McSherry, J Patrice


From the 1960s to the 1980s Latin America was convulsed by violence as military-security forces carried out a ruthless “war against subversion.” A wave of U.S-backed military coups swept the region and repressive, right-wing military rule was instituted in almost every country. These states, which I term national security states, were characterized by their systematic use of terror, including death squads, to subdue their populations. In this article 1 use Bruce B. CampbelPs definition of death squads as “clandestine and usually irregular organizations, often paramilitary in nature, which carry out extrajudicial executions and other violent acts” ‘ against specifically targeted persons, in this case, “subversives.” Death squads are almost invariably state-sponsored or state-condoned; they are instruments of state terror. Death squads-anonymous gangs of men that appear autonomous and that use terrorist methods such as bombings, disappearance, extrajudicial execution, and torture-act to terrorize society as a whole as well as to claim individual victims.

This article examines the Uruguayan state’s creation of several death squads to fight “the war against subversion” and solidify repressive control of Uruguayan society, first within its territory, and then outside it, in the framework of Operation Condor. Death squads emerged in 1970 and 71, while Uruguay was still nominally a democracy. The Uruguayan armed forces seized power and imposed a dictatorship in 1973. Condor, formed in late 1973-early 1974, was a secret intelligence and operations system among the South American military regimes that enabled multinational death squads to carry out cross-border political repression, spreading the anticommunist dirty wars across the region. Condor death squads-composed of paramilitary, parapolice, and civilian members-functioned as an integral part of broader counterinsurgency or “counterterror” campaigns. Counterterror, in military parlance, is “the use of terror to fight terror.”

The article argues that the death squads that emerged in Uruguay and elsewhere in Latin America in this era were parallel forces created and used by states as counterinsurgency tools. They resulted from a strategic and calculated choice by state elites seeking to neutralize social sectors that were demanding a fairer distribution of economic resources and political power. The death squads were instruments used to command and control civilian populations through the use of terror, and were part and parcel of unconventional warfare strategies and national security doctrine condoned by elite groups as well as Washington. Most importantly, the system of state terror was international, sustained by arms, technology, finances, and other forms of support from Washington and the collusion of Latin American military regimes, united in the inter-American military system as well as the covert Operation Condor. Inspired by a national security doctrine that legitimized harsh and illegal methods against “internal enemies,” U.S-backed counterinsurgents built a parallel apparatus, a set of invisible structures and forces of the state, in order to eliminate political opposition while ensuring deniability. The case of Uruguay reveals the tight interconnections among U.S. military and police training programs, inter-American counterinsurgency strategies, right-wing death squads, and the Condor system of cross-border political repression. Theoretically, the case of Uruguay sheds light on why, and when, states form death squads.


In Latin America the postwar era was a time of social awakening and political mobilization.2 Millions of Latin Americans lived in conditions of socioeconomic inequality, poverty and economic hardship, lack of democracy, and authoritarianism, and many began to demand new rights in the 1960s and 70s. These new forces, inspired by rising Third World nationalism and, in some cases, by the 1959 Cuban revolution, struggled to end generations of political and social exclusion. Militant social movements emerged and new leaders such as João Goulart in Brazil and Salvador Allende in Chile moved to build more egalitarian political and socioeconomic orders. State power seemed to be shifting to non-elite social sectors. Witnessing this tide of social change, the U.S. government and its anticommunist allies in the region feared that their long-standing hegemony was under threat and that “communism” was spreading. Washington and its pro-capitalist, anticommunist allies moved to contain and defeat the new progressive forces in Latin America.

Military and security forces allied in the inter-American military system adopted a Cold War national security doctrine (NSD) that targeted “internal enemies” and interpreted dissent and social activism as signs of communist subversion.3 The NSD gave the militaries a messianic mission: to remake their states and societies and eliminate actual, or potential, “subversion.” Unionists, peasant leaders, party activists, students, teachers, priests, nuns, and opposition leaders-in short, whole social sectors-were targeted as well as armed insurgents. Moreover, brutal, extralegal methods were considered legitimate and necessary in a total war against subversion. U.S. national security strategists (who feared “another Cuba”) and their Latin American counterparts regarded large sectors of Latin American societies as potentially or actually subversive. They especially feared leftist or nationalist leaders who were popularly elected, thus giving their ideas legitimacy. In short, the “war against subversion” was not restricted to guerrillas. Leftist and nationalist leaders were also under attack, as demonstrated in the case of Chile by the strenuous covert efforts of President Richard Nixon, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, and the Central Intelligence Agency to, first, prevent Allende’s presidency and then subvert it.

Since the late 1940s Washington had employed covert operations, using secret paramilitary forces, to shape political events in foreign lands and pursue perceived U.S. economic, political, and military interests. As one expert has noted, paramilitary operations “can be more accurately described as secret wars, the most extreme form of covert action.”4 In Guatemala, one such secret war in 1954 resulted in the overthrow of progressive Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz,5 bringing the Cold War to Latin America. U.S. covert operations made use of local paramilitary fighters and guerrillas, including socalled “stay-behind armies” in Europe that incorporated rightist extremists in the anticommunist cause. In 1950 the CIA also began experimenting with new methods of torture, diffused in the 1960s to Latin American security forces.6 Under the Kennedy administration (1961-63) the Special Forces were created to specialize in counterinsurgency and irregular or unconventional warfare. By the early 1960s U.S. security strategists were incorporating French counterinsurgency doctrine and tactics to carry out the anticommunist wars, and Washington pressured Latin American governments and militaries to combine forces against subversion. U.S. training and doctrine included the use of terrorism, sabotage, and subversion as tools of paramilitary warfare,7 tactics that were enthusiastically adopted by many Latin American security forces. The CIA and the Special Forces were the key advocates, trainers, and advisers of counterinsurgency warfare on the ground in Latin America.

While politically repressive regimes had existed before in the region, including the use of secret police in some countries, the creation of parallel forces and the widespread use of extralegal methods were linked to postwar counterinsurgency warfare and national security doctrine. The systematic use of death squads and mass “disappearances,” for example, appeared first in the 1960s, in Guatemala. Using plainclothes paramilitary and parapolice forces, government elites could augment the power of the state, hunt insurgents, and control populations, while avoiding accountability. I define parastatal forces (or the parallel state) as the forces and infrastructure of “black world” special operations created by military-intelligence commanders. Paramilitary and intelligence units were formed to carry out covert political and coercive actions and psychological warfare, operating outside lawful state action. These lethal groups appeared to be autonomous, but in reality reported to top commanders, bypassing ordinary chains of command; they had a secret command structure and operated secretly within military and security organizations. Parastatal forces allowed the national security states to circumvent legal boundaries and civilized norms, but covertly; it was, in essence, a strategy to insure impunity. Thus, death squads created as covert forces to fight dirty wars were a key element of the parallel state.

Also part of the parallel state was the vast shadow infrastructure that included secret prisons, fleets of unmarked cars and unregistered aircraft, unofficial cemeteries, secure communications and computer systems, false papers and documentation, and other parallel structures funded by “black budgets.” The grupos de tareos-essentially death squads-created in the 1960s and 70s in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and elsewhere carried out disappearances, torture, executions, assassinations, and illegal transfers across borders (in the Condor system). Death squads as parastatal forces allowed the state to accomplish “unofficially” (or, in the parlance of Condor operatives, par izquierda) what the state wanted to avoid doing openly. In Latin America the use of such parallel forces grew exponentially in conjunction with U.S. training programs,8 and new patterns of repression appeared throughout the region in the 1960s and 70s. The widespread appearance of parastatal death squads, torture, disappearance and other forms of terror represented a terrifying new form of political repression-and a form deniable by the state.

After five Uruguayans disappeared in Argentina in April 1976, for example, the Campaign for the Abolition of Torture wrote: “The alarming reports of violent activities by rightwing squads-which have frequently singled out de facto refugees from other Latin American countries for harassment and assassination-plus increasing evidence of police collaboration between security agencies of Argentina and neighboring countries, warrant immediate appeals… “9 The violence described was the work of Condor squads, acting as a parallel force precisely to conceal state involvement and direction. The existence of the transnational system and its code name were not known at the time.

There is a growing scholarly literature on death squads and state terror. One classic work by E.V. Walter shows that the state’s ultimate aim in using terror is to demobilize political opposition in society, thus solidifying power relations.10 Michael Stohl, Miles Wolpin” and others have argued that state elites employ a cost-benefit analysis when deciding on coercive instruments, calculating the efficacy of terrorist methods. In other words, state terror is not “inevitable.” Jeffrey Sluka argues that “strong” states, not only “weak” ones, may choose the methods of terror. State terror is not simply a response to “threats from below,” a formulation that implicitly places blame upon sectors of society that may be protesting inequitable or unjust conditions. Strong states may use terrorist methods to consolidate their rule, exert social control, and prevent future threats to their dominance.12 My own work has posited that the United States, a strong state, has acted to preserve its global hegemony through a preventive strategy, moving to set up counterinsurgency structures and parallel forces in client states even in the absence of internal threats.13 Bill Rolston has documented that democratic as well as nondemocratic states may use terror.14 He examines the presence of British intelligence agents in loyalist death squads in Northern Ireland, and shows that in this case a democratic state was intimately involved in terror, and indeed, regarded the rule of law and other democratic safeguards as obstacles to be overcome. Rolston’s work indicates that the decision to use death squads is motivated by state elites’ desire to act against an “enemy” rapidly and murderously, bypassing normal legal processes. Ted R. Gurr, significantly, links the state’s use of terror to the formation and long-term existence of countertenor or political police units, which provide ready instruments for clandestine operations.” Especially after the Cuban revolution, Washington moved to create precisely these types of structures in Latin America, in conjunction with the region’s security forces, to combat-and prevent-social movements that challenged the status quo.

U.S. “modernization” (and in some cases, creation) of military, intelligence, and police institutions in Latin America during the Cold War greatly strengthened the region’s repressive forces. Martha Muggins16 has shown that U.S. financing, training, and advice to police in Brazil were designed to ensure U.S. influence within, and access to, the force and to develop U.S. “assets”~personnel loyal to U.S. interests. She demonstrates that foreign police training-and similarly, for our purposes, training of military and intelligence forces~by a powerful modern state is designed to advance the offering country’s own security agenda. U.S. officials claimed that assistance to the Brazilian police would promote professionalism, democracy, and justice, but in actuality it had the opposite effect. Police who employed terrorism, torture, death squads, and the like were rewarded with continuing U.S. assistance, financing, and cooperation. Huggins’ book provides a rich case study of the ways in which U.S. security assistance centralized Brazil’s internal security services and made them more militarized and authoritarian. Washington financed, trained, and assisted most of the Latin American military and police forces in similar ways, and, through the continental military system, fostered a hemispheric counterrevolutionary regime.

In Latin America counterinsurgency warfare spawned death squads in a number of countries where none had existed before. NACLA research in 1974 showed that “the countries with the most active para-police assassination squads-Brazil, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay-[were] also the recipients of the largest U.S. police training grants in the region.17Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman showed that in Latin America, all ten states in which death squads had appeared in the 1970s were tightly linked to U.S. military aid and training programs. Additionally, 74% of the other states in the world that used torture on a regular basis were clients of the U.S. government.”18 A 1981 report by Lars Schoultz demonstrated that during the 1970s U.S. aid tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments that tortured their citizens. Three of the six most repressive states, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay-all Condor members-received 69% of the total military aid to Latin America in 1975. Schoultz’s quantitative survey showed that five of the six Condor countries were the most repressive in the region, and also were among the top recipients of U.S. military and economic aid in 1975-76. Schoultz concluded that U.S. aid was distributed disproportionately to countries with repressive governments, and that this represented not a few isolated cases but a clear pattern.19

The Latin American death squads used similar forms of torture such as the submarino, near-drowning of a bound prisoner. Such methods were considered legitimate under the brutal national security doctrine, in which the ends justified the means-and were endorsed by the United States.20 Significantly, in 2005 CIA Director Porter Goss (a former ClA officer who ran Cold War covert operations in Latin America) defended the U.S. use of “waterboarding” against prisoners in the “war on terror”-a practice identical to the submarino -as “a professional interrogation technique.”21

The use of death squads and torture was aimed not only to neutralize specific victims, but also to instill fear and dread in entire societies, as E.V. Walter argued. The objectives were to create political paralysis in the population, to force people to choose sides between the government and the opposition, and to “teach a lesson” about challenging the status quo, demanding change, supporting insurgencies, or criticizing governments. The darker aspect of targeting civilians-a violation of the Geneva Accords22 – continues to be a central tenet of counterinsurgency doctrine, as was revealed during a 2005 Pentagon debate regarding whether U.S. Special Forces should train and lead abduction or assassination teams in Iraq. The problem was that the Sunni population, while not actively supporting the insurgents, still did not turn them in. One military source told a Newsweek reporter that new offensive operations were needed to create a fear of aiding (even if passively) the insurgency. He said, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”23 In Latin America during the Cold War, a similar mentality, and policy, led to state terror and massive violations of human rights. General Paul Gorman, chief of the Southern Command, acknowledged in 1984 that targeting civilians was a deliberate military objective. He said that counterinsurgency was “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”24

Operation Condor’s cross-border death squads represented a fearsome new phenomenon in Latin America: a supranational strike force of the national security states. Condor was characterized by its specialization in cross-border and foreign operations against exiles; its multinational character; its precise and selective targeting of dissidents; its parastatal structure; its advanced technology; and its use of criminal syndicates and extremist organizations to carry out operations.25 Condor was a top-secret component of the hemispheric military system. The Condor system’s key members were the military regimes of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil, laterjoined by Ecuador and Peru in less central roles. Condor also enjoyed organizational, intelligence, financial, and technological sustenance from the United States, acting as a secret partner and sponsor.

Declassified documents show that top U.S. leaders and national security officials considered the Condor system an effective weapon in the hemispheric anticommunist crusade. Key branches of the U.S. state, namely the executive, the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA, were not only closely informed of Condor operations but also supplied significant assistance and sustenance to the Condor system, trained, advised, and funded its personnel, and actively collaborated with some of Condor’s extralegal seizures of exiled political activists. The CIA provided state-of-the-art computers to the Condor system and U.S. security agencies provided intelligence and cooperation. Condor was granted authorized access to the U.S. continental communications system housed in the Panama Canal Zone, vastly upgrading Condor’s ability to track and seize individuals.26 Uruguay was one of the Condor system’s most zealous protagonists.

In sum, the Cold War counterinsurgency regime in the hemisphere was a continental effort led by Washington, in conjunction with anticommunist elites and military forces, to prevent or reverse structural change and block leftists from coming to power. The use of parallel forces and illegal methods was a strategic choice, legitimized by national security doctrine and by concepts of irregular warfare. Overall, counterinsurgency warfare-conducted in the shadows, using parallel forces and secret armies operating outside lawful state action-was a means to demobilize popular movements, terrorize society, and solidify military and elite power.


For generations preceding the Cold War Uruguay had been famously known as the Switzerland of South America due to its longstanding social democracy, its historic prosperity, its fine education and heath care systems, and its peaceful society.27 Unlike many of the other Latin American militaries, Uruguay’s armed forces (like Chile’s) had not used violence or repression against the population; they were constitutionalist and mainly carried out civic tasks. The political system was open and there was a full spectrum of political tendencies. Along with the traditional Blanco and Colorado parties, the Communist Party, which was legal until 1975, played a strong role in Uruguay’s labor unions and also garnered a small percentage of the vote. But Uruguay began to face difficult times in the 1950s. International prices for Uruguay’s products fell and the landowning elite resisted modernization of agriculture. Right-wing sectors of the landed oligarchy bitterly resented President José Batlle’s social democratic policies. In 1950 an anticommunist radio personality named Benito Nardone formed the Federal League for Rural Action to oppose the welfare state. The Blanco Party, representing ranching and agro interests, won power in 1958 and began to implement free-market policies; Uruguay’s first accord with the International Monetary Fund was signed in 1960. Foreign capital increasingly displaced the state in key industrial sectors. Nardone went on to become president of the country in 1960-61-and he was secretly a CIA “agent of influence.”28

There were strikes and work stoppages as wages fell. The Communists formed an alliance with other small parties in the Leftist Liberty Front in the early 1960s, and Catholics formed the Christian Democratic Party. In 1963 a young sugarcane organizer named Raul Sendic created the National Liberation Movement-rwpamaras (MLN-T), a revolutionary group. The Tupamaros first worked mainly to improve conditions for the impoverished sugar workers. In 1964 the Uruguayan unions united in the National Convention of Workers (CNT), and began to play a more powerful role. Jorge Pacheco Areco became president in 1967 and, within a week, banned several leftist parties and decreed a wage and price freeze, resulting in a steep decline of real wages. Standards of living plunged and hunger spread, especially in rural areas. In that year, frustrated and disillusioned by Pacheco’s authoritarianism and angry at increasing torture of their members by police, the Tupamaros declared that they were taking up arms.29 They mainly carried out “Robin Hood” actions at first, stealing food to hand out in poor neighborhoods and exposing government corruption.

In 1968 Pacheco declared a state of emergency and, invoking the Medidas Prontas de Seguridad (measures granted under the constitution that sharply limited civil and political rights), imposed a form of martial law. As the labor confederation CNT protested and called strikes to oppose Pacheco’s policies, the president responded with more repression. In one 1968 demonstration a student named Liber Arce was killed in a hail of police bullets, causing a public outcry. As noted in Nunca Mas (an accounting of the dictatorship and its methods) Uruguayans increasingly rejected Pacheco’s autocratic measures, which violated “a series of rights and guarantees deeply engrained in Uruguayan society, such as the inviolability of the home, the principle of habeas corpus, the guarantee of due process, freedom of the press, respect for the legitimacy of parliamentary decisions…and limits on police functions.”30 Meanwhile, the audacious acts of the Tupamaros infuriated and humiliated the police and military. At this stage the guerrillas mainly attacked symbolic targets. On August 1, 1970 the New York Times wrote, “Unlike other Latin American guerrilla groups, the Tupamaros normally avoid bloodshed when possible. They try instead to create embarrassment for the Government and general disorder.”

During this period hundreds of Uruguayan police and military officers were sent to training sessions at the International Police Academy in Washington and the Army School of the Americas in Panama. U.S. intelligence officers took advantage of the training to gather information on the domestic political situation and to recruit trainees for intelligence operations at home.31 Meanwhile, the U.S. Office of Public Safety (OPS) in Uruguay, a police training program set up in 1964 under the auspices of the Agency for International Development (AID), played a key role in reshaping the Uruguayan police. (A 1962 State Department document noted that the CIA used the program to carry out covert operations in other countries, remarking that “the Agency has personnel integrated in the police training programs of AID.”32) The OPS was to acquire an unsavory image by 1970, as information linking the program with torture in Vietnam and elsewhere around the world, and outlining its connections to the CIA, became known. In 1974 the U.S. Congress abolished police training funded through the Public Safety Program after accumulating documented evidence that the program trained and financed officers who carried out torture and assassination in their home countries.33 In Uruguay the U.S program was instrumental in fostering death squads and political terrorism, as shown here.

William Cantrell, an OPS adviser in Uruguay between 1966 and 1970, was a covert CIA officer who completely reorganized the Uruguayan police. He financed and oversaw the creation of a new intelligence organization, the National Directorate of Information and Intelligence (Dirección Nacional de Informaciones e Inteligencia, DNII), to replace the existing police structure. As he set up DNII Cantrell maneuvered to marginalize the police chief, Alejandro Otero, who opposed torture. In the reorganization led by Cantrell, the existing Departamento de Investigación y Enlace, headed by Otero, was converted into a small piece of the new DNII. Otero even found Cantrell searching his office.34 In 1966 the use of torture against political prisoners began for the first time.

Cantrell developed DNII as a key counterinsurgency structure and closely supervised its operations. The police were retrained and reoriented to repress “subversion,” an elastic term that came to signify workers on strike, protesting students, liberal public officials, and other “internal enemies,” including the Tupamaros. The DNII provided copies of all the intelligence it collected-reports, arrest records, interrogation summaries, surveillance photos, tapes of telephone conversations and other material-to the U.S. Embassy on a daily basis.35 Uruguayan expert Clara Aldrighi, using declassified U.S. documents, has shown that “the leadership of the Uruguayan police in its counterinsurgent activities did not reside in the Ministry of the Interior but in the Office of Public Safety in Washington and in the U.S. Embassy.”36 Most significantly, the DNII provided cover for a death squad that carried outbombings and assassinations.

In 1969 Dan Mitrione became head of the Public Safety Office in Montevideo. Soon Mitrione was accused of personally leading, and participating in, torture and interrogation sessions in Uruguay.37 After he arrived, torture of socalled subversives by police markedly increased.38 Former police chief Otero, in a 1970 interview, denounced the new torture techniques imported by Mitrione, which involved “scientific” methods and psychological torment. One such method was to play tapes of screaming children in the next room while telling the prisoner they were his offspring. Otero commented, “The violent methods which were beginning to be employed caused an escalation in Tupamaro activity. Before then their attitude showed that they would use violence only as a last resort.”39 Otero complained directly to Mitrione after a female friend of his told him that Mitrione had watched and assisted in her torture.40 By 1970 torture was a routine occurrence in police stations.

This time period was also marked by the appearance of shadowy rightwing groups that carried out political violence against activists. According to Aldrighi,

The escalation in the dirty war began in January 1969, when a “Comando Oriental Anticomunista” assaulted a union leader of the Uruguayan Health Federation. Between 1970 and 1972 fascist groups, parapolice and paramilitaries, carried out numerous attacks with firebombs or explosives against churches, publishers, houses of militants of the left, against parliamentarians like [Zelmar] Michelin! and Enrique Rodriguez, lawyers of political prisoners…union locals, headquarters of parties… In 1971 Abel Ayala was kidnapped, the first disappearance in Uruguay; a few days later the “Comando Caza Tupamaros” claimed credit for the death of Manuel Ramos Filippini. A few months later Hector Castagnetto and Ibero Gutiérrez were abducted and murdered…”41

Former ClA officer Philip Agée detailed in his 1975 book the involvement of the CIA station in organizing gangs of right-wing civilians to attack demonstrations and strikes such as those described by Aldrighi.42


The CIA played a central role in organizing the repression in Uruguay as well as the foundations of the transnational repressive system that became known as Operation Condor. The CIA was active in Uruguay beginning in the 1950s, when E. Howard Hunt (of Watergate fame) was station chief (1956 to 1960). Hunt boasted that he had recruited the chief of police and the chief of army intelligence and that he and they formed “an operational triumvirate, and to the station’s assets were added not only those of the federal police but of the Uruguayan Army as well.”43 Other covert operations were organized from the U.S. Office of Public Safety (OPS).

The CIA monitored and kept under surveillance exiles in Montevideo fleeing from dictatorships in Paraguay and Brazil in the 1960s-operations later subsumed under Condor^-and in the early 197Os brought death squad thugs from Brazil to Uruguay and Argentina, where they met with police personnel, helped to organize new death squads in these countries, and diffused their methods of torture and kidnapping. CIA officers coordinated meetings between notorious Brazilian operative Sergio Fleury, for example, and police officers in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Fleury was a feared commander of the political police in Brazil, and he was named by literally hundreds of Brazilian political prisoners as a supervisor of their torture.45 The CIA also arranged meetings between rightwing Brazilian officers and anti-Allende Chilean officers in the early 1970s, and put police and military officers from various countries in touch with one another to obtain supplies of weapons and explosives. These contacts led to increased terror and repression in Uruguay and throughout the region, and, eventually, to Operation Condor.

At the urging of Mitrione the Uruguayan government agreed to institute an OPS system of national identification cards. Mitrione had supervised a similar system in Brazil, where he had been stationed previously.46 National ID cards were part of a counterinsurgency strategy, enabling the intelligence apparatus to register all citizens along with key identifying information, an invaluable tool to facilitate surveillance, population control, and repression. Former political prisoners said in 2005 that by the 197Os it appeared that all 3 million Uruguayans were on file in the computerized databases of state intelligence agencies.47

Mitrione had also taught torture techniques to Brazilian police, according to the Catholic Church’s meticulous report on torture in Brazil. Reportedly he pioneered the practice of taking beggars off the street to torture in classrooms.48 He apparently did the same in Uruguay. One of his colleagues, a Cuban who had joined the CIA due to his professed anti-Castro beliefs, was actually a double agent for Cuban intelligence. After leaving the Agency and returning to Cuba he wrote a book about his experience as a CIA man in Uruguay, a book considered credible by former New York Times bureau chief A.J. Langguth.49 The Cuban documented the organization and functioning of what he called a CIA-organized “parallel apparatus” within DNII, some of whose members later joined the Death Squadron.50 He said that Mitrione had constructed a soundproof room for torture sessions. He repeatedly tested it to be sure no sound could escape. Then homeless beggars were seized from the street and used as expendable subjects for torture training. First, there was instruction in anatomy and the human nervous system, the Cuban wrote. Then the homeless were brought in. There was no questioning, only demonstrations of the effect of voltage on the body and the impact of various chemical substances. All four died.51

In 1970, the Tupamaros kidnapped Mitrione, held him in a “people’s jail” and tried him in “a people’s court.” After negotiations for a prisoner exchange with the government failed, the Tupamaros executed Mitrione in August 1970.


The killing of Mitrione caused an immediate crisis. The Nixon administration applied intense pressure on the Uruguayan government to take aggressive action, causing a qualitative change in the repression. The military security forces embarked on a fierce campaign to rout the Tupamaros and their sympathizers. The armed forces assumed direct control of llthe struggle against subversion” and the army, in a combined effort with DNII, carried out a massive countersubversive sweep that extended to the general population. Universities and schools were closed, many persons arrested, and shadowy squads stepped up their bombings, murders, and disappearances. Uruguayan expert Aldrighi argues that the so-called Death Squadron emerged “from the network of agents of the CIA” shortly after Mitrione’s killing. In 1971, some of these people formed an even more select group that began to carry out targeted bombings and disappearances of Tupamaros and their sympathizers.52

One of the Death Squadron’s members was Uruguayan policeman Hugo Campos Hermida, who was trained by the ClA and recruited to death squad operations. He later became a member of the Uruguayan hunter-killer squad that operated in Argentina under the Condor framework. He was one who represented the living linkages among CIA training, police death squads, and Condor. Campos Hermida was close to the Office of Public Safety as well as to the CIA. In 1970 Mitrione had sent Campos Hermida (and Victor Castiglioni, another police officer) to attend intelligence courses in Washington D.C. at the International Police Academy (IPA). Campos Hermida obtained a State Department grant to participate. Philip Agée, the former ClA officer, stated that the CIA ran IPA using AID cover, and scholars have confirmed this relationship.53Campos also attended training courses in Brazil in “squadron operations”-actually death squad operations.54 Documents declassified more recently confirm Campos Hermida’s links to U.S. intelligence. U.S. lists of Uruguayan officers trained in the Office of Public Safety (OPS) program included Campos Hermida, who, like others (such as Pablo Fontana), received instruction in “investigation of terrorist activities.” The CIA had recruited Fontana in 1966. In August 1972 Campos Hermida, then chief of Department 5 of the DNH, wrote to Byron Engle, Director of the U.S. Office of Public Safety (and a CIA officer), on the anniversary of the assassination of Mitrione, to say that he had known and worked with Mitrione and would never forgive his executioners.55

In the early 1970s at least sixteen Uruguayan policemen56 participated in special U.S. courses on the role of military police in counterinsurgency operations, urban guerrilla warfare, and “special investigation techniques” via AID.57 This training took place at the Army School of the Americas, then located in Panama, as well as a “psychological operations school” in Maryland and at the army’s Special Warfare School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.58 Senator James Abourezk (D-S.D.) obtained State Department documents in 1973 proving that U.S. government training of foreign police officers included courses in bomb assembly and use, at a facility in Los Fresnos, Texas. In a letter to the senator, an AID official acknowledged that the Office of Public Safety had instructed police in the design, manufacture, and employment of homemade bombs and incendiary devices, in a course entitled “Technical Investigations” first offered in 1969. The first part of the course was at the International Police Academy in Washington and the second, the “field sessions,” in Texas. In Washington, policemen heard lectures such as “Introduction to Bombs and Explosives,” “Assassination Weapons,” and related subjects, and in Texas, with CIA instructors, they carried out “practical exercises.”59 Death Squadron member Ernesto Motto was a graduate of the School of the Americas.60

In September 1972 the armed forces discovered Raul Sendic, the top leader of the Tupamaros, in a house (he had escaped from prison in September 1971). There was a shootout and Sendic was badly wounded when a bullet destroyed his jaw. As soldiers carried the bleeding militant to an ambulance, Campos Hermida arrived, recognized him, and shouted that it was Sendic and that he should be killed on the spot. In a striking response, the navy officer in charge, Julio Alvarez, retorted that Sendic was his prisoner and no one would touch him.61 The episode highlighted the distinction between the regular military and the parallel forces that operated in its midst, whose mission was to exterminate, not detain, the Tupamaros.


In 1972 the Tupamaros kidnapped Nelson Bardesio, an ambitious police agent who had also been CIA officer CantrelPs driver and confidant.62 Under questioning (without violence, as Bardesio acknowledged), the policeman confirmed the existence of a death squad within the police. He named names of participating officers, including Hugo Campos Hermida and Victor Castiglioni, and admitted his own involvement in the squad. Castiglioni was the director of intelligence of DNII and Campos Hermida was in charge of DNII investigations, Department 5.63 Bardesio also named a Paraguayan who worked with them-documenting the early transnational links that would develop into Condor-Angel Crosas Cuevas. He, Campos Hermida, and several others founded the Death Squadron on the orders of the Ministry of the Interior, Bardesio said.64 Crosas Cuevas was in charge of “special operations,” mandated by Armando Acosta y Lara, the undersecretary of the Interior Ministry, and he recruited Bardesio with the argument that, to confront the Tupamaros, “a violent psychological action”65 was necessary. The Death Squadron planned and executed bombing attacks against a socialist leader, Arturo Dubra; a journalist, Maria Ester Gilio; a lawyer, Alejandro Artucio; and Communist Party leader Manuel Liberoff. Bardesio admitted that the squad had “disappeared” and assassinated Hector Castagnetto and that he had directly participated.66 Bardesio also admitted to personally participating in bombing the houses of Gilio, Artucio, and Liberoff under orders of the Ministry of the Interior. The Death Squadron operated under the protection of President Pacheco (his personal secretary was involved in directing it), when Uruguay was still nominally a democracy.67

In 1970 Bardesio had been assigned a group of five men who would carry out surveillance and would receive training from Servicio de lnteligencia del Estado (SIDE), the Argentine state intelligence service, he said. Bardesio also revealed that the DNII had sent two officers, one of whom was Fontana, to Brazil for training in death squad operations. Bardesio documented the concerted effort to strengthen the links between Brazil and Uruguay’s police. He discussed the role of William Cantrell in the creation of the intelligence structure DNII and said that the American personally controlled large sums of money that he disbursed for DNII operations.68 When Pacheco’s private secretary, Carlos Piran, sent Bardesio and other members of the Death Squadron to Buenos Aires to train with SIDE, they picked up gelignite explosives for use in bombings in Uruguay, he admitted.6′ The explosives were used in bombing the houses of Liberoff and Artucio.70 SIDE also trained them in “antiterrorist activities” as well as surveillance techniques. Bardesio’s confession thus provided key documentation of the Death Squadron as well as the early development of the cross-border collaboration that became Operation Condor.

A few months later, another police officer named Mario Benitez came forward and confirmed much of Bardesio’s information, such as the members of the Death Squadron and many of their operations.71 He met with several parliamentarians, including Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutiérrez Ruiz, and his testimony was included in the official record, El Diario Oficial Nro. 18.837 in June 1972.

A declassified September 1971 cable shows that U.S. ambassador Charles Adair openly discussed the Death Squadron with officials of the Uruguayan Interior Ministry, indicating the embassy’s knowledge of its operations and its government sponsorship. Adair had long been concerned about the overly visible presence of U.S. advisers in Uruguayan counterterror operations, which had sparked denunciations in leftist newspapers. Adair reported that he told the minister: “Re counterterrorism, particularly formation of ‘death squads’ as tactic, I said I would not presume to pass judgment on developments in Uruguay…” The ambassador’s candid acknowledgement of the death squad, and his explicit sanctioning of it as tactic of counterterrorism, was telling. (Adair added for the record that he had told the official that such tactics “generally fail.”)72

In April 1972, Senator Enrique Erro read into the official record the Bardesio documents, detailing the formation of the Death Squadron and the central role of U.S. advisers. When asked directly in 2005 why the Death Squadron was created, a former high-ranking police officer replied, “I think the CIA believed that a dead guerrilla can’t do any more harm. We Uruguayans didn’t think that way. The ClA did think that way.”73 It was striking that the officer, who was very cautious in this interview, seemed to confirm the key CIA role in the creation and sustenance of the Death Squadron.


In November 1971 elections were held in Uruguay. The political environment was tense. Pacheco’s protégé, Juan Maria Bordaberry, was running for president, while, confusingly, another ballot sponsored by Pacheco himself sought to change the constitution to allow him another term. Several leftist parties had formed the new Frenle Amplio coalition, modeled after Allende’s Unidad Popular in Chile, and the Frente had attracted prominent members of the two traditional parties to its ranks. The Frenle was the target of political persecution. During the election campaign Frente presidential candidate Liber Seregni was physically attacked more than once, acts he linked to Brazilian and U.S. CIA agents. The Brazilian military regime had even prepared to invade Uruguay in a plan named Operation 30 Hours. Ballot boxes disappeared and a mysterious power outage occurred when the ballots were being counted.74

Under “the Nixon Doctrine,” the Nixon administration was attempting, in Vietnam and throughout the world, to reduce the numbers and visibility of U.S. personnel in foreign wars and operations, and increase the use of surrogate forces.75 U.S. documents declassified in 2002 made clear that President Richard Nixon feared an Allende-sty Ie electoral victory in Uruguay and that U.S. officials were encouraging the Brazilian and Argentine militaries to take an active role in disrupting the Frente coalition, which was considered even more dangerous than the Tupamaro guerrillas. The support of the United States for sabotaging the democratic process in Uruguay was abundantly clear to the Brazilian and Argentine militaries. U.S. declassified documents show that the Nixon administration considered Brazil’s covert steps to undermine the Uruguayan election to be in the U.S. interest.76 Nixon spoke approvingly of the Brazilian efforts “to rig the Uruguayan election.”77 National security Adviser Kissinger, reporting on a meeting with Brazilian dictator Medici, wrote that he had told the general that “in areas of mutual concern such as the situations in Uruguay and Bolivia, close cooperation and parallel approaches can be very helpful for our common objectives.”78 Kissinger also wrote to Nixon that the Brazilian dictatorship should be encouraged to “play a special role in the hemisphere in furthering our mutual interests.”79 Despite his bland diplomatic language, Kissinger was clearly encouraging the Brazilian military dictator to intervene against the left in neighboring countries and to act as a U.S. proxy in the region.

Argentina’s military regime also planned intervention in Uruguay if the Frente won the election. In a secret August 1971 report, a U.S. embassy official in Buenos Aires wrote that Argentina, preferring to avoid overt intervention, would instead actively support an “auto-coup” by Pacheco. Pacheco’s handpicked successor Bordaberry narrowly won the election, however (the winner was uncertain until February 1972). The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires also was aware of Argentina’s efforts to “strengthen anti-subversive capabilities of GOU [Government of Uruguay] through training and counsel” and revealed that an Argentine “interrogation team [was] dispatched to Montevideo when Tupamaro Raul Sendic was captured.”80 Such sharing of countersubversive techniques, and use of multinational teams to conduct interrogation and torture, were later characteristics of Operation Condor. A secret 1972 U.S. Embassy report detailed the involvement and support of Argentina, Brazil, and possibly Paraguay in Uruguayan counterterrorist operations and death squad forces, again previewing Condor. The Argentine and Brazilian militaries, the report stated,

have provided some support for clandestine, Uruguayan antiterrorist groups. Such support has not come through regular military channels, but rather through the respective security agencies.. .Servicio de Information delEstado (SIDE).. .and the Service National de Informaçôes (SNI) of the Brazilian Federal Police…Brazilians are known to have advised and trained Uruguayan police and military officials involved in counter-terrorist groups who have undertaken bombings, kidnappings, and even murders of suspected members of radical left…high-level Uruguayan military officers were briefed in late 1971 in Brazil on the strong measures the GOB [Government of Brazil] had used against its own insurgency threat.81

In fact, in 1969 Adair had ordered that U.S. arms and munitions should be tunneled to Uruguay through third countries to quiet leftist charges of U.S. involvement in the mounting repression.82 Such policies accelerated the development of the transnational parallel force later known as Operation Condor.

On April 14,1972, a fateful day in Uruguay, the Tupamaros took action against the Death Squadron. They ambushed and killed Acosta y Lara, undersecretary of the Interior Ministry associated with the Death Squadron, and three other men: two policemen from DNII and one naval officer (Ernesto Motto), all implicated by Bardesio. In fierce retaliation, the army raided several houses where Tupamaros lived and assassinated at least six persons. President Bordaberry declared a state of internal war.83 The armed forces fanned out in a massive effort to capture or kill Tupamaros. They were assisted by the entire Country Team of the U.S. Embassy.84

In one incident that day, the home of Luis Martirena and his wife Ivette Rina Giménez was ambushed in a coordinated attack by police and military forces firing high-caliber weapons of war. The couple was shot and killed. Two Tupamaros also present in the house, David Campora and Eleuterio Femândez Huidobro, survived the attack despite being wounded. Campora testified in 2004 that the arrival of a doctor and judge had saved their lives and that there had been no guns in the house. Police intelligence chief Castiglioni had organized the raid, which was carried out by the chief of a military battalion, Col. Carlos Calcagno (later linked to Condor), and Campos Hermida, chief of Department 5 of the DNII.85 A few days later, a heavily armed group of men in civilian clothes attacked the local office of the Communist Party, which was open and public, and killed eight people who were working inside. The gang smashed furniture and destroyed the office, then searched the surviving persons and took valuables and money from them.86

Within six months the Tupamaros were routed as an organization. In fact, many leaders and rank-and-file members of the Tupamaros themselves had rejected assassination as a tactic; many had left the organization, disillusioned with its growing militarism. In June 1973, the following year, the armed forces assumed full power in a coup. Uruguayans filled the streets in a general strike. But their courageous efforts were not successful in stopping the forces of authoritarianism and repression. Soon Uruguay had the highest number of political prisoners per capita in Latin America. Testifying in 1976 to the U.S. Congress about the dictatorship in Uruguay, Professor Martin Weinstein painted a grim picture of the situation:

The constitution has been cast aside. Parliament is closed. Newspapers and the electronic media are under complete censorship. The once powerful trade union movement has been destroyed with most of its leaders under arrest, in exile, or dead…Hundreds of prisoners have been subjected to psychological and physical torture, which in many cases has resulted in death or permanent injury…[The regime] has erected a police state [and has].. .eliminated the last pretense of constitutional government.87


As military coups toppled civilian governments throughout the region, the military and security forces were drawing closer together under the tutelage of Washington and within the continental military system. In February 1974 a secret meeting took place in Buenos Aires, apparently the first multilateral meeting held by the nascent Condor network to discuss formalizing coordinated repression across borders. Called the First Police Seminar on the Antisubversive Struggle in the Southern Cone, it assembled police chiefs (some of whom were military commanders) from Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. The commander of the Argentine federal police chaired the meeting and called for new forms of transnational collaboration to confront the subversive threat. Several declassified U.S. documents, including several from the CIA and one signed by Henry Kissinger, secretary of State, confirm this meeting.

In the conference the police commanders agreed among themselves to operate jointly against their political enemies in any of the associated countries. The officers discussed ways to set up a system of coordinated cross-border hunter-killer operations and began to implement them soon afterward. A topsecret CIA National Intelligence Daily of June 23,1976, released in 2000, stated: “In early 1974, security officials from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia met in Buenos Aires to prepare coordinated actions against subversive targets. [5 LINES EXCISED] Since then [3 LINES EXCISED] the Argentines have conducted joint countersubversive operations with the Chileans and with the Uruguayans.”88

In August 1975 organizers of the 11th Conference of American Armies held a preliminary planning conference in Montevideo, and in October the interAmerican military summit took place there. These secret conferences, first instituted by the U.S. army in 1960 in the Canal Zone, occurred every two years at this time. The Uruguayan hosts of the meetings were central Condor figures. Amauri Prantl, head of the Defense Intelligence Service (Servicio de lnformaciones de Defensa, SID), was the chief Uruguayan representative. The commander of the Joint Chiefs, Luis Queirolo, acted as president of the preparatory conference. His speech before the other delegates clearly reflected the national security doctrine, which made little or no distinction between guerrillas and unarmed political dissidents and which visualized “subversion” as a permanent threat in all dimensions of life. He also elliptically referred to the growing unification of the region’s military institutions in the anticommunist cause-and in Operation Condor. Lauding his “grand nucleus of friends and comrades in arms,” Queirolo declared:

The only thing separating us is our uniforms, for the men of the armies of America, I believe, have never before understood one another as we do at this moment…There exists a coordination among the armies of the continent to combat and impede Marxist infiltration or whatever other form of subversion.89

Between October 6 and 12 the Conference of Intelligence Commanders took place in Uruguay’s hotel Carrasco, and on October 29 the Conference of Commanders in Chief was held. Apparently Colonel Manuel Contreras of Chile formally proposed at that meeting that the transnational repressive program be institutionalized. His proposed Condor structure and agenda for a meeting, to be held in Santiago in November, was dated October 29.90 Contreras noted in his invitation that previous combined operations had taken place on the basis of “gentlemen’s agreements” and that more sophisticated structures were needed to confront “the psychopolitical war with subversion.” The proposal was clearly approved. Immediately after these October meetings, on November 3, Chilean Condor officer Mario Jahn traveled to Paraguay to invite General Francisco Britez, commander of the police, to the summit meeting of the Condor system, to begin November 25 in Santiago.91

The formal founding conference did occur in Santiago, and there the military delegates institutionalized the system of unified cross-border repression and code-named it Condor. Officers representing Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay signed the closing act of this meeting, dated November 28, 1975. The last clause of the foundational act of Operation Condor stated that within sixty days the act required ratification by the military chiefs of each member country, and that the agreements entailed by the Condor system would enter into effect on January 30,1976. Long before this document was discovered in 1999, witnesses and victims of Condor in Latin America were well aware of the stunning increase in 1976 of disappearances and extrajudicial executions of exiled political activists.


Several key members of the police-run Uruguayan Death Squadron became members of the Condor squad that formed after the 1973 coup in Uruguay. They were joined by members of the Uruguayan military from SID and from the Coordinating Organ of Antisubversive Operations (Organisme Coordinador de Operaciones Antisubversivas, OCOA), apparently formed in 1971 or 1972. According to Amnesty International officer Edy Kaufrnan, who testified to the U.S. Congress in 1976,

… we know about some allegations that there are two units of Uruguayan services working in Argentina, even having a center somewhere in the city [Buenos Aires] where they torture, kidnap people, and we were told about some names; I could perhaps mention them. One unit is a police unit of Uruguayans led by Comisario Fontana and Comisario Campos Hermidas [sic]. They were working already before the [March 1976] coup in Argentina. And there is a second unit, which apparently started its activities in February of this year, an intelligence unit of the Uruguayan army… It is apparently either hiring the services of the paramilitary death squads or conducting some of the operations itself.92

Kaufrnan was clearly observing the metamorphosis of the Death Squadron into a transnational Condor squad. Along with Campos Hermida and Fontana he named police officer Victor Castiglioni as a key operative in the parallel forces he described.

The newly created OCOA was the primary countersubversive organization in the Uruguayan military and the organ responsible for Condor operations and the direction of parallel forces. There was a unit of OCOA within each army division, reporting not through the normal chain of command but to specified top commanders. Police officers were also members of OCOA. This sort of parallel apparatus was characteristic of Condor. General Amauri Prantl, head of SID, supervised secret Condor operations, coordinating the actions of police, military, and intelligence operatives and units under OCOA. Prantl worked with Argentine General Otto Paladino-then head of SIDE, the Argentine intelligence body-in coordinating cross-border repression. OCOA carried out numerous operations in Argentina from its base in the abandoned auto shop Orletti Motors, which was under the operational control of the First Army Corps and SIDE in Argentina.93 In extensive 1996 interviews, two Uruguayan navy intelligence officers confirmed that SID had collaborated closely with SIDE of Argentina and with security officials in Brazil during the 197Os and also said that the Uruguayan navy had developed close working relations with the Argentine navy, especially at its center of detention and torture, the notorious Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada (Navy Mechanics School, ESMA).94

Army major José Gavazzo was a key figure in the Uruguayan Condor apparatus. He commanded and participated in the notorious Condor death squad based in Orletti Motors. Before Orletti was set up in 1976, the Uruguayan Condor squad interrogated and tortured Uruguayan exiles in Argentine police and military installations. The names of the members of the OCOA grupo de tareas are infamous in Uruguay today: Gavazzo, Campos Hermida, Manuel Cordero, Ernesto Ramas, Enrique Martinez, Jorge Silveira, Luis Alfredo Maurente, Juan Rodriguez Buratti,95 Pedro Mato (sometimes spelled Mattos), and José Arab. Four of these men had been trained in intelligence and counterinsurgency at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (Ramas, Silveira, Mato, and Maurente).96 These Condor agents carried out numerous abductions, tortures, and extrajudicial transfers of Uruguayans in Argentina and were identified by numerous survivors. Gavazzo seemed to enjoy showing his face to prisoners, signaling his utter impunity. Argentine judge Nestor Blondi, in a 1986 extradition request for Gavazzo, Cordero, Campos Hermida, and Silveira, identified them as “personnel assimilated into the Argentine army.”97 All of these men lived freely after the transition to democracy in 1985, protected by Uruguay’s “impunity law,” the Ley de Caducidad of 1986.98 Gavazzo, like the others, always denied that Condor had even existed. In August 2006, for the first time, he admitted in court that he had indeed functioned in Orletti and in transnational Condor operations.


In 1973 and 1974 the first cross-border disappearances began to take place. An emblematic case was that of Antonio Viana, a Uruguayan exile who was living in Buenos Aires. He was abducted in February 1974 along with his wife and son.” Viana’ s case demonstrated that the Death Squadron had converted itself into a supranational Condor squad composed of a number of the same men who had received U.S. police or military training, via OPS, the School of the Americas, or other institutions, and had worked closely with ClA and Pentagon personnel. Thus, the Viana case illuminated the progression from ClA training, financing, and assisting of police and military forces, to the development of death squads, to the organization of the multinational Condor apparatus in Latin America.

Viana had worked for Senator Zelmar Michelini in Uruguay and for the Frente in the early 1970s. He had been arrested numerous times in Uruguay, accused of subversion, and tortured, but no charges were ever filed against him. In 1973 he moved to Buenos Aires with his family and continued to work for Michelini, mainly as a journalist. On February 21,1974, at 4:30 in the morning, in a large combined operation, some 150 to 200 Argentine and Uruguayan commandos invaded Viana’s home, seized, and tortured him for several hours. Viana later learned that they were from the Argentine Federal Police and from the Uruguayan OCOA and DNII. At noon they took him to Argentine federal police headquarters, La Superintendencia de Seguridad Federal, where they continued to torture him both physically and psychologically. Viana testified that his torturers and interrogators in La Superindendencia included the Argentine police Miguel Angel Ifliguiz and Alberto Villar and Uruguayans Carlos Calcagno, Gavazzo, Campos Hermida, Silveira, and Castiglioni. All of these Uruguayan officers participated in his abduction and torture sessions in the Argentine police headquarters.100 Thus, Viana’s case showed the organic continuity between the Death Squadron and the Condor unit stationed in Buenos Aires. His case is also one of many confirming that Condor was operative long before its official founding meeting in November 1975, thus highlighting the importance of the February 1974 meeting in Buenos Aires.

Villar, among other figures within the Argentine state, was a director of the Triple A confederation of death squads that was terrorizing Argentine and exile populations at that time. He had been trained in counterrevolutionary warfare in France and later became one of the first police to receive training in “interrogation techniques” at the Army School of the Americas in Panama.101 Chilean Condor agent Enrique Arancibia Clavel, operating covertly in Buenos Aires, confirmed in a report to his superiors that the Triple A was a parastatal structure: “There are anticommunist groups of civilians who are working with the Armed Forces. The Triple A in fact is a paramilitary group of the government; political instructions are given to them through the third or fourth commander of SIDE.”102 The Triple A murdered some 2,000 persons between 1974 and 1976. General Miguel Angel Ifiiguez, commander of the Argentine federal police, had chaired the February 1974 First Police Seminar on the Antisubversive Struggle in the Southern Cone that began the formalization of the yet-unnamed Condor system.103

Calcagno, another School of the Americas graduate, has been implicated in a key 1977 Condor case: the disappearance in Paraguay of five young Uruguayan and Argentine activists. José Nell, Alejandro José Logoluso, Dora Marta Landi Gil, Nelson Rodolfo Santana, and Gustavo Insaurralde were seized by Paraguayan police, interrogated and tortured by Paraguayan, Argentine, and Uruguayan intelligence personnel, transferred from Paraguay to Argentina, and “disappeared” there. The Argentines Logoluso and Landi Gil were members of the Peronist Youth, the Uruguayan Insaurralde a member of the Partidopor Ia Victoria del Pueblo, PVP, a political group opposed to the dictatorship. Paraguayan authorities officially reported that they were freed, and the Argentine junta consistently denied any knowledge of their whereabouts. But official documents found in the Paraguayan “Archives of Terror” proved that on May 16, 1977, the five were delivered to an Argentine SIDE unit (including an army intelligence officer and a navy officer from the infamous Navy Mechanics School) and flown in an Argentine navy plane to Buenos Aires, where they disappeared.104 In 2005 Paraguayan human rights advocate Martin Almada found intelligence reports in the Archives documenting Calcagno’s participation in the torture of Insaurralde in Paraguay, along with other Condor officers such as Col. Benito Guanes of Paraguay. Almada asked for Calcagno’s extradition from Uruguay.105

Gavazzo and the other Condor torturers interrogated Viana about Washington Barrios,106 a member of the Tupamaros, and about legislators Zelmar Michelini and Enrique Erro; his captors wanted to link Michelini to the Tupamaros. Viana was also accused of links to the Tupamaros and to the Argentine urban guerrillas known as Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, the ERP, and their fledgling collaboration, La Junta Coordinadora Revolucionaria. Viana testified that he had no knowledge with which to answer many of the questions. Nevertheless, he was savagely tortured and remained imprisoned until 1981. After two months as a Condor detainee in Argentina, during which time he was moved among several secret detention centers, Viana was illegally transferred back to Uruguay on a commercial flight, under military control. In Uruguay he was held and tortured in Infantry Battalions No. 11 and 12, and then moved to Libertad prison. In the military installations he was severely tortured with electric shocks on all parts of his body, including his eyes; hung by his arms, causing permanent damage; nearly drowned in the submarino; sodomized with a sharpened wooden stick; forced to sit, naked and suspended, on an iron rod for days, causing permanent internal trauma; and brutally beaten. Viana was tortured so badly that military doctors were at the point of amputating one of his legs. He was transferred to Libertad, where several prisoners with medical skills were able to help save his leg.

Libertad was the site of a systematic program designed, organized and implemented by the military regime to destroy prisoners both physically and mentally. Military doctors in the Libertad prison subjected Viana to psychiatric experiments against his will, forcibly injecting him with psychotropic drugs, which he resisted. He was held incommunicado for months at a time. Finally, after complaining to a Red Cross representative who was allowed to visit the prison, Viana obtained a conditional release. He moved to Brazil shortly afterward, and began a series of denunciations before Amnesty International and the United Nations. Eventually Viana received an indemnity from the government, the only one provided thus far by the Uruguayan state in cases of torture during the dirty war.

In May 2006 Viana presented to a Uruguayan judge hearing the case of Washington Barrios a crucial DNII document confirming the extralegal repressive coordination between Argentina and Uruguay under the (yet unnamed) Condor system in 1974. Written by police officer RaUl Benitez Caches of the DNII to the chief of Infantry Battalion no. 12, in Uruguay’s Rocha department, the memo reported on the detention of Viana in Argentina, annexed information seized from his home in Buenos Aires, and confirmed the flight that clandestinely brought Viana and his family to Montevideo. The document stated that “at the request of OCOA official information was requested from the Argentine authorities” and noted that the Argentine documents were attached as well. The memo reported that Viana was captured with copies of the magazine El Combatiente (The Combatant), considered seditious.


In 1976 several new waves of disappearances of Uruguayans living in Argentina occurred and several Condor assassinations took place, in Buenos Aires and in Washington D.C. The exiled legislators Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutiérrez Ruiz were two of those assassinated. The two were abducted separately on the same day by sizeable groups of armed men in the early morning hours, at about the same time. Both were found murdered, with signs of torture, several days later. The week before they had organized a meeting in Buenos Aires of notable civilian and military Uruguayans to discuss the launching of a campaign to press for elections and the return to democracy in Uruguay. Michelini’s son-in-law, Raul Altuna, said the legislator recently had told him and Margarita Michelini (his wife and Zelmar’s daughter) that army officer José Gavazzo was in Buenos Aires and that a group of Uruguayan military men had him (Zelmar) under surveillance.107

These assassinations caused political shock waves in the region. Several days later, during which time no official comment had been made by the Argentine junta, several top Argentine officials finally expressed their condolences. Junta leader Jorge Rafaël Videla ordered a police investigation of the crimes. But his act was an exercise in public disinformation. SIDE documents recovered in Argentina and declassified by President Nestor Kirchner in 2004 provided evidence that the two regimes coordinated efforts to monitor and seize Michelini. The abductions-assassinations were covert Condor operations involving both Argentine and Uruguayan forces, with carte blanche from the junta. The Argentine state disassociated itself from the parallel forces that carried out the assassinations in order to preserve the covert nature and deniability of its involvement in Operation Condor.

The OCOA commando, with Argentine collaboration, abducted, tortured, and illegally transferred to Uruguay some sixty Uruguayans living in Argentina between March and September of 1976. Most were members of the PVP, an organization with anarchist roots founded in 1975 to resist the dictatorship. One wing of the group had, years earlier, been part of another group called OPR-33 that had carried out a kidnapping and obtained a large sum of money, which was hidden in a safe house. The first group of PVP members to be “disappeared” in Argentina were unionists and other activists. They were tortured in Orletti and then secretly flown back to Montevideo, where they were held in a clandestine detention center and repeatedly tortured. The illegal transfers were camouflaged within a larger Uruguayan military PSYWAR (psychological warfare) operation to portray the exiled activists as a terrorist invasion force threatening the state. The regime “explained” their disappearances in Argentina and appearance in Uruguay by proclaiming that they had been legally arrested in Uruguay, with heavy weapons, after “invading” the country. The activists spent years in prisons both illegal and semi-legal, but eventually they were released. A second group, seized in September in Buenos Aires, was not so fortunate. These PVP members never reappeared. In 2005 the head of the air force, Emesto Bonelli, admitted that there had been two secret Condor flights carrying disappeared exiles to Montevideo, thus confirming earlier investigations by Uruguayan journalists. Bonelli acknowledged that he himself had copiloted the first flight, but denied knowing the identity of his passengers. The Uruguayan military still did not divulge what had happened to the second group of prisoners or where their remains were.

The U.S. intelligence services were closely informed of these top-secret Condor operations against the PVP. A Defense Department intelligence report of October 1, 1976 revealed up-to-the-minute knowledge of the PVP disappearances and openly discussed Operation Condor in a memo entitled “Special Operations Forces.” The Defense Intelligence Agency cable reported that between September 24 and 27, the Argentine SIDE, in coordination with Uruguayan military intelligence, “carried out operations against the Uruguayan Terrorist organization, the OPR-33…. SIDE officials claimed that the entire OPR-33 infrastructure in Argentina has been eliminated.”108 (Echoing the Uruguayan military, the DlA characterized the PVP as “OPR-33.”) This report described Condor as an agreement “to eliminate Marxist terrorist activities in member countries,” and explained Condor’s assassination plans: “a very secret phase of Operation Condor’ involves the formation of special teams from member countries who are to carry out operations including assassinations… A special team has apparently been organized in Argentina…structured much like a U.S. Special Forces Team…”109 The language of the cable made clear that the DIA considered Condor a strategic partner in the counterinsurgency wars and considered its methods legitimate.

In the September 1976 wave of disappearances, the OCOA grupo de tareas, operating with Argentine commandos from SIDE, abducted PVP members Adalberto Soba and Alberto Mechoso in Argentina. The Condor commando seized them in a café. Later the commando surrounded Soba’s house and detained his wife and three children. They were taken to Orletti, where the family was put in a room. There they could hear the screams of the tortured and the sounds of the street outside. The oldest child, Sandro, was eight, and he related the experience in August 2006 at a trial in Uruguay on this case. Eventually Gavazzo allowed them to see his father, he said. His father was nude, wet, and bound. His eyes were white, swollen with pus from electric torture, and he could barely speak, but he told his son to take care of his mother. Sandro’s father was never seen again. Gavazzo and José Arab took the family back to Montevideo on a commercial flight, with false documents; they were brought to a secret OCOA detention center in Punta Gorda, and eventually released. Sandro related that his family was severely traumatized by the experience, but no one spoke of it for many years, and absolute silence and fear shrouded family life. ’10 In 2006 the spouses of Soba and Mechoso testified that Gavazzo and Arab had posed as their disappeared husbands when taking both families back to Uruguay in 1976.111

A Uruguayan exile named Washington Pérez testified in Sweden in August 1976 about his experience with Orletti Motors and the Condor squad. He had been living in Moron, near Buenos Aires. On June 13, a group of heavily armed Argentine and Uruguayan men burst into his house at 4:00 A.M. and demanded that he accompany them. They reassured him that they would do him no harm but said that there was someone he should see. Pérez was driven, blindfolded, to Orletti. The Condor squad wanted to extort money from the PVP in order to free well-known labor organizer Gerardo Gatti from Orletti. Pérez was chosen as the go-between since he was a friend of Gatti’s. He positively identified Campos Hermida (whom he had known from a time he was arrested in Uruguay) in Orletti and recognized other Uruguayan officers, including Gavazzo, Cordero, and Silveira. The death squad bragged that they were “a Nazi fascist group” and that they had a picture of Hitler on the wall. An Argentine brought out Gatti, who had disappeared in June. Ferez saw that his arm was limp and infected and he appeared badly tortured. His captors told Ferez that he was to approach Gatti’s comrades and solidarity organizations to obtain a large sum of money for his ransom.112 The Condor gang was seeking the ransom from the kidnapping of years before. When he was forcibly taken to Orletti again, Ferez also saw disappeared union leader Léon Duarte. Ferez did try to obtain the money, but he was unsuccessful. The Condor squad abruptly cut off negotiations, and Perez fled to Sweden shortly afterward. Gatti and Duarte never reappeared.113 According to a former PVP member who had worked with Duarte and Gatti (and who in 2006 was a Montevideo city councilman and president of its Human Rights Commission), the OCOA squad cut off negotiations because they had located, and seized, a large amount of cash from the houses of several PVP militants.114

After La Republica published a photo of OCOA officer Jorge Silveira in 2003, the newspaper received a flood of calls. One 74-year-old woman came to the office and said she wanted reporters to take her testimony. Herminia Santana had been a political prisoner even though she had never been violent or a Tupamaro member, she said. But she was seized, brought to the clandestine detention center known as “300 Carlos,” and tortured and raped for months. Silveira, she continued, liked to rape very young women and sometimes, older women as well. She was hung from the ceiling, nearly drowned in the submarine, injected with drugs, beaten, and raped, yet she did not break, she said proudly. Before being released she was forced to sign a statement saying she had never been abused or tortured.”5 Another Uruguayan woman named Graciela recognized the photo of Silveira. He had tortured her for 15 days in the 70s, and yet, she decried, he was promoted in the army and continued to walk the streets as a free man. Not only was she tortured; Silveira had raped her, she said..116 In 2004 several other women came forward to tell their stories for the first time. In 1975, two of them had been 15 and 17, members of the Union of Young Communists. The military had abducted and tortured them, and some 35 other teenaged members, in a repressive operation in 1975.117

The Uruguayan dictatorship came to an end in 1985 and a series of conservative presidents held office. The Tupamaros became a legal political party. With the election of progressive socialist Tabaré Vasquez in 2005, Uruguay’s first leftist government was inaugurated and the country entered a new era. The administration declared that key human rights cases would be excluded from Uruguay’s “impunity law” and a new atmosphere of openness began. At the time of this writing (September 2006), for the first time, a number of important trials of the notorious men of the Condor squad were underway. The decades-old wall of impunity in Uruguay was beginning to crumble.


The case of Uruguay and its death squads demonstrates the close interconnectedness between U.S. military and police aid and training programs and the emergence of death squads and state terror. There was an organic continuity from U.S. influence, to the creation of death squads, to the formation of Operation Condor. These parallel forces, organized secretly by the state with CIA backing, were part of a strategy of power, using disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial execution to augment control of society in the context of socioeconomic restructuring and to quell legal opposition as well as insurgents. Special squads were formed within military and security forces to carry out “subversion, sabotage, and terrorism” against “subversive” targets, following counterinsurgency and counterterror doctrine.

Throughout Latin America military, intelligence, and police commanders built and worked within parallel, or parastatal, structures to carry out counterterrorist campaigns in the shadows, concealed from domestic and international view. Uruguayan’s security forces were reshaped and transformed into lethal killing machines that respected no laws or limits, and the OCOA grupo de tareas carried out atrocities with total impunity. The Uruguayan death squads formed in the early 1970s targeted political opposition figures and helped to consolidate the power of the most right-wing sectors of society. Later these squads were transformed into supranational Condor commandos that crossed borders to carry out acts of terror against exiled political opponents.

I have used the conceptual construct of the parallel state to analyze the secret forces and infrastructure developed as a hidden part of the state to carry out covert counterinsurgency wars. Parastatal death squads, made up of military and police officers and civilians, acted “unofficially” and anonymously to camouflage their links to the state. A parallel infrastructure of secret detention centers and clandestine killing machinery enabled the military states to avoid national and international law and scrutiny, and facilitated their use of disappearance, torture, and assassination out of the public eye. The militaries built a secret structure of the state that was, on the one hand, visible, in order to create terror, but on the other hand, deniable by state officials. The military states were well served by the deniability and enhanced repressive power provided by the parallel state. The counter-insurgents solidified increasingly unequal political and socioeconomic systems hostile to the well-being of large sectors of their societies, and advanced the power and privilege of anticommunist, pro-U.S. elites.

The Uruguayan case also suggests that Washington’s counterinsurgency policy, which assumed latent threats even in democratic societies, contributed greatly to the emergence of the country’s brutal military regime. In 1962 a secret U.S. strategy document stipulated:

Where subversive insurgency is virtually non-existent or incipient (PHASE I), the objective is to support the development of an adequate counter-insurgency capability in indigenous military forces through the Military Assistance Program, and to complement the nation-building programs of AID with military civic action. The same means, in collaboration with AID and CIA, will be employed to develop a similar capability in indigenous para-military forces.118 (emphasis added)

Clearly, Washington’s preemptive or preventive approach-assuming potential threats-reflected a desire to control these societies even in the absence of a “threat from below.” The policy had a self-fijlfilling quality. In Uruguay, reliance on parastatal forces and illegal methods such as torture sparked increased confrontation, strengthened the most recalcitrant elites, and ultimately led to the destruction of democracy. The state turned to repressive rule, including the use of death squads, as a means of social control even though the demands being made by unions, parties and other sectors were legitimate within a democratic framework. The options of accommodation and compromise usually associated with democracy were not chosen. In Uruguay, the military carried out a coup and destroyed democracy after the guerrillas had been defeated. The state was reconstituted as a predator against its own people, using mass repression to quell all political opposition and destroy aspirations for social justice. The use of the methods of terror was an elite choice, calculated to enforce an increasingly inequitable social system. It was an option chosen by militaries throughout the region, unified in the hemispheric military system and in Operation Condor.

Sluka has summarized a debate in the literature on whether the weakness or strength of states is predictive of the use of death squads and terror. ‘ ” The first thesis contends that states confronted by mass mobilizations and threats to their control~”crises of integration”–resort to the use of death squads and terror because of their inherent weakness. The second posits that the use of terror results from the strength of powerful state elites, who choose terror as a preventive means of maintaining dominance, even in the absence of a threat. But ruling elites in both types of state act to maintain their power and wealth and block threats from below. Why do some choose terrorist methods as opposed to legal ones? Elites in either type of state may choose to form death squads, or, conversely, may choose to uphold the rule of law. The strong-weak dichotomy is not very useful in this sense. The terms themselves are ambiguous. Moreover, the strong-weak state formulation focuses only on the state level, missing important system-level factors.

This article has shown that the United States, a strong state, acted to combat revolutionary and progressive movements as well as to prevent them through a continental counterinsurgency regime and through reorienting and strengthening regional security forces. Uruguay, a weaker state, collaborated with the building of a counterinsurgency apparatus, which spawned death squads, and used it to repress not only guerrillas but the entire society. Thus, an analysis blending system and state levels is crucial. The system of hegemonic relations provides the context for understanding the spread of state terror through Latin America during this era. The U.S. government, the regional hegemon, facilitated the militarization of smaller states, in conjunction with allied elites in various countries, in order to advance an anticommunist (and neoliberal) agenda. Decisions made by local elites were influenced by the international Cold War environment and the hemispheric counterinsurgency regime as well as by their own interests in augmenting their power and wealth.

In Uruguay, as elsewhere, political violence and repression accompanied wrenching transformations in the model of political economy, as the developmentalist state was dismantled and neoliberal restructuring imposed. The Blancos, and later the Colorados, implemented IMF-style free market policies and austerity measures that benefited the interests of the land-owning elite and foreign capital at the expense of rural and urban workers. As Uruguayans fought to retain their standards of living and their political rights, the government escalated its repression and revoked basic liberties. Increasing polarization eventually led to brutal military rule. Essentially, coercion and repression were used to enforce the new political and economic order and limit popular protest.

The decision to use the methods of terror was not structurally determined or inevitable, however; human agency was central. Elites at the state level chose these methods, and that choice was linked to ideology and repressive capacity, both of which, again, were heavily conditioned by system-level influences. During the Cold War, and encouraged by Washington, Uruguayan elites reached the conclusion that the ends justified the means and that aberrant and atrocious methods were acceptable. They adopted a ruthless security doctrine that targeted “the enemy within”-a category that included democratic movements seeking fairly mild reforms-and that legitimized illegal and brutal methods. The doctrine was operationalized through institutions and parallel forces within countries, through the hemispheric military system, and through Operation Condor. In sum, more useful as predictors of state terror than individual state strength or weakness are the presence of security doctrines that condone the abandonment of morality and law and the use of terror; and the construction of corresponding repressive apparatuses. Of crucial importance is the role of the hegemonic state. In this case and others, the U.S. government played a key role in enabling and equipping regional security forces to carry out extended repression, which was considered to serve U.S. economic, political and security interests.


1. Brace B. Campbell, “Death Squads: Definition, Problems, and Historical Context,” in Brace B. Campbell and Arthur D. Brenner, (eds)., Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 1 -2; see also Jeffrey A. Sluka “Introduction: State Terror and Anthropology,” in Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).

2. This section and others draw from my book, Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).

3. An abundant literature exists on the national security doctrine, including José Comblin, The Church and the National security State (New York: Orbis Books, 1979); Ernesto Lopez, Seguridad nacional y sedicion militar (Buenos Aires: Editorial Legasa, 1987); Brian Loveman, For la Patria: Politics and the Armed Forces in Latin America (Latin American Silhouettes, SR Books, 1999), chaps. 6 and 7; J. Patrice McSherry, Incomplete Transition: Military Power and Democracy in Argentina (New York: Palgrave, 1997), chap. 1; David Pion-Berlin, “Latin American National security Doctrines: Hard- and Softline Themes,” Armed Forces and Society 15, no. 3 (Spring 1989): pp. 411-29; Alfred Stepan, “The New Military Professionalism of Internal Warfare and Military Role Expansion,” Authoritarian Brazil (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 47-65; Jorge Tapia Valdés, “La doctrina de la seguridad nacional y el roi politico de las fuerzas armadas,” in El estado periferico latinoamericano, Juan Carlos Rubenstein, ed., (Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1988), pp. 237-262.

4. David Isenberg, “The Pitfalls of U.S. Covert Operations,” Cato Policy Analysis No. 118, April 7, 1989 (www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PAl 18.htm, accessed March 29,2005).

5. For an analysis of the CIA’s classified plan of action to undermine and oust Arbenz via a paramilitary force, see Roberto Garcia Ferreira, “La CIA en Guatemala: Manual para derrocar a un presidente,” La Jornada (Mexico), January 25, 2004. For two recent books on U.S. involvement in coups and subversion of legal governments, see Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Times Books, 2006), and Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2000).

6. Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitican Books, 2006), e.g. pp. 11, 60-61, chap. 3.

7. See Michael McClintock, “American Doctrine and Counterinsurgent State Terror,” in Alexander George, ed.. Western State Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 1991): pp. 121-154; Michael McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerrilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, Counterterrorism, 1940-1990 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), especially chapter2; my Predatory States and my “Tracking the Origins of a State Terror Network: Operation Condor,” Latin American Perspectives, Issue 122, Vol. 29, no. 1 (January 2002): 38-60. For a noteworthy recent study of paramilitary forces in Colombia, and U.S. involvement in sustaining them, see William Aviles, “Paramilitarism and Colombia’s Low-Intensity Democracy,” Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 38, Issue 2 (May 2006): pp. 379-409.

8. For an excellent study of the U.S. Public Safety Program role in Uruguay-and the corresponding increase in torture, repression, and killings by the police-see Clara Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia e intervencion estadounidense: El programa de asistencia policial de la AID en Uruguay, 1965-1974” paper presented at the University of Salamanca, April 21-23, 2005. see also Martha Muggins, Political Policing: The United States and Latin America (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998); A. J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors (Pantheon Books, 1978); and McCoy, A Question of Torture, among many other studies.

9. Campaign for the Abolition of Torture (U.S. human rights group), urgent action flyer, April 23, 1976, from U.S. government Argentina declassification project at www.foia.state.gov.

10. E. V. Walter, Terror and Resistance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969). For a recent quantitative study of the reciprocal relation between government repression and social protest, see Sabine C. Carey, “The Dynamic Relationship Between Protest and Repression,” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 1 (March 2006): pp. 1-11.

11. Michael Stohl, “The State as Terrorist: Insights and Implications,” Democracy and security, 2 (2006): pp. 1-25; Miles D. Wolpin, “State Terrorism and Death Squads in the New World Order,” Peace Research Review 12, no. 3 (Dundas, Canada: Peace Research Institute, 1992).

12. Sluka, “Introduction,” pp. 3 0-31.

13. McSherry, “Preserving Hegemony: National Security Doctrine in the Post-Cold War Era” NACLA Report on the America*, Vol. XXXIV, no. 3 (November-December 2000): pp. 26-34; and Predatory States.

14. Bill Rolston, ‘”An effective mask for terror’: Democracy, death squads and Northern Ireland,” Crime, Law & Social Change (2005) 44: pp. 181-203.

15. Ted Robert Gurr, “The Political Origins of State Violence and Terror: A Theoretical Analysis,” in Michael Stohl and George Lopez, (eds).. Governmental Violence and Repression: An Agenda for Research (Westport: Greenwood press, 1986), pp. 46-48.

16. Martha Huggins, Political Policing. See also Cecilia Menjivar and Nestor Rodriguez, When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror (University of Texas Press, 2005).

17. Michael Klare and Nancy Stein, “Police Terrorism in Latin America: Secret U.S. Bomb School Exposed,” NACLA Latin America and Empire Report, Vol. 8, Issue 1 (January 1974): p. 21.

18. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vois. 1 and 2 (Boston: South End Press, 1979), quoted by Sluka in “Introduction,” in Death Squad, 8. While death squads existed in other world regions (Africa and India, for example), in Latin America U.S. policy was linked to their formation and sustenance. see also McCoy, A Question of Torture, especially 11, chap. 3.

19. Lars Schoultz, “U.S. Foreign Policy and Human Rights Violations in Latin America,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 13 (1981): pp. 149-70.

20. In the mid-1990s several CIA and School of the Americas training manuals were declassified pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request. They documented training in torture and coercive interrogation. See my “Tracking the Origins,” Latin American Perspectives.

21. Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Worker Says Message on Torture Got Her Fired,” New York Times, July 22, 2006. Goss acknowledged publicly in 2002 that he had been stationed in Florida during the Cuban missile crisis and that he was involved in recruiting and running agents, presumably Cuban exiles, for the CIA.

22. See, in particular, Article 3 of Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Geneva from 21 April to 12, August, 1949.

23. Michael Hirsh and John Barry, ‘”The Salvador Option’: The Pentagon may put Special Forces-led assassination or kidnap teams in Iraq,” Newsweek (Jan. 14, 2005), accessed on April 6, 2006 at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6802629/site/newsweek/

24. Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (New York: William Morrow, 1990), p. 425.

25. see McSherry, Predatory States.

26. see Predatory States for an analysis of this covert U.S. link to Condor; see also Robert White, cable to secretary of state, October 13,1978, at www.foia.state.gov/documents/StateChiIe3/000058FD.pdf, and Diana Jean Schemo, “New Files Tie U.S. to Deaths of Latin Leftists in 1970s,” New York Times, March 6, 2001. For a recent military view of the importance of computerized databases for counterinsurgency, see Lt.Colonel Lester W. Grau, “Something Old, Something New: Guerrillas, Terrorists, and Intelligence Analysis,” Military Review (July-August 2004): pp. 42-49, especially 45.

27. This section draws from Martin Weinstein, Uruguay: Democracy at the Crossroads (Boulder, CoIo.: Westview, 1988), chaps. 3 and 4; Clara Aldrighi, La Izquierda Armada (Montevideo: Trilce, 2005); and U.S. Country Study: Uruguay (Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, n.d.) at www.country-studies.com/uruguay/

28. According to former CIA officer Philip Agée, “the Montevideo station had the typical anti-communist political operations found at other hemisphere stations, the most important of which were effected through Benito Nardone…our squads, often with the participation of off-duty policemen, would break up [leftists’] meetings and generally terrorize them. Torture of communists and other extreme leftists was used in interrogations by our liaison agents in the police. ” Philip Agée, Inside the Company (New York: Stonehill, 1975), p. 337.

29. Author interview with former Tupamaro Hiber Conteris, July 25,2006, New York; see also Mickey Z, “Interview with a Tupamaro” November 23, 2004, accessed February 4, 2006 at www.pressaction.com/news/weblog/full_article/mickeyzl 1232004/

30. SERPAJ, Nunca Mas Uruguay, trans. Elizabeth Hempsten (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), p. 8.

31. Alejandro Otero, former police chief in Uruguay, discussed such intelligence gathering in Washington; author interview in Montevideo, August 22,2005. see also Huggins, Political Policing.

32. Cited in Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia,” p. 8.

33. Penny Lernoux, Cry of the People (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p. 339.

34. Author interview with Alejandro Otero, Montevideo, August 22,2005. Langguth identifies Cantrell as a CIA man in Hidden Terrors, pp. 23339; see also Agée, Inside the Company, pp. 478, 605.

35. Grupo de Investigaciones Historicas, Sociales y Economicas, Las Raices de la Violencia y El Escuadron de la Muerte (Montevideo: TDE, 1986), p. 9; obtained by author in Montevideo, June 2005.

36. Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia,” p. 19.

37. Langguth, Hidden Terrors, pp. 224, 250-54.

38. Langguth, pp. 250-51, 286.

39. Quoted in William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and ClA Interventions Since World War II (Common Courage Press, 1995), excerpt at www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Foreign Policy/KillingHope_ page.html.

40. Langguth, p. 253.

41. Aldrighi, La izquierda armada, p. 60.

42. Supra note 28; Agée, Inside the Company, p. 589.

43. E. Howard Hunt, Undercover: Memoirs of an American secret Agent (London: W.H. Alien, 1975), p. 121.

44. Agee, Inside the Company, pp. 342, 363, 385. See also Stella Calloni, “Los vuelos de la CIA evocan la Operacion Condor,” La Jornada (Mexico), May 8, 2006.

45. Michael Klare and Nancy Stein, “Police Terrorism in Latin America,” p.21.

46. Huggins, p. 125; Langguth, p. 286.

47. Author meeting with group of former political prisoners in Montevideo, August 12, 2005.

48. Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Sâo Paulo, Torture in Brazil, trans. Jaime Wright (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), p. 14.

49. See Hidden Terrors and Langguth, “Torture’s Teachers,” New York Times, June 11, 1979.

50. Manuel Hevia Cosculluela, Pasaporte 11333: Ocho anos con Ia CIA (Uruguay: Movimiento de Independientes, 1985), pp. 207-209.

51. Langguth, pp. 309-313; Hevia Cosculluela, Pasaporte 11333, pp. 29093.

52. Clara Aldrighi, “La estacion montevideana de la ClA,” Brecha (Uruguay), (November 25, 2005): 7; conversations with author in Montevideo, July and August, 2005. The execution of Mitrione was dramatized in the 1972 Costa-Gavras film State of Siege.

53. “Campos Hermida y Castiglioni fueron entrenados en ‘inteligencia’ en EEUU,” La Hora (Uruguay), December 30, 1986; obtained by author in SERPAJ archives, Montevideo, in August 2001. For details confirming this CIA role in the IPA see McClintock, The American Connection, Volume 1: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador, pp. 57-63.

54. Testimony of former agent Nelson Bardesio in Belgium, cited in José Luis Baumgartner et al, “Desaparecidos,” (Centre de Estudios de America Latina, n.d. on my copy), 205. Obtained by author in SERPAJ archives, Montevideo, August 2001. see also Grupo de Investigaciones Historicas, Sociales y Economicas, Las Raices, p. 15; Peter Gribbin, “Brazil and CIA,” Counterspy (April-May 1979): p. 8.

55. See documents at www.espectador.com/principal/graficos/documentos/ aid2/aid2.htm. See also Langguth, Hidden Terrors, pp. 48-51, and Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia,” 7, regarding Engle’s CIA links. On Fontana, see Agée, p. 486.

56. Klare and Stein, “Police Terrorism,” pp. 19-20.

57. Nancy Stein, “U.S. Army School for Scoundrels,” NACLA Latin America & Empire Report, Vol. 8, Issue 3 (March 1974): p. 25.

58. Lorrin Rosenbaum “Government by Torture,” Worldview(April 1975): p. 26.

59. Klare and Stein, “Police Terrorism,” p. 19; Langguth, pp. 241 -43.

60. Roger Rodriguez, “Uruguay no enviara mas militares a la terrorifica School of Americas,” La Republica (Uruguay), March 30, 2006.

61. Marcelo Falca, “‘ Sendic fue el mejor de todos los ‘tupas’; yo lo capturé y le salve la vida,” La Republica, March 22, 2004. see also Nelson Caula and Alberto Silva, Alto elfuego: FFAA y Tupamaros, 1972-1973, 7th ed. (Montevideo: Rosebud Ediciones, 1993), pp. 275-77.

62. Langguth, p. 235.

63 Typed transcript of Tupamaro interview with Bardesio (fragment), obtained by author in DNlI in Montevideo, August 2005.

64. Grupo de Investigaciones Historicas, Sociales y Economicas, Las Raices, p. 15.

65. Typed transcript of Tupamaro interview with Bardesio; Las Raices, p. 14.

66. Samuel Blixen, “Un Escuadron ante Ia Justicia,” Brecha (Uruguay), June 15, 1990; Blixen, Sendic (Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce, 2000), p. 236.

67. Typed transcript of Tupamaro interview with Bardesio.

68. Typed transcript of Tupamaro interview with Bardesio; Grupo de Investigaciones Historicas, Sociales y Economicas, Las Raices, pp. 1012.

69. Langguth, p. 245; Las Raices, p. 13; “Uruguay Police Agent Exposes U.S. Advisors,” NACLA Report, Vol. 6, no. 6 (July 1972): p. 24.

70. Las Raices, p. 13; “Uruguay Police Agent Exposes U.S. Advisors,” NACLA Report, (July 1972): pp. 24-25.

71. See “El Escuadron,” testimony of Mario Benitez, as transcribed by Radio 36 of Uruguay, at www.radio36.com.uy/entrevistas/2004/07 /310704_dcumento 9.htm.

72. Declassified document, FROM AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO, TO secSTATE WASHDC, “Discussion with Mininterior Sena re Counterterrorism,” September 29, 1971. See Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia,” 23, re Adair’s concerns.

73. Author interview with officer in Montevideo, August 22, 2005.

74. U.S. Embassy, Montevideo, to Secretary of State, Joint State/Defense Message, “Seregni, pro-‘Frente’ press link U.S. to Attacks on Trente’ Candidates,” November 9, 1971, in National security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 71 ; on Operation 30 Hours, see Samuel Blixen, Seregni: La mañana siguiente, 2d ed. (Montevideo, Uruguay: Ediciones de Brecha, 1997): pp. 70-74.

75. See Nixon’s 1969 speech announcing the doctrine. He stated that Washington would expect “the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.” Accessed August 16,2006, at http://vietnam.vassar.edu/docl4.html.

76. National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book No. 71 at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB71/.

77. “Nixon quis Médici à trente do continente,” Jornal do Brasil, June 21, 2002; National Security Archive documents.

78. “Secret memorandum for Kissinger on his conversation with Brazilian President on December 8,” December 10, 1971, in Electronic Briefing Book No. 71.

79. “Secret Memorandum from Kissinger to President Nixon,” circa early December 1971, NSA Electronic Briefing Book No. 71.

80. Department of State Telegram, FR: AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES, TO: SECSTATE WASHDC, August 27,1971, “Uruguayan Situation.”

81. Department of State Airgram, FROM: AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO, TO: STATE, “Review Of Uruguayan Internal Security Situation,” December 12,1972. ThisU.S. cable, among others, is being used by Uruguayan human rights lawyers as evidence of government control of the death squads in the Castagnetto case. Documents acquired by author in Montevideo, July 2005.

82. Telegram from the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay to the secretary of State, Montevideo 1109, 11 -4-73, NARA.RG59, box 2662, quoted in Aldrighi, “Contrainsurgencia,” 23.

83. See, for example, Blixen, Sendic, p. 243.

84. Clara Aldrighi, using declassified U.S. documents, shows the magnitude of U.S. technical, intelligence, and military aid provided to the Uruguayan military in her article, “Tambien en la repression: La injerencia de Estados Unidos,” Brecha (Uruguay), n.d., reproduced at http://www.lafogata.org/0031atino/latino6/ul3.htm.

85. “Lider tupamaro acusó a un militar y a dos ex-policias por ejecución de los Martirena,” La Republics December 4, 2004.

86. Virginia Martinez, Los Fusilados de Abril (Montevideo: Ediciones de Caballo Perdido, 2002), excerpt at www.quehacer.com.uy /Uruguay/abril_1972/14_abril1972.htm; Las Raices, 21; Blixen, Sendic, p. 243.

87. Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Ninety-Fourth Congress, Second Session, July 27, 1976, 33. A number of congresspersons were deeply concerned about continuing U.S. aid and support for the Uruguayan military regime, and others in the region.

88. CIA, The National Intelligence Daily (Top Secret), June 23, 1976.

89. Circulo Militar, El Soldado (September 1975): 13, reviewed by author in Montevideo, August 2005.

90. “Primera Reunion de Trabajo de Inteligencia Nacional: Indice,” document no. 00022F 0156, obtained by author in Paraguayan police archives in 1996.

91. Manuel Contreras letter to General Brites [sic], Santiago, Octubre de 1975, doc. Number 0153, obtained by author in the Paraguayan police archives in 1996.

92. Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations, July 27, 1976, p. 70.

93. PIT-CNT [labor union confederation of Uruguay], Desapareddos: La coordination represiva (Montevideo: Editorial Espacio, 1998), pp. 15-16.

94. “Secretos de la Dictadura,” Posdata (Uruguay), no. 85 (April 26, 1996): pp. 14,16.

95. In a historic judgment in September 2006, a Uruguayan judge for the first time indicted Rodriguez Buratti and other Condor operatives for their activities in the 1970s. When police came to arrest him on September 10 Rodriguez Buratti committed suicide, according to Uruguayan press accounts. The commanders of the Uruguayan military attended Rodriguez Buratti’ s funeral several days later, transforming his death into a protest against the legal judgment and the new human rights policies of Uruguay’s socialist government.

96. Roger Rodríguez and Jorge Esteves, “La fiscal Guianze pidió el procesamiento de 10 miembros de la banda de OCOA,” La República (Uruguay), August 30, 2006; SOA Watch, “Notorious Graduates from Uruguay,” at http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=247.

97. Samuel Blixen, “Cordero torturaba en Argentina,” Brecha, no. 827 (2001), at www.brecha.com.uy.

98. The law was enacted after the transition to democracy in 1985. As military commanders issued dark threats about upcoming court cases, President Sanguinetti pushed the law through Parliament on December 22, 1986, preempting summonses for police and military officers charged with torture, extrajudicial execution, abduction and “disappearance.” A grassroots campaign to overturn the law via a referendum ensued; against all odds, the measure gained thousands of signatures and was put to a vote; it narrowly failed.

99. This section draws on materials sent by Antonio Viana to the author, including various email communications in August 2006; “Aide Mémoire” dated August 12, 1981; United Nations, “Communication No. 110/1981,” UN Doc. CCPR/C/OP/2 at 148 (1990); “Memorandum” written by Raul Benitez Caches, police officer of the DNII, on Viana, n.d. (but 1974); Argentine Federal Police, “Exposición de: Antonio Viana Acosta;” and Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Aide Memoire,” July 7, 1993. The author is grateful to Viana for his collaboration. Also consulted for this section: A Todos Ellos: Informe de Madres y Familiares de Uruguayos Detenidos Desaparecidos (Montevideo: Madres y Familiaries, 2004), 383-86; Walter Pernias, “Una dupla de terror,” Brecha (Uruguay), July 1, 2006; and “¿Un tercer muerto en Boiso Lanza?” La República (Uruguay), May 16, 2006.

100. Email communications from Antonio Viana to author, September 17 and 18, 2006.

101. Rodolfo Peregrino Fernández, Autocrítica policial (Buenos Aires: El Cid Editor/Fundación para la Democracia en Argentina, 1983), pp. 10, 72.

102. “Protagonista de la Operación Cóndor,” La Nación (Argentina), April 29, 2001.

103. Mónica González and Edwin Harrington, Bomba en una calle de Palermo (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Emision, 1987), pp. 173-74.

104. CELS, “Querella contra militares argentines por el asesinato de un desaparecido” (on the Logoluso case) Buenos Aires, December 27, 1993, obtained by author in Buenos Aires, 1996; arrest documents and photos in Paraguayan Archives on Landi Gil and Logoluso, obtained by author in Asunción, 1996. See also Alfredo Boccia Paz, Myriam Angélica González and Rosa Palau Aguilar, Es mi informe: Los archivos secretos de la policía de Stroessner (Asunción: CDE), pp. 321-32.

105. Walter Pemias, “La lista de detenidos en Paraguay motiva una nueva investigación,” Brecha (Uruguay), September 10, 2005; Roger Rodríguez, “Un ‘minucioso’ interrogatorio,” La República (Uruguay), September 16, 2005.

106. Barrios was “disappeared” in Córdoba, Argentina, in a September 1974 Condor operation.

107. Karina Petroff, “‘No pensé que me iban a tirar al agua, pero sí que me podían matar en cualquier momento,'” Ultimas Noticias (Uruguay), August 18, 2005.

108. Department of Defense Intelligence Information Report, “(U) Special Operations Forces (U),” October 1, 1976.

109. “(U) Special Operations Forces (U),” October 1, 1976.

110. Maria Esther Gilio, “Los niños escuchabamos los gritos de los torturados,” Página/12 (Argentina), August 12, 2006.

111. “Beatriz Castellonese y Elena Laguna narraron cómo Gavazzo y Cordero las trasladaron ilegalmente a Montevideo,” La República (Uruguay), September 20, 2005.

112. See Amnesty International, “Abridged Version of Taped Testimony of Washington Pérez,” August 1976, in Argentine Project archive of State Department; Samuel Blixen, “En nombre de la patria y con ánimo de lucro,” Brecha, no. 823, September 2001.

113. Amnesty International, “Abridged Version,” August 1976; see also Documentos Desclasificados web site at www.desclasiflcados.com.ar /i.php?i=4346.

114. “Confirman operaciones de OCOA en Argentina en busca de botin del PVP,” La Republica (Uruguay), August 16, 2006.

115. Marcelo Falca and Gabriel Mazzarovich, “A Silveira le gustaba violar a la gente joven y a veces tambien a Ia vieja,” La República (Uruguay), Novembers, 2003.

116. Gabriel Mazzarovich, “No sólo fui torturada sino que también fui violada por el coronel Jorge Silveira,” La República (Uruguay), November 20, 2003.

117. Roger Rodriguez, “El Goyo Alvarez fue un torturador de niños,” La Republica (Uruguay), April 14, 2004.

118. U.S. State Department, “United States Overseas Internal Defense Policy,” (SECRET), September 1962, pp. 10,28.

119. Sluka, “Introduction: State Terror and Anthropology,” pp. 29-32 in Death Squad; see also Campbell, pp. 7-14.

By J. Patrice McSherry*

* J. Patrice McSherry is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Long Island University. Much of the research for this article was done in Uruguay in 2005 under a three-month Fulbright Award. She is grateful to Antonio Viana and to other friends and colleagues in Uruguay, who are too numerous to thank individually, and to Brian Loveman, RaUl Molina Mejia, Rose Muzio, and Martin Weinstein for their incisive comments on the first draft.

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