Maria Santucho, the daughter of the Argentine militant Oscar Santucho, who was disappeard in 1976 in Argentina by the military. Ms Santucho portraied in the Malecon in Havana, was herself arrested and forced into exile in 1976. She lives in Cuba since then. Havana, Cuba, December 2006.
ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
“Operation Condor” was a 1970s secret military plan sponsored by the United States during the Dirty War years, which aimed to eliminate the political opponents to the right wing military regimes. It took place in six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
It officially started in late 1975, when the secret services had a meeting in Santiago, Chile to define a strategy to use common resources and exchange information, man power and techniques to execute the plan. Thousands of people, mostly left wing workers and students, were arrested, tortured and executed, leading to 60,000 deaths, although a final number could never be confirmed because of the number of mass executions.
This project aims to show the scars and enormous impact left on the survivors and families of those who were killed. From the Amazon jungle in Brazil to the cold lands of Patagonia, thousands of victims still lay buried in unmarked graves, and the survivors struggle to cope with their memories.
Since the beginning of this investigation back in 2005, I have begun to take interviews with victims and families of those who disappeared, and have also visited sites of imprisonment, executions, and burials. I believe that by making these images I can help build a collective memory about the people behind this secretive operation who have never been held accountable.
I will return to the region and continue to build this body of work in Bolivia and Paraguay. These two countries still require much time to research and photograph. I will talk to survivors like Martin Almada, a lawyer who found the archives where thousands of documents prove the existence of “Operation Condor” in Paraguay.
No complete documentary project of this scope in all six countries has ever been completed, and none relying on photographs has been attempted. I hope to help generations of South Americans to know and understand the story of their countries.
The torture room of “Olimpo” a former clandestine detention and torture center used by the federal police and military to interrogate and kill left-wing militants in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the military dictatorship 1975-1983. Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2007.
Josias “Jonas” Gonçalves a former guerilla fighter in the early 1970’s, photographed in Serra das Andorinhas in the Amazon where he fought against the Brazilian army, Araguaia region, Para State. Sao Geraldo do Araguaia, Brazil, August 2011.
A detail a bathroom of Londres 38, a former clandestine detention and torture center during the miitary dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in downtown Santiago de Chile. Santiago, Chile, November 2008.
Mirta Clara, an former argentine political prisoner. Ms Clara was arrested with her husband in November 1975 for being part of the montoneros political group. While in costody she was tortured while pregnant of her second son, whom today suffers from mental problems. Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen massacre and she spent 8 years in jail, being released only with close to the first democratic elections in 1983. Today she lives and works as a human rights advocate and phycologist in Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina, February 2012.
Colonel Hugo Delme (white shirt) being transported from jail to the court house in Bahia Blanca by prision guards. Mr. Delme is a retired army colonel accused of being involved on crimes against humanity by torturing and disappearing left-wing militants during the last Argentine dictatorship 1976-1983. Bahia Blanca, Argentina, February 2012.
One of the storage rooms of the EAAF (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in spanish), filed with boxes of recovered remains political disappeared people. This remains are in storage to be identified and only when with a very strong evidence of identification is returned to the families of the disappeared. Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 2012.
Friends and families of the estimated 5.000 victims of the Campo de Mayo concentration camp trial, where the former president Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced to 25 years in jail for crimes against humanity. Florida, Argentina, April 2010.
An airplane used by the Argentinian military to drop left-wing militants alive to the La Plata river and Atlantic ocean during the military dictatorship is now used as an advertising object for a construction materials store in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Esteban Echeverria, Argentina, September 2011.
Lauro Santos a Brazilian farmer who lost his arm when he grabbed an army grenade by mistake during the guerilla times in the early 1970s, killing instantly his brother. Here photographed in his home in Sao Joao do Araguaia. Sao Joao do Araguaia, Brazil, August 2011.
One of the cells in the DOPS (former political police) headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil which is today a memorial to the political prisoners in Brazil. Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 2011.
Tati Almeida, a member of the mothers of the May Square movement in Argentina. Ms Almeida had her son Alexander Almeida arrested and disappeard by the Argentine military in the early 70’s. Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 2006.
Family members and friends applaud during the funeral of Horacio Bau a left-wing montonero militant from Trelew in the Argentine Patagonia region who disappeard in La Plata, Argentina in november 1977. His remains were found buried in a cementery in the city of La Plata as a “no name” in early 2007 and the burial cerimony took place in Trelew in November 2007. Trelew, Argentina, November 2007.
The remains of two bodies of political disappeared lay in the lab of the EAAF (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in spanish), in Buenos Aires to be studied and to try to match an identification. Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 2012.
Former military men, hide their faces to the photographer during a session of their trial in which they are being acused by the Argentine state of crimes against the Humanity in the last dictatorship from 1976-1983. Bahia Blanca, Argentina, February 2012.
Victoria “Vicky” Saavedra, a Chilean woman who her brother Jose Saavedra was disappeared by the military during the Chilean dictatorship at the age of 18. Ms Saavedra walks near what is known to be a mass grave in the Atacama desert looking for small bones that can help to identify the still missing victims of the “caravan of death” from Calama. The Caravan of death, was a group of military that swept northern Chile after the 1973 coup that overthrew Salvador Allende from power, to interrogate and kill supporters of Mr Allende. Calama, Chile, February 2012.
Alicia Cadenas and Ariel Soto, a Uruguaian couple that seeked exile in Argentina after the dictatorship was installed in their country in 1973. They were both kidnapped in Argentina in 1976 by a task force of Uruguaian and Argentine military in what is one of the most famous and terrible episodes of Operation Condorand. Kept in Automotors Orletti concentration camp, for 10 days they were interrogated and tortured. After that Ms Cadenas and Mr Soto with a group of Uruguaian political prisoners were smuggled by the military back to Uruguay where they both spent more then 2 years each in jail, before seeking exile in Sweden. After divorcing in 1985, they decided to get back together again 25 years later. Piriapolis, Uruguay, February 2012.
A view from the Punta de Rieles jail in Montevideo. This building who was built to be a catholic convent, was transformed into a prison during the Uruguaian dictatorship to hold female political prisoners. Until today, this building is being used as a prison, now for comon inmates. Uruguay holds the record of having had the most political prisoners per capita in the world, with an estimate of one in each 50 Uruguaians having been to jail for political reasons. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
Anahit Aharonian, looking from the window of her former cell in the Punta de Rieles prison in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ms Aharonian is a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide and was born in Uruguay. She became involved with politics in her teenage years and embraced the Tupamaro movement. She was arrested by the military during the early days of the Uruguaian dictatorship, having spent 12 years in jail. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
Blancarena beach some 60km away from the city of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay in the place where in 1978 bodies of what is now known to be Argentine political prisoners with many torture marks came to shore. In this beach were found some of the few documented cases of the many thousands of Argentine prisoners that were sent from flying airplanes to the river plate and the atlantic ocean, in what is known the flights of death. Blancarena, Uruguay, February 2012.
Joao Pina was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1980, he began working as a photographer at age of 18.
His images have been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, El Pais, D Magazine, Visão and others.
In 2007 he published his first book “Por teu livre pensamento” featuring 25 former Portuguese political prisoners. The book inspired an Amnesty International advertising campaign that won a Lion d’Or award, at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity 2011.
He has also been awarded the Estação Imagem grant in 2010 and a finalist for the Henri Nannen, Care award. Until 2010 he lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he continues to document the remnants of “Operation Condor”, a secret military operation to destroy the political opposition to the dictatorships in South America in the 1970s.
Lately he has been a privileged observer of the “Arab Spring”, traveling on several occasions to Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while continuing his work in Latin America.