stroessner agreed to cooperate in sending teams into other countries, including France, Portugal and the United States to locate, observe and assassinate political opponents. They also exchanged torture techniques, like near drowning and playing the sound recordings of victims who were being tortured to their family. Many people disappeared and were killed without trial. Their targets were leftist guerrilla terrorists but many are thought to be political opponents, family and other innocent people.
It has been alleged that Operation Condor was given at least tacit approval by the United States, due to fear of violent Marxist revolution in the region. It appears that Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State in the Nixon administration, was closely involved diplomatically with the Southern Cone governments at the time and well-aware of the Condor plan. CIA documents show that the CIA had close contact with members of the Chilean secret police, DINA, and its chief Manuel Contreras. Some have alleged that the CIA's one-time payment to Contreras is proof that the U.S. approved of Operation Condor and military repression within Chile. The CIA's official documents state that at one time, some members of the intelligence commnity recommended making Contreras into a paid contact because of his closeness to junta Chairman General Pinochet; the plan was rejected based on Contreras' poor human rights track record, but the single payment was made due to miscommunication. 
One target was Orlando Letelier, a former member of the Chilean Allende government who was assassinated by a car bomb explosion in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 1976. His assistant Ronni Moffit, a U.S. citizen, also died in the explosion. Michael Townley , a U.S. expatriate with close ties to the Chilean intelligence agency DINA, General Manuel Contreras, former head of the DINA; and Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo also formerly of DINA were convicted for the murders.
In an op-ed published December 17, 2004 in the Los Angeles Times, Francisco Letelier, the son of Orlando Letelier, wrote that the assassination of his father was part of Operation Condor, described as "an intelligence-sharing network used by six South American dictators of that era to eliminate dissidents." Noting that Augusto Pinochet, who had just been placed under house arrest in Chile, has been accused being a participant in Operation Condor, Francisco Letelier declared: "My father's murder was part of Condor."
Background and US involvement
In December 1992, much information about Operation Condor came to light when a judge in Paraguay went into a police station in a suburb of Asunción looking for files on a former political prisoner. Instead he found the "terror archives ", as they were called, detailing the fates of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Latin Americans secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Some of these countries have since used portions of this archive to prosecute former military officers.
On March 6, 2001, the New York Times reported the existence of a recently declassified State Department document revealing that the United States facilitated communications for Operation Condor. The document, a 1978 cable from Robert E. White , the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, was discovered by Professor J. Patrice McSherry of Long Island University, who has published several articles on Operation Condor. She called the cable "another piece of increasingly weighty evidence suggesting that U.S. military and intelligence officials supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor."
In the cable, Ambassador White relates a conversation with General Alejandro Fretes Davalos , chief of staff of Paraguay's armed forces, who told him that the South American intelligence chiefs involved in Condor "keep in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America". This installation is "employed to co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries". White, whose message was sent to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, is concerned that the US connection to Condor might be revealed during the then ongoing investigation into the deaths of Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt. "It would seem advisable," he suggests, "to review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in US interest."
The document was found among 16,000 State, CIA, White House, Defense and Justice Department records released in November 2000 on the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and Washington's role in the violent coup that brought his military regime to power. The release was the fourth and final batch of records released under the Clinton Administration's special Chile Declassification Project .
- The Condor Years - How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents
- Ed Koch Threatened with Assassination in 1976
- Plan Condor on Disinfopedia
Operation Condor was also the name of a major British-led operation in southeastern Afghanistan. The operation began on 17 May 2002 when a patrol of the Australian Special Air Service was ambushed. The British 45 Commando then flew in to destroy the guerilla force that had exposed itself. Followed Snipe , Torii and Anaconda.
Operation Condor was also the name of a French attempt to breakthrough to the besieged French Union forces at Dien Bien Phu. Launched in much-reduced form on 13 April, 1954 the relief columns were delayed by the rugged terrain and was cut up by the surrounding Viet Minh.
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