New Documents Discovered

About the Archives of Terror

Links to Web Sites on
Operation Condor and
the Archives of Terror

Articles and interviews

Dr. Martin Almada's book on the Archives of Terror

Pinochet Watch, June 20, 2001 (PDF)


Dr. Martin Almada, a Paraguayan lawyer and former political prisoner, is the author of Paraguay: The Forgotten Prison, the Exiled Country, which is the most important single work yet published on the "Archives of Terror."

During his recent visit to PSU, Dr. Almada spoke of the Archives and his efforts to preserve and publicize them. The Archives of Terror is a vast collection of documents in some 700,000 files that details ParaguayŠs involvement in the notorious Operation Condor, the code name for a wave of repression against suspected leftist activists in South America. This repression, which took place in the 1970s and 1980s, spread throughout the Southern Cone countries of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile. The events of this period as pertaining to Argentina are better know in the U.S. as the "Dirty War." It is less well known that this wave of repression, including disappearances of activists, torture of detainees, and other gross civil rights violations, engulfed neighboring countries, including Paraguay, then under the dictatorial rule of General Alfredo Stroessner. At this time the region was under the rule of repressive military regimes, including the military government of former Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Comprising the most extensive collection of records extant on the Cold War in Latin America, these documents were discovered almost by accident in December of 1992 at an obscure police station in Lambare, a suburb of Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. By this time the Stroessner regime had fallen and the long-time dictator was in exile in Brazil, where he remains to this day.

While the documents focus on Operation Condor in Paraguay, they contain massive amounts of information regarding the involvement of neighboring states, including international collusion among these countries for the sharing of information and tracking down suspected activists. Numerous documents in the archives also highlight collusion, witting or otherwise, with U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the CIA. It will be remembered that this period was squarely in the Cold War, and U.S. intelligence agencies were often only too willing to assist in the search for suspected leftist sympathizers.

It was from the Archives of Terror that much of the case against General Pinochet was built by Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon in 1999. Dr. Almada traveled to Europe to present evidence against the former Chilean dictator to European judges investigating charges of genocide, torture and state terrorism. Almada was twice interviewed by Judge Garzon. The evidence he presented was based on documents that he personally researched at the Archives. "These documents are a motherlode," said Peter Kornbluh of the US National Security Archives in Washington. "They are the first full archive of political repression ever discovered. There is some extraordinary material in them on Operation Condor - some of it highly relevant to the Pinochet proceedings - and it needs to be protected."

Dr. Almada talked of his plans to request that UNESCO list the Archives of Terror as an international cultural site, which would greatly facilitate access to funding to preserve and protect the documents. He plans to call attention the Archives and to his request for international status for them during events that he has planned for International Human Rights Day in December 2002 in Asuncion. His concern for the preservation of the documents is due to the fact many of the pages are fragile and need to be stored in a proper climate-controlled facility. They are currently housed in an office building in Asuncion. PSU students visited the Archives in 2000 and 1999 as part of the annual Paraguay study-abroad program, and will do so again in 2001. Many of the students who visited the Archives said that the experience, though shocking, brought home to them in a graphic manner the ways in which history and politics can affect peopleŠs daily lives. Dr. Almada also expressed a secondary concern that the documents need to be protected from people whose activities are mentioned in them, people who are still living, and in some cases in positions of influence in Paraguay and other Latin American countries.