Operation Mexico: Secret Argentine Rendition Program Illuminated by Declassified Documents
As the case of "Operation Mexico"--death squad murders, disappearances and rendition efforts by the Argentine secret police--is presented to a court in Rosario, Argentina, the National Security Archive today posted a selection of records that corroborate the testimony of the only surviving witness, Jaime Dri. The documents were provided to a tribunal of five judges yesterday by Archive analyst Carlos Osorio who testified that "the records reveal how the Argentine dictatorship conducted its campaign of transnational terror in the 1970's."
"Operation Mexico" was the codename for a clandestine Argentine rendition program aimed at kidnapping and disappearing leaders of the Montoneros living in exile in Mexico City in the late 1970s. In 1978, members of that militant group who had already been taken prisoner and were being held in a clandestine prison in Rosario were forced to travel with intelligence agents to Mexico to identify their colleagues. The operation was intercepted and disrupted by Mexican authorities. To cover up the failed mission, the Argentine secret police executed 14 of the 15 prisoners who were aware of Operation Mexico.
The documents include a secret Argentine report that confirmed that Jaime Dri was the lone survivor of the prisoners who knew about the secret Mexico rendition mission. According to the document, "DRI JAIME 'Pelado'" was present when "the commission that accompanies 'TUCHO'" Valenzuela--one of the prisoners forced to accompany the intelligence operatives to Mexico City to identify his colleagues--"returned from Mexico."
The secret report was discovered by Osorio, who directs the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, among papers at the Archivo del Terror in Paraguay. Osorio testified yesterday before Judge Otmar Paulucci, who heads the Federal criminal tribunal No. 1 in Rosario. The tribunal is currently hearing the "Guerrieri case," named for one of the members of the paramilitary unit "121" who is being prosecuted for executing 14 members of the Montoneros in a secret prison in Rosario.
In January 2008, the National Security Archive exposed "Operation Mexico," publishing declassified documents found in Mexican national archives from the Federal Directorate of Security. Those documents showed that Mexican security officers had arrested and interrogated two of the Argentine intelligence agents in January 1978 before deporting them and their two Montonero prisoners they had brought with them back to Argentina. The two were among those fourteen subsequently executed. Dri's account of "Operation Mexico" was described in the book Recuerdo de la Muerte, written by Argentine investigator Miguel Bonasso in 1994.
"These new documents complete the international triangulation of evidence from Mexico, Argentina and Paraguay," according to Osorio, "and confirm Argentina's bloody pursuit of cross border repression."