Operation Charly

Operation Charly

Operation Charly (Spanish: Operación Charly), according to journalist María Seoane,[1] was the alleged code-name of a right-wing covert operation to extend the illegal methods of repression used in the so-called "Dirty War" in Argentina to Central America. The operation was either headed by the Argentine military with the agreement of the Pentagon,[1] or was led by the US administration and used the Argentinians as a proxy.[2] It lasted from 1977 to 1984. According to French journalist Marie-Monique Robin, these methods themselves had been taught to the Argentine military first by the French military, drawing on the experience of the 1957 Battle of Algiers, and then by their US counterparts.[3][4]

Clarín newspaper journalist María Seoane states[1] she has read released classified documents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and interviewed Duane Clarridge, former CIA operative purportedly responsible for those operations. María Seoane states that with the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1977, the CIA was blocked from engaging in the special warfare it had previously delivered against opponents. In conformity with the National Security Doctrine, the Argentine militaries then did the work the most conservative North American elements wanted to achieve[citation needed], while they pressured the United States to be more active in counter-revolutionary activities. María Seoane states that finally they submitted themselves to Washington's control following the access of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1981.[1] María Seoane says that activities were taken up by the Pentagon following the defeat of the Argentine Armed Forces during the Falklands War (March–June 1982).


The exportation of the "Argentine" method to Central America

According to journalist María Seoane, from 1977 to 1984, after the Falklands War, the Argentine Armed Forces exported counter-insurgency tactics, including the systemic use of torture, death squads and "disappearances" — a US embassy cable spoke of the "tactics of disappearance".[1] Special force units, such as Batallón de Inteligencia 601, headed in 1979 by Colonel Jorge Alberto Muzzio, trained the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s, in particular in Lepaterique base.[5] According to journalist María Seoane, the plans were designed by General Carlos Alberto Martínez, head of the SIDE and Videla's man in the intelligence services, along with General Viola and General Valín.[1]

Starting in 1979, the military junta actively participated to the "dirty war" carried out in Central America, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.[citation needed] The Argentine military carried out covert operations that the CIA could not manage under the Carter (democratic) administration which had succeeded Gerald Ford, a Republican.[citation needed] According to journalist María Seoane, along with the more conservative sectors of US society, they began to proclaim that the United States had abandoned the continent to confront the "Communist threat" alone and that they had to take up the lead.[1]

Operation Charly was executed by a group of military figures who had already taken part in Operation Condor, which had started as soon as 1973 and concerned international cooperation between intelligence agencies to permit greater repression of the left-wing opposition. US journalist Martha Honey documented the exportation of "social control techniques" which the Argentine army had "brutally perfected" in Argentina to Central American countries.[6] The Argentine intelligence services created a secret network inside the intelligence agencies (the same method was used in Operation Gladio) to transfer the $19 million provided by the CIA.[1]

According to journalist María Seoane, in 1979, the Sandinista Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. In November 1979, before the 13th Conference of American Armies in Bogotá, General Roberto Viola, president of the Argentine junta, exposed the Latin American plan of state terrorism.[1] However, it was most of all General Leopoldo Galtieri who, in resonance with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, committed the Argentine military to the continental "Dirty War", within the strategic framework decided by the White House.

New York Times journalist Leslie Gelb explained that "with this pact, Argentina would be responsible, with funds from North American intelligence, of attacking the flux of equipment which was transiting Nicaragua to El Salvador and Guatemala [7]". The US were to provide money and equipment, while Argentina sent military instructors, and Honduras provided the use of its territory for training of the Contras and attack bases against the Sandinistas.

According to Noam Chomsky, starting in 1979, the Argentine military established covert military centers in Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Among others examples, Noam Chomsky says the death squads which began to act in Honduras in 1980 were attributed to the importation of the "Argentine method".[8][improper synthesis?]

According to journalist María Seoane, a memorandum of the United States National Security Council of 15 February 1980, given by Robert Pastor to Zbigniew Brzezinski, David Aaron and Henry Owen stated that: "The moment has come to insure that this government [US government] moves itself in an efficient manner to resolve the problems of El Salvador and Honduras."[citation needed] She says that the document proposed to divide the left-wing, neutralize the right-wing coup d'état and arm a more moderate civilian and military government.[1]

In July 1980, the Grupo de Tareas Exterior (GTE, External Operations Group) headed by Guillermo Suárez Mason, of the 601 Intelligence Battalion, took part in the Cocaine Coup of Luis García Meza in Bolivia, with the assistance of the Italian terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie. The Argentine secret services hired 70 foreign agents to assist in the coup.[1][9] The cocaine trade helped fund the covert operations.[1] According to journalist María Seoane, contacts were made between US intelligence and Argentine intelligence on 16 June 1980, and the main theme of discussions concerned Bolivia, as well as the kidnapping of Montoneros in Lima (Peru).[1]

End of October 1980, Jimmy Carter authorized the creation of a CIA covert program of assistance to the Sandinistas' opposition, sending a million dollars to fund them.[citation needed] According to journalist María Seoane, the CIA also collaborated with the 601 Intelligence Battalion, which had organized a base in Florida.[1] According to journalist María Seoane, in the middle of the 1980s, former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters and the Contra leader Francisco Aguirre met with Viola, Davico and Valín to coordinate actions in Central America.[1]

Leopoldo Galtieri's take-over and complete alignment with Washington

The "Dirty War" in Central America and US support internally strengthened General Galtieri's position. In December 1981, Galtieri in a palace revolution, replaced General Viola, who was, as Videla, suspected because of the good relationship maintained until now by the military junta with the Soviet Union. A few days before assuming power, Galtieri exposed in a speech in Miami the Argentine government's decision to constitute itself as an unconditional ally of the US in the "world struggle against Communism": "Argentina and the United States will march together in the ideological war which is starting in the world" [sic].[10]

Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan assumed power in January 1981, with Alexander Haig as Secretary of State and Harry Shlaudeman as ambassador in Buenos Aires. John Negroponte was nominated ambassador in Honduras. The same month, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) initiated a large-scale military offensive supported by the Sandinistas. A 26 February 1981 document sent by Vernon Walters, former CIA director, to Al Haig described with precisions the US knowledge of the covert operations. Argentine military officer transferred to the Contras approximatively 50 000 dollars gathered by the drug trade in Bolivia.[1]

In the beginning of 1982, the United States and the Argentine junta planned the creation of a large Latin American military force, which would be directed by an Argentine officer, with the initial aim of landing in El Salvador and push the revolutionaries to Honduras to exterminate them, and then to invade Nicaragua and topple the Sandinista regime. The operation would have been protected by a remodelling of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR).

According to journalist María Seoane, a few months later, assuming support of the United States and in an attempt to revive internal support, Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands, starting the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur) on April 2, 1982 against the United Kingdom, headed by Margaret Thatcher, who was very close to Reagan.[1] Washington, however, did nothing to prevent London from vigorously reacting to the Argentine military's belligerous inclinations.[citation needed]

During the Falkland War, the Argentine agent Francés García (alias of Estanislao Valdéz), who had been the repressor of the Campito detention center in Argentina, was kidnapped by Sandinistas groups in Costa Rica, where he was based. He then appeared on a TV video, explaining with loads of details the Argentine and US covert operations in Costa Rica. US journalist Martha Honey report that García was qualified by the North Americans, with a certain admiration, of having a "completely criminal gorrilla mentality.".[11]

Although the invasion of the Falkland Islands and the subsequent return to civilian rule in 1983 put an end to Argentine operations in Central America, the "dirty war" continued well into the 1990s, with hundreds of thousands being "disappeared." The Reagan administration took over the covert operations.

Furthermore, according to the NGO Equipo Nizkor, if the Argentine mission in Honduras, for instance (where 150 officers were present end of 1981,[12] training members of the Battalion 316, in various bases, including Lepaterique), was downgraded after the Falklands War, Argentine officers remained active in Honduras until 1984, some of them until 1986,[12] well after the 1983 election of Raúl Alfonsín.

According to journalist María Seoane, in June 1983, the NGO Americas Watch visited Honduras and stated in its report that "The General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez, head of the Hondurian military staff, has publicly defended the use of the Argentine method to confront the subversive threat in Latin America. She says Alvarez is responsible of having brought to Honduras the first Argentine military instructors, when he was commandant of the Fuerza de Seguridad Pública (Fusep [Public Security Force]).[1]"

Ariel Armony, president of the Goldfarb Center in the Colby College, stated in journalist María Seoane's article that "it would be more appropriate to speak of a dirty war at a continental level than isolated conflicts at a national scale", and that "in this war the distinction between combatants and civilian population were erased, while national frontiers were subordinated to "ideological frontiers" of the East-West conflict." In particular, the Argentine military was not satisfied with "annihilating" the opposition in the country, but repealed any distinction between internal and external policy.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s María Seoane (March 24, 2006). "Los secretos de la guerra sucia continental de la dictadura" (in Spanish). Clarín. http://www.clarin.com/suplementos/especiales/2006/03/24/l-01164353.htm.  (Spanish)
  2. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1986). What Uncle Sam Really Wants. p. 41. ISBN 1-878825-01-1. 
  3. ^ Argentine - Escadrons de la mort : l’école française, interview with Marie-Monique Robin published by RISAL, October 22, 2004 available in French & Spanish ("Los métodos de Argel se aplicaron aquí", Página/12, October 13, 2004
  4. ^ Conclusion of Marie-Monique Robin's Escadrons de la mort, l'école française (French)
  5. ^ Capítulos desconocidos de los mercenarios chilenos en Honduras camino de Iraq, La Nación, September 25, 2005 - URL accessed on February 14, 2007 (Spanish)
  6. ^ Honey, Martha (1994). Hostile acts: US policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s. p. 244. 
  7. ^ New York Times, April 8, 1983
  8. ^ Noam Chomsky (January 18, 2006). "War on Terror" (pdf). Amnesty International Annual Lecture. Hosted by Trinity College. pp. 7. http://www.chomsky.info/talks/20060118.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  9. ^ "Hearing before the Italian Parliamentary Commission on Terrorism". 22 July 1997. http://www.parlamento.it/bicam/terror/stenografici/steno26.htm.  of Stefano Delle Chiaie, headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino (Italian)
  10. ^ Miami Herald, December 2, 1981
  11. ^ Honey, Hostile Acts, p. 246


  • Armony, Ariel C. (1999), La Argentina, los Estados Unidos y la Cruzada Anti-Comunista en América Central, 1977–1984, Quilmes: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes. ISBN.
  • Bardini, Roberto: "Los militares de EEUU y Argentina en América Central y las Malvinas", en Argenpress. La política en la semana (1 de febrero de 2003): 2003.
  • Bardini, Roberto (1988), Monjes, mercenarios y mercaderes, libro del autor de este trabajo, México : Alpa Corral. ISBN.
  • Butazzoni, Fernando: "La historia secreta de un doble asesinato", en Marcha. Montevideo (1 de junio de 2005): 2005.
  • Honey, Martha (1994). The Argentines: the first cut-outs in Washington's dirty war. Gainesville, Fl: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1250-3. 
  • Maechling, Charles: "The Argentine pariah", en Foreign Policy. Invierno 1981–1982(45): 1981. pp 69–83.
  • Seoane, María: "Los secretos de la guerra sucia continental de la dictadura", en Clarín. Especiales: A 30 años de la noche más larga (24 de marzo de 2006): 2006.

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