INTERNATIONAL DAY of the DISAPPEARED: Latin America Past and Present

The UN declares August 30th the International Day of the Disappeared, but Latin America has been no foreigner to forced disappearances on any day.The UN declares August 30th the International Day of the Disappeared, but Latin America has been no foreigner to forced disappearances on any day.

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 65/209 declares August 30th the International Day of the Disappeared.

Yet for the past century, Latin America has been no foreigner to forced disappearances on any day.

The Definition

 

The resulting sensations of insecurity generated by this practice are not limited to close relatives of the disappeared, but also the community and country. Photo (c) Cronica Digital 2014

Forced disappearances are typically used as a mechanism to instill terror into citizens during crisis eras.

The resulting sensations of insecurity generated by this practice are not limited to close relatives of the disappeared, but also the community and country.

Latin America’s forced disappearances – which were once largely a product of dictatorships  – are today observed in complex situations of internal conflict, particularly when repressing economic and political opponents.

Several prominent cases of forced disappearances – past and present – in Latin America include:

History: Operation Condor

Executed by local military, paramilitary, vigilantes and multinational businesses, Operation Condor semi-successfully repressed leftist guerillas and governments supported by Cuba and the then Soviet Union, thus guarding US and US-ally interests. Photo (c) Tercer Informacion 2012

Operation Condor – or Plan Condor – were large scale tactics executed by the dictatorships of southern South America – Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia – and engineered by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and allies.

Conducted between the late 1950s and early 1990s, this coordination resulted in the mass monitoring, surveillance, false flag terrorism, puppet statery, detention, interrogation with psycho-physical constraints, murder and disappearance of persons considered “subversive” to the established order, contrary to political or ideological opposite thought, or otherwise not compatible with the installed authories’ interests.

Latin America has undergone several Operation Condor-era dictatorships which heavily practiced forced disappearances, including:

– Argentina:

20th century Argentina has been a recently popular forced disappearance case study. Photo (c) Insider 2015

With Dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and later Jorge Bignone in power, Argentina plunged into what is locally termed the “Dirty War”.

Official figures estimate 8,961 dead or missing, however the more widely accepted figure is 30,000, confirms the United Nations and independent human rights organizations.

20th century Argentina has been a recently popular forced disappearance case study, becoming known for its famous missing children cases and violent disposal tactics.

– Bolivia:

200 disappearances have been recorded, but the total number of victims remains unknown. Photo (c) Tarixa 2007

Dictator Hugo Banzer (1971-1978), returned to government as President by the far right-wing Nationalist Democratic Alliance from 1997 to 2001. He died in 2002.

200 disappearances have been recorded, but the total number of victims remains unknown. The majority were protesters and indigenous laborers.

– Brazil:

351 forced disappearances and thousands of torture cases. Photo (c) Nueva Tribuna 2011

Dictator Ernesto Geisel oversaw 351 forced disappearances and thousands of torture cases, especially that of protesters, academics and guerillas (including currently suspended President Dilma Rousseff).

– Chile:

There were 40,000 imprisoned, jailed and/or murdered for allegations of governmental non-compliance. Photo (c) El mostrador 2015

Under Dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chile became the nerve center of Operation Condor, with approximately 3,197 known missing victims.

There were 40,000 imprisoned, jailed and/or murdered for  allegations of governmental non-compliance.

– Ecuador and Peru:

The number of victims remains unknown. Photo (c) La Republica 2015

Ecuador and Peru joined Operation Condor in 1978, when ultraconservative sectors of the Armed Forces shifted to progressive military factions.

The number of victims remains unknown.

– Paraguay:

50% of the population expatriated during this era. Photo (c) ABC Paraguay 2013

Alfredo Stroessner’s 35-year long dictatorship engineered 3 million disappeared, imprisoned or/and dead, according to recently uncovered classified material.

50% of the population expatriated during this era.

– Uruguay:

288 missing or dead cases have been recorded. Photo (c) La Red 21 Uruguay 2011

With President Juan Maria Bordaberry and his military junta oversight in power during the 1970s, 288 missing or dead cases have been recorded.

Central American Civil Wars aka Banana Republic Conflicts II

Forced disappearances as a technique spread through the rest of Central America and the Caribbean and was refined between the 1960s and 1990s. Photo (c) El Mostrador 2016

In a Central American contribution to the Cold War, the tactics to stop  ideological rivals via forced disappearances  was only until recently admitted by its executors.

The practice was consolidated in 1966 in Guatemala as an experiment by the US doctrine of national security.

Executed by local military, paramilitary, vigilantes and multinational businesses, Central American destabilization semi-successfully repressed leftist guerillas and governments supported by Cuba and the then Soviet Union, thus guarding US and US-ally interests.

Forced disappearances as a technique spread through the rest of Central America and the Caribbean and was refined between the 1960s and 1990s in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and social conflicts in Mexico, according to Amnesty International.

From the 70,000 estimated disappearances between 1966 and 1981 in the region, the figure rose to 90,000 before the Cold War officially ended.

Today: Guatemala:

Due to the Drug War and other related conflicts, the number keeps rising. Photo (c) EFE 2015

Guatemala is the modern Latin American country with the largest number of forced disappearances victims.

According to the Historical Clarification Commission of Guatemala, over 45,000 people disappeared during the internal armed conflict. Due to the Drug War and other related conflicts, the number keeps rising.

Investigations conducted by the United Nations assess that such  forced disappearances of people in Guatemala was historically a systematic practice.

Victims include peasants, farmers, community heads, students, academics, political leaders, religious figures and minors.

Today: Mexico:

Over 40,000 deaths and thousands of disappearances have been recorded since the war against the drug cartels resumed in 2006. Photo (c) Hoy Informe 2015

The murder of 6 students and the disappearance of 43 in Ayozinapa, Mexico, shook a populous numbed by daily violence.

Over 40,000 deaths and thousands of disappearances have been recorded since the war against the drug cartels resumed in 2006.

Forced disappearances also continue to grow as a global problem.

About the Author

Ailana Navarez
Ailana Navarez is Pulsamerica’s Editor-in-Chief, Owner, Digital Marketing Manager and Contributor; and Deputy Editor of partner-magazine International Policy Digest. She is former Contributor of Uruguay and Venezuela. She has published over 80 international relations-related articles as a political analyst / journalist with a concentration in Latin American leadership analysis, economy, history, international relations, and her research passions, politics and narco-trafficking. As a photographer, she has covered international summits – including of MERCOSUR and the UN. She holds a BA in Government and Psychology at Harvard, pursuing an MA in Homeland Security at Penn State, and is certified in Competitive Counter Intelligence, Technical Surveillance Countermeasures and Countering Terrorism & the Asset Threat Spectrum. She has volunteered for environmental, educational and law enforcement entities - domestically and abroad. She maintains permanent residency status in Panama, the United States and Uruguay. She speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hawaiian Creole.