From the Condor Operation to FTAA : globalization and state terrorism

For wishing a more just and society in solidarity, educator Martin Armada was considered by the Stroessner dictatorship as a subversive and an “intellectual terrorist”. As thousands of students, educators, intellectuals and social fighters, he was a victim of torture and military repression as part of the “Condor Operation” in South America. In spite of this Martin Almada never abandoned his ideals and in 1992 discovered the “Archives of Terror” in Paraguay revealing proof of an international network and system of repression coordinated between the military dictatorships with the support of the CIA. On the 40th anniversary of setting up “Operation Condor : on November 25 of 1975 we interviewed Professor Martin Almada, Alternative Nobel Prize of Peace and “hunter of the Condor” to understand the mechanisms and responsibilities behind this vast repressive operation.

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed Mr. Martin Almada. By the mid 70s you described in your doctoral thesis “Paraguay, Education and Dependence”. What was this thesis about ? Were you aware that you could be persecuted for your ideas ?

I explained in my thesis two fundamental issues. One that education in Paraguay only benefits the dominant class and was at the service of under development and dependence. I was inspired by the liberating teachings work of Paulo Freire, a great Brazilian educator who also suffered political persecution and suffered exile.

Secondly I denounced what for me constitutes the first massive surveillance of the United States in Paraguay through Plan Chameleon, a socio political espionage network to measure and predict the causes of revolutions and insurgencies. The Project was designed by researchers of social sciences in the University of Washington sponsored by the Pentagon and CIA. The project was centered on subjects of counter revolution and counter insurgency.

First the USAID tried to apply it in Chile but in August of 1965, Norwegian professor Johan Galtung was hired by FLACSO (Faculty of Latin American Social Sciences) denounced the danger of applying the Project. All Chilean Universities joined the campaign to force the Chilean government to cancel the USAID project. Professor Galtung was later hired by the UNESCO Office for Latin America based in Santiago and was accused by the CIA of being an anti US activist.

At that time Paraguay was under a fierce dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner who offered support for the Project financed by USAID achieving “a success” in 1970.

In effect, it prevented social outbreaks and guaranteed “social peace” until February 2 or 1989 Washington supported a coup that ousted Alfredo Stroessner and replace him by his own in law, the Drug Czar General Andrés Rodriguez.

Forty years later Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 the programs of world surveillance of the NSA accusing the suppliers of telecommunication services of being ordered by law to send registrations of telephones and emails to the US government. That cost him exile.

My job was limited in Paraguay with old fashioned resources but Snowden did it using the highest technology in the world. It was by chance that my fight against dependence I was awarded by the Swedish Parliament in 2002 the Alternative Peace Prize and Edward Snowden was also awarded this prize in 2014. He was unable to attend but his father accepted it on his behalf.

I was fully aware that ignorance and torture were at the heart of the Paraguayan dictatorship that made me feel a paralyzing fear. But through the support of my wife, educator Celestina Pérez I was able to battle that infernal system that intended to wall in consciences, jail thought and militarize civilians such as I who called for justice and freedom.

You were a school director in which you put into practice values of solidarity and cooperativism that led to your arrest by the political police of Stroessner. Did you arrest have any indication of the advance of your social research projects ? Can you tell us more about them ?

The curriculum of Paraguayan education was prepared by technicians of the international Development Bank (BID) that was aimed solely at reproducing the socio economic system of the country. For example the Universities had to form professionals to service private business and not society.

In the “Juan Bautista Alberdi” school, in my position we added questions of the ruling educational systems through messages launched by the Catholic Church in Medellin and that is summarized in these words :

“Education of all levels must become creative and anticipate the new form of society we aspire for in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Among our ideological mentors were the Argentine Aníbal Ponce and Brazilian Paulo Freire. We were also inspired in some documents produced by the educational reform in Peru by the progressive government of General Velasco Alvarado.

However, the political moment was not ripe for a self managed teaching experience. Suffice it to remember that that very same year the Partido Colorado, Stroessnerist” through the ideological repressor, the Ministry of Education and Faith distributed to all the primary and secondary schools the sad and infamous “anti Communist Decalogue” that put on guard all educators against the alleged dangers of a Marxist ideology.

It is worth noting that the Publication in Paraguay coincided with the year and content of a publication by the Ministry of Culture and Education of Argentina entitled “Subversion in Education – Know our enemy” in Buenos Aires in 1977.The ministerial resolution, No. 548, ordering its application was signed by Minister Juan Jose Catalán.

It is our belief that this coincidence of year and content is proof that the text/project was sent by Washington agents for Condor member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay).

Returning to the “Juan Bautista Alberdi“Institute to define the large orientation of our future pedagogical action a group of professors (mostly Christians) joined by some ideological affinities ; meeting in several events for reflection. We also reflect on the Medellin message and events of May 1968 in France. We believed naively that we could change school intuitions inside a repressive and reactionary political System.

We decided to develop several actions to democratize our teaching. That meant events in which the educational community (students, professors, and families) participated to take decisions. We formed a Parent’s Commission, a Center of Students which produced an informative bulletin and also promoted Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy competitions as well as a course on oratory, poetry, typical Paraguayan and Latin American dances, etc. This enraged the tyrant.

During this time in prison under that dictatorship when did you suspect that there was a coordinated repression beyond your personal case ?

My first suspicion was when I was imprisoned in the First Commissary headquarters of the new office of Interpol in May of 1975 (six months before the formalization of Condor Operation, on November 25 of 1975 in Santiago de Chile). Sharing our prison cell was Mario Mancuello for the crime of not accusing his son, a university student of the La Plata University in Argentina. The fact of integrating the university center Stroessner believed it was embracing the communist ideology.

In Paraguay, a country that practiced torture in total impunity between 1954 and 1989 were done openly. We knew all our torturers but did not know the real names. Many came to play ping pong or football salon to eliminate stress. Every day I was assaulted by disturbing questions : first who killed my wife because they said she had committed suicide ; and why was I submitted to brutal military tortures by foreigners from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and, of course also Paraguay.

On Saturdays the visits of the torturers were repeated who Mancuello Commission Mancuello. I commented that I suffered the first torture session at that hand of a Chilean soldier, later by an Argentinean, etc. He answered that we were “in the claws of the Condor”. “What is that” – I asked “that beast that flies” ? It is an illegal association created by Pinochet and Contreras under the name Operation Condor to commit crimes with impunity in the region”. “To understand this framework” – he told me – “you must read the Police Journal of Paraguay” where you will find information on “Operation Condor”.

He added that “the Chilean colonel was called Jorge Oteiza Lopez of Intelligence Services of the Air Force of Chile” and that the Argentinean who tortured me was Commissioner Hector Garcia Rey, head of the Argentinean Cordoba Police. Later this police man was the preferred by the then President Carlos Menem. I registered in my mental “chip” this valuable information.

Later, punished, they sent me to the “Tomb of the Living” the Third Commission of High Security where all the members of the central committee of the Paraguayan Communist Party were interred. In the next cell was an Argentine political prisoner, the lawyer Amílcar Latino Santucho explained he was caught with a Chilean sociologist, leader of MIR, Jorge Fuentes Alarcón. Finally in September of 1976 I was sent to the Concentration Camp Emboscada, where the Paraguayan doctor of the German parents of Gladys Sannemann told me we are all victims of the Condor”.

What has allowed until today the opening of these Archives of Terror ?

In light of this historic discovery we have been aware that South American civilian society trusted too much the Police. Those Armies and police did not respect the constitution but instead obeyed orders from Washington.

The fact that these military and police forces were trained in the Americas School in the Panama Canal Zone was a center of the US specialized in repression of subversion and taught torture as a normal and practical tool that later would be fundamental as components of State Terrorism applied in our Latin American countries. They performed crimes of genocide and committed genocide against the original peoples in several American territories.

They carried out Operation Condor to help applying neo liberal economic modeled favorable to multinationals and generators of hunger. For this purpose the used extermination, torture and exile of its civilian and religious enemies, preferably intellectuals and young leaders. As a result today there is an absence of strong leaders with moral convictions to fight against the political austerity imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

We have also become aware that we gave no course on Torture while our hangmen, mostly with the support of USAID learned the most sophisticated techniques to attack the most sensitive parts of the body. We have found documents on the Techniques of Torture ; how to maintain alive the tortured.

Since then has it been possible to open legal processes in your country against those responsible for the crimes ?

On May 25 of 1989 I presented a criminal accusation against Stroessner, his accomplices and harborers for the death of my wife, my arrest and torture. Still no date for the trial has been set. The judge overseeing the case said that torture was not considered a crime in the Penal Code of the dictatorship. According to official sources most of the torturers were processed and received the maximum sentence but that refers to officials and sub officials of the Police while Condor was an eminently military operation. On February 3 of 1989 Stroessner was removed from power and the military and civilians who followed maintained power perpetuating impunity to date.

In your opinion what role did the United States have in the Condor operation and coordination of state terrorism ?

Briefly, the Condor operation functioned on three pillars. The first was Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, the intellectual brain of the evil that swept the region and supplied the most appropriate economic and weapon resources allegedly to save western and Christian civilization from the claws of atheist and unpatriotic claws of communism. Then we can say that Kissinger launched an atomic bomb on the southern region of Latin America leaving 100 000 deaths between 1975 and 1989 as had occured in Japan during the second world war when President Truman ordered the bombing of civilian innocent populations in Nagasaki and Hiroshima that caused more than 100 000 deaths.

The second pillar was Augusto Pinochet, de facto president of Chile who had to clean up the apparatus of state, civilian society and politics from communists, inspired in the model applied by Interpol.

The third pillar was Hugo Banzer, de facto president of Bolivia, with a low profile since his part of the criminal work was to “clean up” the Catholic church of its left wing priests committed to the Theology of Liberation ; a method later applied throughout the region.

Recently Pope Francisco received your demand to formally request opening the Secret Archives of the Vatican. What importance do they have ?

Mostly for the church to open up to society since we know that many documents of accusations and information on many persons have been sent to Vatican authorities.

They are information and requests about the tragic situation of our countries during those years of State Terrorism as well as about the hundreds of citizens/Paraguayans/detained and disappeared in Argentina and the Southern Region.

With 85 kilometers of shelves it is one of the most complete memory banks in the world. The Archives of the Vatican reflect the life of the Church and events in the world during the last 21 centuries that have become a source of vast and secure knowledge of our days, undoubtedly useful to demand justice. It is also the possibility for consultation by social researchers and for this reason we request UNESCO to declare a Memory of the World.

We appreciate your commitment to Human Rights by sending last year to the Court of La Provincia de la Rioja, Argentina, the Vatican documents referring to the murder of Msgr. Enrique Angelelli and others who led to the perpetual condemnation of the military genocides of the era of vigilance of the Criminal Pact exclusively military.

On September 30 of 2015 in the Vatican I bid farewell to the Holy Father Francisco convinced that “There is nothing covert that will not be revealed or anything hidden that will be discovered” (Mathew 27).

You have indicated that the Condor Operation was only a part of the terror of the dictatorships and that another ; the neo liberal model was implanted at the same time. Now it is 10 years since the declaration of No to FTAA. What risks do you consider are the free trade treaties with the United States and presence of dozens of military bases in Latin America in the 21st century ?

We well know by personal experience that foreign capital does not come to the country to promote development but to enslave us and transform us into a mere dependent factory. In this manner the Empire proposed the creation of ALCA (Free Trade Treaty of the Americas) in which there will be nothing for the dependent partner countries but for multinational companies.

According to Hector Vega, well known Chilean intellectual, in his interesting work on “Economic integration and globalization” on the 10th and 11th of December of 1994 the Summit of the Americas was held in Miami with the presence of 33 heads of state that proposed creation of one market in the American continent by 2005 covering from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.

The rhetorical integration referring to human rights, democracy and defense of the environment was not the real concern of FTAA but only the commercial factor pointing to a new colonization ; a new era of conquest through savage and criminal neo liberalism. It promotes a world in which investors speculate with everything.

As Ignacio Ramonet said : “The disarming of the financial power should become an object of civic interest of the first magnitude if we want to prevent the next century to become a jungle in which predators impose their law”.

To implant neo liberalism the United States had to rely on an energetic military intervention in countries of the Southern Region that led to a weakening of the workers movement imposed in an era of State Terrorism, the destruction of spaces for democratic participation, the physical destruction of the militants and leaders of social movements. The Empire has promoted a model of “restricted democracy in Chile, Brazil and Paraguay.

Now, with the triumph of the right wing in the Argentine elections through a fierce media war in danger again is the advance of regional integration. To insure control of its backyard the Empire continues to receive military officers to learn technique of torture in the School of the Americas today installed in Fort Benning, in the state of Georgia. There are more than 100 military bases surrounding Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, etc. Chile not only sends its officers for courses in State terrorism but installed a military base in Concón in the heart of the country.

This is an urgent reason to globalize the battles against the impunity of State Terrorism. The predatory capital globalized in the past few years. Now it is our turn to globalize our convictions of an active population, a true democracy adapted to our realities and, above all, live in solidarity to prevent the resurgence of the moribund FTAA.

Source : Investig’Action