Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

LATAM: The National Security Doctrine’s Fetid Past Reeks on

Raul Ronzoni

MONTEVIDEO, Jan 31 1996 (IPS) - The complicity and misconduct of the military regimes which ruled most of Latin America in the seventies are slowly coming to light, as the ravages of the national security doctrine fade into the past.

Surprise discoveries and patient investigations were produced results as the protective network which shielded the military receded, uncovering ever more atrocities.

But the network still exists to some extent, and the shadows of past dictators continue to loom over the region’s apparently stable democracies.

Just such a case emerged in Uruguay recently, when the results of an autopsy on a corpse found buried in the sand at a seaside resort near Montevideo in 1995, were made public.

The forensic investigation concluded that the corpse was 90 percent likely to be that of scientist and former Chilean agent Eugenio Berrios, who disappeared in Uruguay in 1992.

The remains of the corpse showed signs of torture and death was caused by two bullet wounds to the head.

“There is no shadow of a doubt that this was an execution,” a source in the Technical Forensic Institute (ITF) told IPS. The legal authorities in charge of thr ITF have said they are “nearly 100 percent sure” that the body belongs to Berrios.

Berrios worked for the now dissolved National Intelligence Authority (DINA) under the Chilean dictator and present military chief Augusto Pinochet.

A warrant was issued for his arrest in his home nation in 1991, as he was allegedly linked to the murder of former foreign minister Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976.

Then one morning in 1992 he approached his neighbour in the seaside resort of Parque del Plata, 50 kilometers east of Montevideo, asking for help, later making a similar appeal at the local police station.

He said that somebody was trying to kidnap him in order to prevent him from revealing incriminating information on Pinochet and other military leaders of the Chilean dictatorship.

Three Uruguayan officers, including General Mario Aguerrondo, current military attache to Washington, were implicated.

The “Berrios case,” which caused outcry in Uruguay in 1993, was shelved for lack of evidence in September 1995 but will now be reopened next week.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, a judge passed a prison sentence on the Chilean former DINA agent Enrique Arancibia, accused of assassinating General Carlos Prats, who had been exiled to Buenos Aires after Pinochet came to power.

Argentine daily “El Clarin” revealed that at the time Arancibia was active in Argentina Chilean Major Carlos Herrera was also operative in Buenos Aires. Herrera is currently in prison in Chile on murder charges.

During that period, Herrera worked shielding former members of Pinochet’s intelligence service, including Berrios, who supposedly made the bomb which killed Prats.

Only months ago a plague of Argentine officers spoke of their role in the General Juan Peron’s dictatorship, describing how they had executed thousands of the people who “disappeared” between 1976 and 1978.

Paraguay’s violent repressive past also came back to bite the country recently, when the secret archives of Alfredo Stroessner’s intelligence services were discovered on a rubbish dump.

The files included details of the abduction, assassination and torture of the regime’s political opponents.

Finally, in a case apart, but also showing signs of how jealously military silence has been guarded on this continent, the whereabouts of the body of the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara, executed in Bolivia in 1967, was finally revealed late last year.

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