MERCOSUR of Terror: Pinochet and Bolivia

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sat Oct 24 15:12:36 PDT 1998

[More from Tom Kruse at his cibercafe]

>Date: Fri, 09 Oct 1998 01:12:47 -0400
>To: lbo-talk at
>From: Tom Kruse <cibercaf at>
>Subject: MERCOSUR of Terror: Pinochet and Bolivia
>Cc: pen-l at, ttricot at
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>The Pinochet affair is taking on very interesting aspects here in Bolivia.
>As I noted in other missives, Gen. Hugo Banzer took power through a coup
>here in Bolivia in 1971, and remained in power until 1978. During his time
>in power he formed part of what a local journalist has aptly called the
>"MERCOSUR of Terror", that is, the formal alliance of southern cone
>dictators, who through Operation Condor (and other mechanisms) did each
>others' dirty work, such as deproting/repatriating people to their deaths.
>In the documents that seek to extradite Pinochet to Spain from England,
>Banzer and Bolivia are mentioned, causing pathetic gyrations and
>disclaimers here. The "collateral damage" caused by the Pinochet affair is
>really opening up the past here. Some details follow.
>First, Banzer pathetically falls all over himself to deny any knowledge of
>Operation Condor. "I tell you," he said yesterday, "as an article of faith
>between men [this is the sort of macho shit such dictators cannot purge
>from their language] I never knew of the existence of Operation Condor,
>because as far as I know, it never operated in this country, and as such
>that it would be impossible for me to have been involved in it."
>Nonetheless, senator Hugo Carvajal of the Bolivian MIR, an ally of Banzer's
>ADN party since 1989 and current member of his coalition government, stated
>categorically "Bolivia was involved and we can't lie about it."
>The evidence seems to suggest Carvajal is right. For example, on 2 April
>1975, Graciela Antonia Rutilo Artes, the daughter of Spanish parents, was
>captured in the Bolivian city of Oruro, and turned over to Argentinian
>authorities, never to surface again. And on 13 November 1976 Julio de
>Transito Valladares was turned over by Bolivian authorities to their
>Chilean counterparts. He too disappeared. These two cases are cited in
>judge Garzon's documents; others cases are well known to the Bolivian human
>rights community. All of these cases suggest real coordination between
>dictators. MERCOSUR indeed. And as I noted before, it is unimaginable
>that the US, given it's level of support to regional dictators (Banzer was
>a School of the America's graduate, etc.), wasn't fully aware and
>supportive of such coordination.
>Other details:
>* Banzer was confronted by a 29 year old jounalist on these details, and he
>responded: "you were 3 years old at the time ... so how could you have
>* The head of Banzer's ADN party, Enrique Toro, noted that the cause of all
>the hoopla is an international leftist conspiracy. Later he elaborated
>further, suggesting the "Spaniards have decided to return to being the
>Conquistadores of America," likening Spanish judge Garzon to Pizarro,
>Almagro, and Cortez. With what moral authority, he asked, could the
>Spaniards, a monarchy, criticize Bolivian democracy? The bottom line, he
>stated, is that Pinochet took power by force, wrote his own constitution,
>and was voted out by the Chilean people. In contrast, Banzer came to power
>by force, yes, but in an alliance with the two most important political
>parties of the time. Further, he was democratically re-elected. (Note:
>all of this is true, but does not lead to the conclusion this functionary
>would like us to draw. Rather it shows: (a) political parties here are
>hopelessly corrupt and opportunistic; (b) politicians, as always, take as a
>positive mandate the outcomes the results of negative lesser-of-two-evils
>elections; and (c) the peculiarities of Bolivias current political system:
>if no party obtains a simple majority, the horse trading between parties
>starts, the results being unholy alliances of opportunists who barter votes
>to form coalition governments. Democracy?
>* According to the Madrid newspaper El Mundo, Banzer's wife Lucia Hiliart
>says old Augusto doesn't yet know he's under arrest, of that his diplomatic
>passport is not being "respected." She noted "If Augusto finds out about
>what's going on, he'll have an attack of rage and die." Hmm. Anybody want
>to let it slip to the old fucker?
>PS:As I am writing from a cybercafe, please don't respond by hitting ctrl +
>r. Send responses to:
>tkruse at

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