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  • Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, one of the region

    Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, one of the region's most notorious dictators, salutes the honor guard outside his home in Santiago. | Photo: Reuters

Former military chiefs and politicians implicated in the deaths of thousands through Operation Condor will face justice.

After decades of impunity, those responsible for the wave of political violence that swept Latin America under the dictatorships of 1970s and 1980s will be tried in court this week in Rome, Italy.

Thirty-three people have been formally charged for their links to the operation, which left 50,000 people dead, 30,000 disappeared, and 400,000 jailed.

Among those killed were 23 Italian citizens, which is why Italy's justice system is now ruling on the case, opened in 1999.

Operation Condor was a coordinated political assassination and persecution plan drafted in the 1970s by South American military dictatorships, with the help of foreign governments. It sought to eliminate any resistance or political rivals, mostly targeting left-wing groups.

The military chiefs of participating countries were provided with a command center by the United States, located in Panama, through which they could communicate and share intelligence on their victims. Declassified U.S. documents show the government knew about the operation but still continued to back the military dictatorships.

Evidence suggests that the beginning of the operation coincided with a visit made by Manuel Contreras – then Chile’s intelligence chief – to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Several researchers believe that U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was involved in the assassination scheme.

French intelligence agents were also part of the operation and helped the South American military chiefs to implement many of the counterinsurgency tactics that France had used against the Algerian resistance.

The Italian court is not expecting the former military chiefs and politicians to attend the hearing, although it has given them the possibility to do so through a video conference.

Among the people charged are 11 former military junta members from Chile, 16 from Uruguay, four from Peru, and one from Bolivia.

Former Bolivian President Luis Garcia Meza has also been accused by the Attorney Giancarlo Capaldo, however he has not been charged given that he has not yet responded to the formal notification against him.

The trial will take place inside Rebbibia prison and will be presided over by Judge Evelina Canale and Judge Paolo Colella.

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