(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Detention Centres in Santa Fe
Secret detention centres in Rosario
This important region of the country found itself subject to the actions of the 2nd Army Corps, whose command headquarters is in Rosario, and where Generals Genaro Díaz Bessone, Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri and Arturo Jáuregui succeeded one another through the years of military repression.
In the area referred to, the number of disappearances was less than in other parts of the country, though it manifested the same proportion of unofficial imprisonments, torture and bloodletting that so often ended in assassination.
The operational characteristics of the squads operating in the south of Santa Fe province varied from area to area. Villa Constitución demonstrates various tragic characteristics, as here the terror spread throughout the entire population. The repression in this densely populated manufacturing zone began before 24 March 1976, with the activities of the 'Three -A"s' and other paramilitary gangs:
I lived with my father, mother and two brothers. The gang that burst into my home dressed in civilian clothes dragged us from the room, and the leader passed us a sheet of paper for us to indicate if we knew certain people. There were three names listed on it: Andino, Ruescas and Tonso. ... My father was called Pedro Antonio Reche and worked in the Acindas company. He was abducted, and the next day someone found his body together with those of Tonso, and Andino, on the path called 'La Blanqueada'. (Statement of Rubén Pedro Reche.)
The witness also sent a magazine, where the leader of operations was identified as Aníbal Gordon (Gente, 12 February 1984).
The Acindar workers were the object of constant reprisals, and the evidence collected points to the concerted participation of the security forces and a non-governmental gang called 'Los Pumas'.
In this context, the evidence of Chief Inspector Carlos Roberto Rampoldi, who performed the function of head of the Villa Constitución Information Services, is valuable:
... at that time the group 'Los Pumas' was already based in the Acindar factory, carrying out their tasks. This group had its headquarters close to Vera; and in Villa Constitución there was a task force consisting of forty men ... they were there for a month, and were then replaced by another contingent. They were run by low-ranking personnel ... with regard to the case of Jorge Sklate ... at this period it was the Pumas and the task force who were there. I verbally requested news from them, They said they couldn't provide any but would go and check it out.
As of 1976 the prisoners started being taken to Army buildings, as is disclosed by the evidence of José América Giusti, presented to the Rosario delegation of the Commission on Disappeared People:
On 1 October 1976 I was detained by the Army, working in my workshop in Villa Constitución. They transported me in a lorry to my home so that I could change my clothes. On leaving my house they blindfolded me, wrapped me up in blankets and, after driving me around for a while, put me into one of the Army's open sheds.
The kidnap victims in areas close to Rosario were mostly sent to the Information Service secret detention centre in the headquarters of the Provincial Police, which coordinated the campaign of repression. Hundreds of kidnap victims passed through their doors. That centre was run by the police chief, Gendarmería Commander Agustín Feced who, from the evidence received, personally kidnapped and tortured his victims:
Feced informed me that they were about to transfer my daughter to the Headquarters and that they would hand her over to me. They told me that in the meantime they would leave me some material to look at, and gave me two large photograph albums. I couldn't bear to took at more than a couple of pages. They were colour photos of bodies of both sexes, cut to pieces and bathed in blood. Feced told me that what I was looking at was only a selection, that he was the key man in countering subversion. (Evidence from Teresa Angela Gatti, in proceedings entitled 'Augustin Feced and others'.)
Police constable Héctor Julio Roldán recounts:
... they were picked up on the streets on the orders of the Commander. They were made to sit inside the car, a blue Fiat 128, and Commander Feced dispatched them at point-blank range with a machine gun from another car.
Equally, there was parallel evidence from Policeman Carlos Pedro Dawydowyz, of the Maintenance Section as to the vehicles used by the Information Services from 1976 to 1978:
In the year 1977, seven people were taken out from the Information Service ... and transported to Ibarlucea (near Rosario), under the pretext that they were in transit to Coronda. These individuals were not officially registered, they were picked up as lefties. They weren't entered into any admissions book or anything of that kind; they had been picked up two or three days previously. Once in Ibarlucea they were made to get out near the police station, and stand about 150 metres from it. Then they were riddled with bullets. On that occasion it was Feced who presided, yelling at the employees inside the police station, and himself shooting up the whole front of the building with a machine gun to give the impression that there had been an armed attack on it. I was there on that occasion and could see everything that was going on..
On other occasions, instead of a trip to the Information Services, the prisoners were destined for some of the many other smaller concentration camps that existed within the region. Amongst these, we can cite the Military Light Arms Factory, located on No. 5200 Avenida Ovidio Lagos outside Rosario city.
Towards the end of June Galtieri came to visit. That day they gave us boiled mate tea with sugar, and made us wash. The Commander interviewed everyone personally. He asked me if I knew who he was; he told me he held my life in his hands. (The statement of Adriana Arce.)
They told us we had a number and when the person who came to see us called out this number we had to reply. That night Deputy Commander Jáuregui came round. (From the previous statement.)
If the prisoners were to be officially registered, the men were returned to the Coronda barracks - or (in the case of women) to Villa Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires, mostly being held 'at the disposition of the National Executive'. When they were no longer detained, most cases were returned to Rosario, in particular to the headquarters of the 2nd Army Corps. There they would be given a lecture before being released.
Galtieri asked us our names one by one. When it came to my turn, he delivered an address on his satisfaction at granting me my freedom in the name of the Argentinian President, General Videla. He advised me to forever remember the colours of our flag, 'covering the skies of our country'. He said I should go to my house; that I should help my daughter-in-law to look after her daughters; and, the height of irony, he requested I forget everything that had happened and refrain from hating the Army. I consider Galtieri responsible for the destruction of my family. (The testimony of Juana Elba Ferraro de Bettanin, who in addition to imprisonment and torture, suffered the loss of her three sons.).