Could France have ignored Operation Condor?
French investigating judge Sophie Clément could over the next few weeks order former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to appear before the Paris criminal court for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of several French nationals in Chile and Argentina at the end of the 1970s (see IJT 14). The trial in absentia raises the question of the connection between France and Operation Condor, the joint effort by the South American military regimes to eliminate their political opponents.
Jean-Yves Claudet, one of the five French victims whose disappearance is linked to Pinochet, was a former activist of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left. The question is whether his murder, on 1 November 1975 in Buenos Aires, was committed as part of Operation Condor? The operation officially began on 25 November 1975 after the first multilateral meeting of the Argentinean, Bolivean, Chilean and Uruguayan secret services, convened in Santiago by Colonel Manuel Contreras,then head of the DINA,Pinochet’s secret police. Claudet could not therefore have been executed under the plan. Yet, according to Sophie Thonon, counsel for the Claudet family, evidence for Chilean responsibility can be found in the testimony of a DINA officer Arancibia Clavel. In a series of notes discovered in Chile, Clavel describes Claudet’s execution. His notes reveal that Clavel had participated in the killing because he had written a report to his superiors stating that Claudet was “RIP” (rest in peace). This indicates that “cooperation” between Chile and Argentina took place before Condor.