The Impunity Files: 4-3-11
The Associated Press reports that an Argentine court has sentenced former general Eduardo Cabinillas (at right in photo) to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship – specifically the “illegal imprisonment, torture and homicide” of 65 dissidents in 1976. Three others were given 20-25 year sentences. The crimes took place at an auto repair shop used by Operation Condor, which the AP describes as “a coordinated effort by South America’s dictatorships to eliminate dissidents who sought refuge in neighboring countries.” Prosecutors said that as many as 300 Uruguayans, Chileans, Bolivians, Cubans, and others were killed or “disappeared” after interrogation and torture at Automotores Orletti. (The other defendents shown are Raúl Guglielminetti, Horacio Martínez Ruiz, and Eduardo Ruffo.)
The AP does not mention U.S. involvement in these operations, but the Wikipedia entry for Operation Condor says: “Although the United States was not a member of the Condor consortium, evidence shows that the United States provided key organizational, financial and technical assistance to the operation. The United States government sponsored and collaborated with DINA [Chilean intelligence] and with the other intelligence organizations forming the nucleus of Condor, despite the fact that the military dictatorships were killing and torturing tens of thousands of people.”
According to the AP story, “survivors of the torture center say bound, blindfolded prisoners were given electric shocks, hoisted up by pulleys, and submerged head-first in water in what was known as ‘the submarine.’ Running car engines in the garage covered the screams of the torture victims.”
… ..“Among the center’s victims was Marcelo Gelman, the son of Argentine poet Juan Gelman. His body was found in a drum of cement in a river. His pregnant wife was abducted as well and remains missing.” (See story below.)
Human Rights Court Condemns Uruguay
for Inaction in “Stolen Baby” Case
In a closely related case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has condemned Uruguay for its failure to investigate and act on the disappearance and presumed murder of the wife of Marcelo Gelman and the kidnapping of their baby.
….. In a report for the New York Times, Alexei Barrionuevo writes that María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman “was abducted in Buenos Aires in 1976 at age 19 while seven months pregnant. She was later transferred to a clandestine detention center in Uruguay. Her daughter, María Macarena Gelman, was born in captivity and left in a basket at the door of a Uruguayan police officer; the couple adopted her, giving them their name. The child’s grandfather, the Argentine poet Juan Gelman, tracked her down more than 20 years later and she restored her identity.”
…. .According to the Times story, the Court’s judgement “renders ineffective” a 1986 law which gave the Uruguayan armed forces impunity for human rights violations during the country’s dictatorship. The case was brought in 2006 by the Center for Justice and International Law.
.. …The court demanded a public apology for crimes committed by the government of Uruguay, and that it pursue investigations to locate María Claudia’s remains and bring her murderers to justice. According to the Times, human rights experts view this case “as a watershed for ending impunity for crimes against humanity committed under Uruguay’s military dictatorship.
… ..The photos above are of Marcello and María Claudia, who were 20 and 19 years old when they were disappeared, and of their daughter María Macarena as a young adult, after being reunited with her grandfather. They appear on Proyecto Desaparecidos, a website dedicated to keeping alive the memories of the disappeared – not only in Latin America but around the world – and the quest for justice. (See also our prior post about the “stolen baby” trial currently underway in Argentina.)