Dirty War: General Thread

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Dirty War: General Thread

Postby judasdisney » Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:43 am

This thread is intended as a collection point for various ongoing news update stories about the Dirty Wars, referring generally to the Latin & Central American Right-Wing and dictators' state-sponsorship of torture, death squads, disappearance & extermination of "Leftists" and citizens, especially in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicuragua, Honduras, among others.

Death of accused torturer probed
By BILL CORMIER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 8, 2008

Detained family members of an accused torturer poisoned days before he was to appear in court appealed for their freedom Tuesday amid suspicions the man was killed to keep him from talking about dictatorship-era abuses.

Hector Febres, poisoned last month by a large dose of cyanide, was found dead in his cell in a military brig Dec. 10, four days before a court was to rule on charges he kidnapped and tortured four dissidents during Argentina's 1976-83 military regime.

His widow, Stella Maris Guevara, and their grown children, Hector Ariel and Sonia Marcel, were detained hours later on orders of Federal Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, who is investigating Febres' death.

The family's defense lawyer, Claudio Casio, on Tuesday told the Noticias Argentinas news agency that allegations his widow and children were involved in a possible coverup of his death were baseless and should be dismissed. He said he filed an appeal for their release.

Febres had known he possessed risky information, gleaned as a former officer at the Navy Mechanics' School, the dictatorship's main secret torture center, according to excerpts of a legal document published by the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin.

The document quotes Judge Salgado saying that Febres had made a "clear decision" to discuss his alleged role in military repression and "perhaps the destiny of children born in captivity," despite his awareness of the risks associated with implicating others.

At least 88 children born to political prisoners who disappeared during Argentina's dictatorship have been located, according to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group formed by missing prisoners' mothers, now devoted to finding their grandchildren.

Febres' death hinders efforts to track down more missing children — but the current investigation into his killing could pinpoint other abusers who might have wanted him dead, said Estela de Carlotto, president of the grandmothers' group.

"I've always thought that they killed him to silence him," she told The Associated Press. "He was in the very place where our grandchildren were born and then given away while their mothers were killed."

At trial last year, witnesses testified that Febres had been a fierce torturer regularly seen at the Navy Mechanics' School.

He died four days before a verdict was to be handed down in the case against him — a moment when defendants are afforded time to speak in open court.

Prosecutors say the military regime's seven-year "Dirty War" against dissent claimed nearly 13,000 lives. Activists put the death toll closer to 30,000.
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Postby judasdisney » Fri Jan 11, 2008 7:23 am

Italy seeks extradition of 139 suspects in South America's Dirty War
Associated Press

Italy is requesting the extradition of more than 100 former South American leaders and their underlings over the disappearance, torture and death of Italians who were caught up in a crackdown on dissent in the 1970s and '80s, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Authorities have made the requests for 139 people involved in the military dictatorships of Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay and accused in the kidnapping and murder of 25 Italian dissidents, said Giancarlo Capaldo, the lead prosecutor in the case.

The suspects include Argentina's former junta leader Jorge Videla and Uruguay's former dictator Juan Bordaberry. Capaldo said he expects replies to the extradition requests from various governments in the coming months.

But in an interview with The Associated Press in his office, he said court proceedings could go ahead even if the officials are not extradited, as Italian law allows suspects to be tried in absentia.

"The families of the victims who did not receive justice have come to us because in their countries no trials were held for these facts," Capaldo said. "Even after so many years, there is a need for justice to be done."

Other European countries have attempted to try those allegedly involved in the so-called Dirty War, but their efforts have often failed or resulted in convictions in absentia.

All those named in Capaldo's probe are under investigation for kidnapping and multiple counts of aggravated murder. If brought to trial in Italy, they could be given life sentences.

"I hope there will be a collaboration that will help the world's public opinion understand what happened in those years," Capaldo said, adding that he has already had informal contacts with magistrates in South America and in other European countries that have sought to prosecute Dirty War suspects.

Capaldo said he began his investigation in 1998 following complaints by the victims' relatives and slowly widened the probe to include not only those materially responsible for the crimes but also the leaders and officers who orchestrated a region-wide search for opposition members.

Under the plan, known as Operation Condor, the authoritarian governments that dominated South America worked together to crack down on rebels and political dissidents, resulting in the death and disappearance of unknown thousands.

"They were responsible for the Condor plan and they made it possible for this repression mechanism to work," Capaldo said.

Officials sought by Capaldo include Argentine Navy chief Adm. Emilio Eduardo Massera, who was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison in Argentina, and Navy officer Juan Carlos Larcebeau. Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was also under investigation until his death in 2006.

The Italian victims listed in the case include Juan Montiglio, a guard of Chilean President Salvador Allende who was arrested, tortured and killed during the 1973 coup staged by Pinochet, Capaldo said. Also investigated was the death of a former priest in Chile and the disappearance of a member of an Argentine leftist guerrilla group who was seized in 1980 at Rio de Janeiro's airport.

So far, Capaldo's probe has yielded only one arrest: Nestor Jorge Fernandez Troccoli, a former Navy intelligence officer from Uruguay who recently became an Italian citizen and resident, was arrested last month near the southern city of Salerno. Capaldo plans to seek charges against him for the disappearance of six Italian dissidents in Uruguay.

Troccoli's lawyer, Adolfo Domingo Scarano, said that the 60-year-old former officer had acknowledged conducting interrogations during Bordaberry's regime but was not involved in or aware of any kidnappings, torture or killings.

"There is no valid proof for any of the accusations," Scarano said by telephone.

Italy has received an extradition request for Troccoli from Uruguay, but the Justice Ministry, which must rule on these requests, is likely to give precedence to the Italian trial, Capaldo said.

Several of those being sought by Italy are also facing prosecution at home for human rights abuses, among them Videla and Bordaberry, who seized control of Uruguay with military backing during a 1973 coup.

Bordaberry was detained in late 2006 and faces 14 homicide charges related to Dirty War killings. He is under house arrest due to health problems.

Videla is also under house arrest in Buenos Aires, while he is prosecuted on a range of human rights charges, and already has numerous pending extradition requests from European nations. Argentine authorities have generally opposed granting such requests, saying prosecution at home takes precedence in cases of suspected crimes committed on Argentine soil.

Italy has gone after Dirty War suspects before. In March, a court gave life sentences to five former members of Argentina's military tried in absentia for murdering three Italians in the 1970s.

Spain attempted to try Pinochet, having him arrested in London in 1998 on a warrant issued by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon. Pinochet was later ruled too frail to stand trial and allowed to return home.

Garzon also indicted Argentine junta-era officer Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, who was extradited from Mexico City to Madrid in 2003 and faces genocide, terrorism and other charges.

In 1990, a French court sentenced former Argentine naval Capt. Alfredo Astiz in absentia to life in prison for the abduction of two French nuns who were taken to a clandestine torture center in Buenos Aires and later disappeared.
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Postby judasdisney » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:12 am

Mexico Launches Search For 'Dirty War' Evidence

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 3, 2008; A18

MEXICO CITY, Feb. 2 -- Teams of investigators and archaeological specialists searched the site of a former military base in western Mexico on Saturday for remains of victims of Mexico's "dirty war."

Human rights activists said the search in the city of Atoyac de Alvarez was believed to be one of the largest ever undertaken in Mexico and represented a landmark in a decades-long struggle to uncover atrocities allegedly committed by the country's military from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

"We consider this a great conquest in the fight to clarify what happened during that time," activist Alejandro Ju¿rez Zepeda, a spokesman for the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, said in an interview.

Atoyac de Alvarez, a city of about 60,000 northwest of Acapulco, was the scene of key clashes between rights activists and the Mexican military. Rebels based near there are suspected of having robbed banks and operated kidnapping rings to fund their battle against the authoritarian government. Rights activists who lived in the city often demonstrated for an end to one-party rule, equal rights for all Mexicans and economic changes to diminish the huge gap between rich and poor.

Mexico's army responded by sending troops to the area. Rights groups say that at least 470 people disappeared from the city during the crackdown and are presumed dead. That's more than disappeared from any other city in Mexico, which registered more than 1,200 disappearances nationwide.

Residents say they believe that many of those who disappeared from Atoyac de Alvarez are buried in crude graves at the former military base, where local government buildings now stand.

Saturday's search followed months of negotiations between rights groups and the government. Ju¿rez Zepeda and other activists have long accused the government of refusing to accept responsibility for the dirty war. A spokeswoman for the Mexican attorney general's office, which headed the search, confirmed that investigators have begun looking for remains but declined to provide details.

Ju¿rez Zepeda said the search had been delayed because Mexican authorities initially refused to allow observers from rights groups to participate. Authorities eventually agreed to allow observers but refused to let relatives of alleged victims onto the search site, he said.

The remains of at least two supposed dirty war victims were found several years ago during a small-scale search in Atoyac de Alvarez, Ju¿rez Zepeda said. But he added that the discovery of more remains would bolster efforts to persuade the international human rights court to conduct hearings on the conflict.

"We don't know the number of bodies, where they are buried or how they were killed," Ju¿rez Zepeda said. "But this search could bring us some clarity."
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Postby judasdisney » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:14 am

'Dirty war' secrets die with defendant
By Patrick J. McDonnell
Los Angeles Times
February 6, 2008


Hector Febres was the man who knew too much.

And, like a spy-novel character damned with an excess of secrets, Febres met an untimely and grisly end: He was poisoned in his cell in December.

That is the recent conclusion of Argentine investigators in the death of the former Coast Guard officer, who was awaiting a verdict and sentencing on charges of torture. The case arose from Febres' service decades earlier at the former dictatorship's most notorious clandestine detention center.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 10, authorities say, someone slipped the 66-year-old a lethal dose of cyanide, possibly in a glass of water. At the time, he was passing another evening in the ample suite at a Coast Guard base where he had lived a comfortable, if confined, existence for much of the past nine years, as the case against him proceeded slowly.

Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, who is overseeing the investigation, rejected earlier speculation about suicide and ruled this month that Febres probably was murdered to keep him silent. Who killed him remains a mystery.

As his long-delayed verdict on charges of torturing four former prisoners approached, authorities say, Febres felt betrayed by his former military colleagues. He might have been on the verge of coughing up some sensational secrets from the regime's "dirty war" against what it called communist sympathizers.

Among the most anticipated potential revelations: the fate of newborns stolen from female prisoners. The mothers were killed in one of the more macabre legacies of the 1976-83 military rule.

"Febres took all those cases to the tomb with him," said Liliana Mazea, a human-rights attorney.

The judge in January ordered the arrest of two of Febres' jailers, who were accused of providing access to the killer or killers.

And, in a bizarre twist, prosecutors charged Febres' widow and his two grown children, a son and a daughter, with helping to cover up the crime. The three deny any wrongdoing and were released after three weeks in custody after Febres' death.

The family members still stand accused of tampering with items at the crime scene, including Febres' computer, which was removed from his cell. Authorities suspect electronic data was erased or stolen. The family dined with Febres at his cell the night before his death.

The prisoner was poisoned soon after, Salgado wrote, to "prevent Febres from betraying his pact of silence for the crimes committed in the ESMA."

That is the Spanish acronym for the Naval Mechanics School, the stately, white-colonnaded building along a main drag here that was a depot of death for thousands of "disappeared." Some were drugged after torture and dumped into the ocean from aircraft; others were executed and buried anonymously. The former detention center is now a memorial museum.

Febres was not one of the "dirty war" big names like the gray rogues-gallery of aging former generals, colonels and police chiefs in the dock awaiting trial. He was a military cop who became a key administrator, a paper-pusher who, literally, knew were all the bodies were buried. One of his nicknames: "Savage," for his vicious comportment.

Accounts from survivors of the naval lockup indicate that Febres might have overseen the records that documented prisoners' comings and goings.

Those records, which could provide clues to the fates of legions of disappeared, have never been found.

Moreover, Febres is said to have overseen pregnant women, methodically killed once their infants were born. Human-rights activists say as many as 500 babies might have been stolen nationwide and placed in "good" families, many with ties to the military and police.

Was Febres, facing life behind bars far from the cushy digs where he spent his last years, poised to spill the beans on baby-snatching and other crimes? Did he squirrel away crucial details and records on his computer? Those are major unanswered questions.

"I think he did mean to use it [his information] as a form of negotiating something," Victoria Donda, an Argentine congresswoman, told the daily Clarin newspaper.

Donda was among the progeny of the infamous naval facility, born there in captivity in 1977. Her parents were disappeared. She discovered her true identity years later. Febres, she says, likely made the arrangements.

"I don't know if I'll ever know the name of the person who pushed my mother out of a plane," Donda said, "but at least I'd like to see justice for the one who took me from her arms."
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Postby judasdisney » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:16 am

Argentine dirty war trial opens
Tue Feb 5, 2008 1:32 PM ET

The last army chief from Argentina's dictatorship and five other retired officers went on trial Tuesday for their alleged roles in the illegal detentions and torture of dissidents during military rule.

Cristino Nicolaides, an 80-year-old former general and the head of the army when de facto military rule ended in 1983, was the lead defendant in the trial in northeastern Corrientes province. He did not attend the proceedings for unspecified health reasons, government news agency Telam said.

A three-judge panel is trying Nicolaides along with three other former army officers and two ex-members of the military police for their alleged roles in the abduction of five political prisoners who disappeared during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

Nicolaides remains under house arrest.

Prosecutors said they will call 30 survivors of a former clandestine detention center to the witness stand, while the defense plans to summon at least 50 witnesses, mostly former military officers.

It is the first dictatorship-era human rights trial to be held in Corrientes province.

Argentina's Supreme Court annulled a pair of 1980s amnesty laws in 2005, clearing the way for former state security agents and their civilian allies to be called into court. A handful of trials have led to convictions but President Cristina Fernandez has urged courts to speed up the trials.

Nearly 13,000 people are listed officially as dead or missing from the military era. Human rights groups put the toll closer to 30,000.

In a separate trial last December, Nicolaides and seven other former army officers were convicted on a range of charges linked to the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of leftist guerrillas seized by the regime. He received a 25-year prison sentence.
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Argentina arrests 2 in 1972 massacre

Postby judasdisney » Sun Feb 10, 2008 9:22 pm

Argentina arrests 2 in 1972 massacre

Argentine federal police arrested two retired military officers on Saturday in connection with the massacre of 16 leftist guerrillas in 1972 on a military base in the Patagonian city of Trelew.

According to the state news agency Telam, the detainees are Paccagnini Ruben, 81, who captained a ship and headed the military base Almirante Zar Trelew, and Emilio Del Real, 73, a frigate captain who allegedly was at the Aug. 22, 1972 shooting of the guerrillas.

They face charges of torture, homicide, attempted homicide and illegal detentions. It was not immediately known if they have lawyers.

Police and Federal Judge Hugo Sastre, who is handling the case, could not be reached.

In August 1972, 22 members of guerrilla groups escaped from prison in the city of Rawson and took over the airport in nearby Trelew, about 800 miles south of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Military forces guarding the airport managed to arrest 19, while three escaped by plane to Chile.

The 19 guerrillas were transferred to the base Almirante Zar, where they were machine-gunned in their cells. Alberto Camps, Mary Berger and Ricardo Haidar survived the attack and reported the crime — only to disappear in the late 1970s during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983.

Nearly 13,000 people are listed officially as dead or missing from the military era, when authorities waged a bloody campaign against dissidents known as the dirty war. Human rights groups put the toll closer to 30,000.

Police also are looking for former Marine Capt. Luis Emilio Sosa, Lt. Roberto Guillermo Bravo and Carlos Marandino to face charges of torture, homicide, attempted homicide and illegal detentions.
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Postby judasdisney » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:30 pm

Adopted Argentine sues dirty war parents
by MAYRA PERTOSSI, Associated Press Writer Tue Feb 19, 2008

A 30-year-old woman is suing her adoptive parents for kidnapping in a case that opened in an Argentine court Tuesday, becoming the first child of disappeared political prisoners to press such charges.

Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragan accused her adoptive parents Osvaldo Rivas and Maria Cristina Gomez Pinto of falsifying adoption documents to hide her identity. She made no comments on leaving court Tuesday.

Thousands of leftists and dissidents vanished after being abducted by security forces during Argentina's 1976-1983 military regime, and human rights groups say more than 200 their children were taken and given to military or politically connected families to raise.

Sampallo, who in 2001 learned that she is the daughter of missing political prisoners Mirta Mable Barragan and Leonardo Ruben Sampallo, is one of 88 young people who determined their identity with DNA tests coordinated by the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Sampallo's mother was six months pregnant when she and her father were abducted on Dec. 6, 1977, said Sampallo's lawyer, Tomas Ojea Quentin. He said Sampallo was born in February 1978, while her mother was being held at a clandestine torture center.

Ojea Quentin said former army captain Enrich Berthier is facing related baby theft charges in the case. He is being held at a military unit, while Sampallo's adoptive parents are reportedly free.

Lawyers for Berthier and the Gomez Pintos declined to comment when they left the courthouse where an Associated Press writer and other journalists were waiting.

The case marks the first time a woman has taken her adoptive parents to court in Argentina. There have been at least three earlier trials involving suspected illegal adoptions dating to the dictatorship that resulted in convictions — but the plaintiffs were not the adopted children.

Also Tuesday, a former military officer wanted in connection with the 1972 execution of 16 leftist guerrillas surrendered, hours after returning from the United States, government news agency Telam said.

Carlos Marandino is the fourth former naval officer arrested this month on torture and murder charges linked to the "Trelew Massacre" of 16 leftist rebels who fled an Argentine prison, presaging the excesses of Argentina's so-called dirty war.

Marandino walked off a jet at Buenos Aires's Ezeiza Airport and was detained, Telam reported.

Marandino's co-defendants include Ruben Paccagnini, 81, former head of the Almirante Zar Trelew southern military base; Emilio Del Real, 73, a frigate captain who allegedly witnessed the 1972 executions; and Luis Emilio Sosa, 73, a former navy captain who allegedly captured the escapees.

Lawyers for the three men have protested their innocence, but it was not immediately known if Marandino had hired a lawyer.

Some 25 leftist guerrillas escaped a southern Argentine penitentiary in a 1972 jailbreak. Six fled by plane to Chile, where they were granted political asylum and allowed to proceed to Cuba. The other 19 were taken to a nearby naval base, where 16 were shot dead in their cells, prosecutors say.
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Postby judasdisney » Tue Feb 26, 2008 7:49 am

Guatemala to Declassify Military Papers

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A new panel will work to declassify military documents that should shed light on killings, torture and other human rights violations during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, President Alvaro Colom announced Monday.

The documents will likely include details on the role of the military and the presidential guards, both of which have been accused of carrying out atrocities during the war that ended in 1996 and killed some 200,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians.

"We hope the archives will serve to clarify the history surrounding these human rights violations," the commission's chief, Orlando Blanco told The Associated Press.

His panel will study which papers should be declassified under a constitutional requirement that government documents be made public automatically unless their release compromises national security.

A spokesman was not immediately available to comment for the military, which has historically kept its documents under lock and key and fought almost all public requests to see them.

Blanco said it could take months to locate and sort through all the files and determine which will be released.

Colom announced the new team at a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of a U.N. report that found the army responsible for 95 percent of human rights violations during the war.

Army officials have called the report exaggerated and say they took actions that were necessary to fight a guerrilla uprising.
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