Chile: “Operation Colombo” suspects to be tried

On May 26 Chilean judge Victor Montiglio ordered 98 former police agents and military people to face trial for their involvement in the 1975 "Operation Colombo," in which 119 opponents of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet were kidnapped and murdered. This was the largest number of people tried to date in Chile for human rights violations committed under the 1973-1990 military regime, which executed or disappeared more than 3,000 people. The trial specifically cites the "permanent kidnapping" of 42 victims whose bodies have never been recovered.

Operation Colombo was coordinated with other South American military regimes through the clandestine "Operation Condor" program. To cover up the murders, two one-issue periodicals were put out in July 1975—one in Argentina and one in Brazil—with articles claiming that "60 Chilean extremists" had been killed in in Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama and France "by their own comrades in struggle."

Also on May 26, Joan Jara, widow of the Chilean musician Victor Jara, petitioned the Supreme Court to reopen the case of her husband's 1973 murder. On May 15 Judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes Belmar found retired colonel Mario Manriquez Bravo guilty of the murder and closed the case; the family contends that several others were also involved and should be tried. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 1

See our last post on Chile.