A top-secret 1979 report to the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee reveals U.S.-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had help from former Nazis in training and supporting his Operation Condor activities.
The declassified report, released on Dec. 12 by the Obama administration, describes the extensive ties between a Nazi “colony” based in Southern Chile and the notorious Chilean secret service DINA, which helped create and operate the deadly multi-state Operation Condor intelligence operation designed to destroy opposition to U.S. backed right-wing regimes in Latin America.
The report outlines that the Chilean Directorate of National Intelligence, DINA, which was created in 1974 to exterminate the left-wing opposition to Pinochet’s dictatorship and reported directly to the president, maintained a “close liaison with the German Nazi colony of La Dignidad in Southern Chile” and even operated a torture center within the Nazi base.
The report describes how the Nazi compound, referred to in the report as “The Colony,” was established by former Nazi officers at the close of World War II and operated with "complete autonomy." Camp personnel comprised of ex-Gestapo and ex-SS officers gave DINA agents “instruction in torture techniques and have actually taken part in the application of that torture,” according to the report.
The report further details that as DINA developed Operation Condor’s extensive international assassination network, it made use of “the Colony's national and international contacts,” and that “the Colony's leadership maintains good relations with Chilean military officials, particularly officers of the Chilean Air Force, who have close ties to the Colony's former Luftwaffe pilots.”
The report, which was submitted to the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee, which at the time included current U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and was chaired by Frank Church, who authored the Church Committee report detailing the U.S.’s own international assassination operation, outlined the vast scope and ambition of Plan Condor operations.
Based in Chile and created by former DINA director and Pinochet’s close personal friend Manuel Contreras, the report describes Plan Condor as “a consortium” of the intelligence services of U.S.-backed dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The report quotes Contreras as saying Plan Condor agents operated under civilian control in “all Chilean embassies abroad” with a goal of “hitting Chilean enemies in those countries.” The report quotes Contreras, a former paid CIA operative who died in 2015 while serving a 500-year sentence in Chile for his crimes, as saying “We will go to Australia if necessary to get our enemies.”
However, the report shows that Contreras’ first stop was, in fact, the U.S. itself. While the report does not give details of U.S. involvement, it admits that before creating Plan Condor, Contreras came to the U.S. in the early days of DINA to seek out support in creating the intelligence network. The report says Plan Condor even attempted to create a “station” in Miami, but when U.S. agents found out and advised issuing a formal diplomatic objection, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger objected, instead deciding to inform Plan Condor directors directly that the U.S. “disapproved” of a Miami station.
While the report claims the Miami Plan Condor station was never created, it does describe in detail the “phase three” operational plan likely used to assassinate key Pinochet opponent and former Chilean Ambassador to the U.S. Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., in 1976. It suggests a similar process was used to target Venezuelan guerrilla Carlos the Jackal in France and Portugal, a plan which was eventually called off after European diplomats discovered the plot and raised objections.The report is just one of what the National Security Archive — an independent nongovernmental research institute and library based in Washington, D.C. — says are hundreds more documents about Plan Condor operations set to be released in the coming months.
Chile’s DINA and Plan Condor operations are thought to have led to the death and disappearance of 50,000 people throughout Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.