Operation Condor: For More Than 50 Years the CIA Went Deep into Ecuadorean Society

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The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to declassified documents and testimonies of previous agency officials, had a permanent operation to intervene in political and social decisions of Ecuador.

Starting from the 60s, the CIA infiltrated governments, police, civilian groups, and NGOs to advance U.S. interests in the country, and continues to fight for its power and influence in the region.

Unfortunately, few have knowledge of the political moves that led to the intervention of foreign intelligence forces and the deadly consequences it had for South and Central America, as well as the impact on the new world order.

Background

The Cuban Revolution had succeeded in 1959 and anti-colonial resistance groups began to flourish in Latin America. The Soviet Union maintained its geopolitical strength in part through supporting its new ally, Cuba. It was the beginning of another Cold War for the U.S.

In the early 1960’s, nationalist Ecuadorean President Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra and his later successor, Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy, were pressured by the agency to break diplomatic relations with the new socialist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. When both refused to isolate Castro’s government, both were successively ousted by the country’s military forces, backed by CIA operations.

Ecuador, like other South American countries, was part of the U.S.-backed Operation Condor in the 1970s. This plan endorsed state-sponsored terror to control what was perceived to be the threat of communism and eliminate subversive sectors of society.

Operation Condor’s targets were activists, organizers, and opponents of the dictatorships the U.S. helped set up in the region. Two prominent presidents in Latin America, Panama’s Omar Torrijos and Ecuador’s Jaime Roldos, strongly opposed the U.S. measures.

Roldos and Torrijos were both killed in a plane crash, and according to declassified CIA documents their deaths could have been connected to this plan, as other leftist leaders were also targeted throughout the region.

Investigators continue to believe that Roldos’ death is tied to a CIA operation in the country, since the president wanted to reorganize the hydrocarbon sector, a strong threat to U.S. interests in Ecuador.

CIA Going Deep

Among the agency’s less known activities include the infiltration of hundreds of its agents into diplomatic offices, political parties and military forces in Ecuador.

Agents at airports would report on passengers traveling to socialist countries such as Cuba and Russia, and mail sent to these countries was opened and recorded for the CIA to analyze. Any “special interest” guest in a hotel would be surveilled constantly. Even the medical staff in charge of President Velasco Ibarra reported on their weekly tasks to a CIA station in the country.

Spies kept extensive lists of data on targets such as full name, residences, workplace, phone number, preferred leisure activities and locations, hobbies, the name and dossier of spouses, and the names of schools attended by the children of targets, among other information.

Relevant information of interest to the agency was then passed onto U.S. headquarters.

The agency’s main targets at the time were the young socialist or communist political groups in universities. The Revolutionary Union of Ecuadorean Youth (URJE) was considered the most dangerous organization and the main target for destabilization, along with its parent party, the Communist Party of Ecuador.

Agents would infiltrate social groups and systematically work to discredit their popularity while fabricating or planting evidence to ensure that leaders were falsely prosecuted for crimes such as the bombing of right-wing political headquarters or even churches.

The CIA counted on the support of right-wing media outlets who published false information and didn’t question the sources or veracity of facts.

It was through such methods that the leftist movement lost unity and power in political and social spaces in the country.

Despite the documentation and testimonies verifying these activities, the CIA so far hasn’t acknowledged that its mission in the country also involved infiltrating social movements, radio stations, airlines, hotels and even hospitals.

New Methods, Same Strategy

The current Ecuadorean government has maintained that U.S. financial aid groups linked to the CIA are acting against leftist organizations in Latin American.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are seen by many as tools used by the U.S. government to advance their political, economic and social interests.

Many opposition groups and media networks in Latin America are funded by USAID, the NED or other U.S. based private and public institutions. In addition to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, other leftist presidents have denounced that these institutions are operating to destabilize their governments as was the case with the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and NED funding to opposition groups, and more recently the civil liberties groups behind the impeachment process against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

According to President Correa, these organizations were acting politically to promote social unrest and opposition towards his government’s policies. In 2012, Correa threatened to kick out the USAID after accusing it of financing opposition groups and of involving itself the country’s internal politics.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are seen by many as tools used by the U.S. government to advance their political, economic and social interests.

Many opposition groups and media networks in Latin America are funded by USAID, the NED or other U.S. based private and public institutions. In addition to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, other leftist presidents have denounced that these institutions are operating to destabilize their governments as was the case with the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and NED funding to opposition groups, and more recently the civil liberties groups behind the impeachment process against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

According to President Correa, these organizations were acting politically to promote social unrest and opposition towards his government’s policies. In 2012, Correa threatened to kick out the USAID after accusing it of financing opposition groups and of involving itself the country’s internal politics.

Operation Condor: An Era of State Terror Made in Washington, DC

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For those who opposed U.S.-backed dictatorships in South America, “Operation Condor” was either a living nightmare or a death sentence — or both.

Officially, Operation Condor was an intelligence-sharing arrangement that was established in 1975 among Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, later joined by Ecuador and Peru. However, it is now widely understood that the notorious Cold War-era “black operations” plan was masterminded, funded, and backed to the hilt by the U.S.A.

Operation Condor was the culmination of a U.S.-orchestrated campaign that entailed the ruthless silencing, murder, torture, and disappearance of tens of thousands of left-wing opponents of U.S. imperialism and the fascistic military dictatorships backed by the CIA and supported by infamous Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

As the U.S. renews its attempts to dislodge democratically-elected governments through various means in a continuation of its historic offensive against the popular movements of Latin America, we look back at the still-fresh memories of Operation Condor and the major human rights abuses perpetrated by Washington and its allies.

The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Declassified documents have revealed that U.S. security agencies viewed Operation Condor as a legitimate operation designed to "eliminate Marxist terrorist activities."
The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Declassified documents have revealed that U.S. security agencies viewed Operation Condor as a legitimate operation designed to “eliminate Marxist terrorist activities.” Photo:Reuters
According to the CIA "the consensus at the highest levels of the US Government was that an Allende Presidency would seriously hurt US national interests (in Chile)." In this photo, Supporters of President Salvador Allende are rounded up by General Augusto Pinochet
According to the CIA “the consensus at the highest levels of the US Government was that an Allende Presidency would seriously hurt US national interests (in Chile).” In this photo, Supporters of President Salvador Allende are rounded up by General Augusto Pinochet’s troops following the former’s ouster. Photo:EFE
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976. Pinochet
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976. Pinochet’s dictatorship lasted 17 years and claimed thousands of lives. Photo:Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile
Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner (L) and Chilean dictator Gen. Pinochet (R) wave to crowds in Santiago, Chile.
Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner (L) and Chilean dictator Gen. Pinochet (R) wave to crowds in Santiago, Chile. Photo:Reuters
In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.
In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.
Members of the "Madres de Plaza de Mayo" human rights organization hold a banner demanding information on their missing sons and daughters before marching from the Congress to the Presidential Palace, Oct. 28, 1982.
Members of the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” human rights organization hold a banner demanding information on their missing sons and daughters before marching from the Congress to the Presidential Palace, Oct. 28, 1982. Photo:AFP
Worker being arrested during a protest against the Argentine dictatorship in Buenos Aires, March 30, 1982
Worker being arrested during a protest against the Argentine dictatorship in Buenos Aires, March 30, 1982 Photo:AFP
Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina.
Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina. Photo:Colección AGRA, Archivo Memoria Activa
Graffiti in Buenos Aires, 2011 demanding justice for victims of the "Dirty War" and a trial for the military junta.
Graffiti in Buenos Aires, 2011 demanding justice for victims of the “Dirty War” and a trial for the military junta. Photo:Wikipedia
One of the cells used during the reign of Paraguayan Dictator Alfredo Stroessner, now a museum in Asuncion dedicated to those murdered under Operation Condor.
One of the cells used during the reign of Paraguayan Dictator Alfredo Stroessner, now a museum in Asuncion dedicated to those murdered under Operation Condor. Photo:EFE
An exhibit of photographs displaying the victims of Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Sept. 23, 2014.
An exhibit of photographs displaying the victims of Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Sept. 23, 2014. Photo:EFE
An exhibit of images relating to human rights violations during Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, September 23, 2014.
An exhibit of images relating to human rights violations during Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, September 23, 2014. Photo:EFE
Argentine forensic expert Rogelio Agustin Goiburu (r.) of human rights group
Argentine forensic expert Rogelio Agustin Goiburu (r.) of human rights group ‘Verdad, Justicia y Reparacion’ (Truth, Justice and Amends) works with others to excavate human remains discovered in the grounds of a police barracks in Asuncion, Paraguay in August 2010. The skeletal remains of 11 people were found based on information that they were victims of the government of General Alfredo Stroessner, dictator from 1954 to 1989. Photo:Reuters
Flowers are left behind on the memorial of disappeared persons at a general cemetery in Santiago, Chile.
Flowers are left behind on the memorial of disappeared persons at a general cemetery in Santiago, Chile. Photo:Reuters
Former Argentine dictator and general, Rafael Videla (2-R) and other defendants are seen during their trials to investigate crimes committed during Operation Condor, in Buenos Aires.
Former Argentine dictator and general, Rafael Videla (2-R) and other defendants are seen during their trials to investigate crimes committed during Operation Condor, in Buenos Aires. Photo:AFP
Former Argentine military members Santiago Riveros (2-L) and Eugenio Guanabens (C) are seen in Buenos Aires in 2013 among other defendants during their trials over crimes committed during Operation Condor.
Former Argentine military members Santiago Riveros (2-L) and Eugenio Guanabens (C) are seen in Buenos Aires in 2013 among other defendants during their trials over crimes committed during Operation Condor. Photo:AFP
A man holds a sign with the image of Chile
A man holds a sign with the image of Chile’s late former president Salvador Allende during the May Day demonstration in Valparaiso city, Chile, May 1, 2016. Photo:Reuters
A group of victims of the Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay meet in downtown Asuncion, February 2, 2013.
A group of victims of the Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay meet in downtown Asuncion, February 2, 2013. Photo:EFE
Protester holds sign listing deceased dictators that notes "One common past, one destination."
Protester holds sign listing deceased dictators that notes “One common past, one destination.” Photo:Reuters
Brazilians take part in an annual national march commemorating the anniversary of the 1964 coup, which overthrew President Joao Goulart from the progressive Labor Party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016.
Brazilians take part in an annual national march commemorating the anniversary of the 1964 coup, which overthrew President Joao Goulart from the progressive Labor Party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016. Photo:Reuters
A woman holds up a portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama with the words "persona non grata" during a demonstration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Argentina
A woman holds up a portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama with the words “persona non grata” during a demonstration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s 1976 military coup in Buenos Aires, March 24, 2016. Under Barack Obama’s tenure, Brazil has seen the installation of a new, unelected, and unpopular right-wing coup government.