The Disappeared refers to victims of state terrorism in Latin America during the 1970's and 1980's, most notably in the Argentinian 'Dirty War'. The forced disappearances (and accompanying torture and executions) were part of Operation Condor, a US sponsored plan eliminate socialist and liberatory movements within Latin America via political repression and clandestine assassination campaigns.
In the early 1970's, Latin America was the focus of a significant ideological struggle, as revolutionary Marxist and Socialist 'focos' groups fought against right-wing regimes friendly to the United States. In the aftermath of the CIA sponsored overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende by General Augusto Pinochet, Plan Condor was conceived as means to combat Marxist insurgency and resistance.
In 1975, representatives of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay met at the behest of the Chilean Secret Service and officially adopted Plan Condor. The security and intelligence services subsequently conducted kidnappings of children, political dissidents, leftists and opposition party members. The exact number of disappearances and deaths remains unknown; estimates range from as few as 60,000 to as high as 200,000 in Argentina alone.
There is a considerable amount of evidence that members of the U.S. administration both knew about and tactitly supported violent counterinsurgency tactics and political repression in Condor's member states during its implementation. They include representatives of the State Department, CIA and the White House (including Henry Kissinger). In addtion, over 60,000 Latin American soldiers, police and intelligence officers were trained in violent counterinsurgency tactics at the United States School of the Americas; many of these individuals were directly involved in Plan Condor, most notably Efrain Montt, Leopoldo Galtieri and Hugo Banzer.
A number of international human rights organizations and local activist groups first drew attention to the Disappearances, most notably the Argentinian "Mothers of the Disappeared", resulting in widespread recognition of the atrocities and significant socio-cultural change within Latin America. A number of the involved officials were charged and, in some cases, convicted in both domestic and International Courts.
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