Argentina's last dictator sentenced to 20 years for Operation Condor crimes

Reynaldo Bignone, now 88, is already serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity

Tim Walker
US Correspondent
Friday 27 May 2016 23:48 BST
Former Argentinian dictator Reynaldo Bignone awaits his sentencing in Buenos Aires
Former Argentinian dictator Reynaldo Bignone awaits his sentencing in Buenos Aires (Getty)

The last dictator of the infamous Argentine junta, Reynaldo Bignone, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his involvement in Operation Condor, a conspiracy between South American governments to crush the Marxist movement during the 1970s and 1980s.

Operation Condor was launched in 1975 at a meeting of military intelligence chiefs from rival Latin nations including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, who agreed to put aside their differences to combat what they saw as a leftist threat to their dominance of the continent.

Left-wing campaigners were disappeared and killed across the region, including in Brazil, which later joined the operation, named for the South American vulture, as it continued into the next decade. Bignone was the final leader of Argentina’s military regime, ruling from 1982 to 1983.

The 88-year-old general was sentenced in Buenos Aires on Friday, after he and 17 fellow military officers were found guilty at the conclusion of a three-year trial. He was already serving a life sentence after his 2011 conviction for crimes against humanity.

That previous conviction was related to Argentina’s so-called “Dirty War”, in which an estimated 30,000 left-wing guerillas, dissidents and others were disappeared under the junta from 1976 to 1983. Bignone was forced out of power following the country’s defeat in the 1982 Falklands War, but decreed a blanket amnesty for himself and his colleagues before leaving office, in an attempt to protect them from future action over their human rights abuses.

The sole non-Argentinian defendant in the current case, Uruguayan colonel Manuel Cordero, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The other 16 defendants are still awaiting sentencing. Five others have died since the start of the trial in 2013, including the junta’s first dictator, Jorge Videla, who ruled from 1976 to 1981.

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