The 1978 World Cup: Operation Cóndor against Cuba

By ELIAS ARGUDÍN SÁNCHEZ

Triumph for the junta? Argentine dictator General Videla presents the 1978 World Cup to home captain Daniel Passarella

HAVANA (5 October 2012) – IN the 1978 World Football Cup, Argentina beat Peru by 6-0, thus removing a considerable rival. That win swung the balance toward the Argentine team’s aspirations. Just four days later, a 3-1 victory over Holland gave them the championship.

The result of the Argentine-Peru game was classified as highly controversial in football history. Virtually nobody believed the story of the thrashing, and life gave the right to the doubters. It is now known that the Peruvian dictator Francisco Morales Bermúdez (1975-1980) ordered his country’s players to lose the game, as payment for a favour that he had asked of his Argentine counterpart, fellow dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, de facto president from 1976 to 1981.

It was political chicanery in the framework of a shady pact, given the name of the largest carrion bird on the planet, with its origins in South America.

Operation Cóndor, established in the 1970s, was an intelligence and coordination network for the security services of the military regimes in the Southern Cone countries: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia, and an international clandestine organization for the practice of state terrorism, with the cooperation of the United States, in particular the CIA.

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, architect of Operation Cóndor, attended the 1978 World Cup as the personal guest of the Argentine dictator Videla

It should be noted that the constitutive meeting was attended by a special CIA representative with observer status. The meeting took place in Chile at the end of 1975, but in real terms Condor had been operating for at least 12 months.

This diabolical network gave the green light to the unhindered movement – within the countries cited – of members of the military and paramilitary forces involved in espionage and the repression of the opposition, fundamentally active revolutionaries in the region.

Mounted on a well thought out supranational organizational structure, during more than 10 years, Operation Cóndor was responsible for the kidnapping, torture, violation, assassination and disappearance of thousands of people who, in one way or another, dared to challenge these countries’ dictatorial regimes. Repress and kill! That was the name of the game.

Nunca Mas “Never Again” Argentina’s Dirty War

In fact, the controversial football game between the Argentine and Peruvian teams was not confined to staining the honour of a nation whose representatives allowed themselves to be trampled over on the field. If that had been the case, the team’s betrayal – while sad and painful – could have been described as a less shady episode within the Cóndor Operation flights; but the favour was a form of compensation on the part of Morales Bermúdez for the transportation to Argentina of 13 left-wing Peruvian prisoners who were thrown from the aircraft into La Plata River during the flight. Videla needed this World Cup win to clean up Argentina’s bad international image.

Unfortunately, the bird of prey beat its wings and killed. Operation Condor demonstrated much evidence of its chilling efficiency.

One of the objectives of José Luís Méndez Méndez, a university professor and researcher into terrorism, with an emphasis on practices and actions against Cuba, has been to scrutinize Operation Cóndor, in which human cruelty and terror reached one of its basest expressions.

His intensive research into the sordid twists and turns of the American continent’s recent history uncovered a little known chapter of Cóndor: its attacks on Cuba.

Operation Cóndor is generally thought to have functioned in the South American context. However, in an interview with Méndez, he clarified: “Confronting Cuba’s influence in the hemisphere and giving aid internationally to Cuban terrorists in their operations against the country explicitly figure among the primary objectives which gave rise to the macabre political deal.”

Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the U.S. and a Pinochet opponent was assassinated by a car bomb in the U.S. capitol in September 1976 as part of Operation Cóndor

There are documents confirming his statement. A letter from Colonel Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, chief of the Chilean National Intelligence Office (DINA), relates how the coordination was managed. The principal centre of the organization was installed in Chile, although Cóndor’s claws reached into Argentina and Paraguay. Contreras was responsible for the assassination of Orlando Letelier, Foreign Minister of the Popular Unity government headed by Salvador Allende, a crime perpetrated in the United States by terrorists of Cuban origin.

It is known that, in the initial meeting, Contreras told his participating counterparts that they could count on Cuban counterrevolutionaries recruited and trained by the CIA for their most risky operations.

According to Méndez Méndez’ research (collected in a paper and book, both entitled La Operación Cóndor contra Cuba), strikes against the island were the means of paying for the services of these Cubans.

“In the infamous account certain names appear – such as Orlando Bosch, Luís Posada Carriles, Guillermo Novo Sampoll, Rogelio Pérez González, Alvín Ross, Virgilio Paz Romero, José Dionisio Suárez Esquivel – which, just hearing them, makes one’s blood boil.

“On June 15, 1976, a meeting of Cuban counterrevolutionary organizations, instigated by the CIA, took place in the Dominican Republic (in the boardroom of a mine operated by Falconbridge Nickel, a U.S. multinational registered in Canada – TS). That meeting gave rise to the Coordinación de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (CORU), which immediately began to attack Cuban interests in Europe and Latin America.

“By August, a new model of terrorism had emerged: the kidnapping of our diplomats, and of nationals hired in embassies for support tasks.

“I give you some examples: July 1976, an attempt to kidnap the Cuban consul in Merida, with the lamentable death of the functionary Artañán Díaz Díaz. In August of that year, the kidnapping of another two functionaries, Jesús Cejas Arias (aged 22) and Crescencio Galañena Hernández (aged 26), this time from the Buenos Aires embassy. Seventeen Argentines, workers at the embassy, the commercial office and the school annex, and some of their closest family members were also kidnapped.”

Méndez states that there were other kidnapping attempts and even an attack on Ambassador Emilio Aragonés on August 13, 1975. Fortunately he escaped unharmed.

“Our lucky star wasn’t always with us, Adriana Corcho and Efrén Monteagudo were killed in a bomb attack on the Cuban embassy in Portugal. We also received letter bombs at our diplomatic premises in Spain, Mexico and Peru.”

The Barbados crime

Dynamite attacks on Cuba and the sinking of its vessels are known. However, in Méndez’ opinion, there is nothing as dramatic, cruel and repugnant as the in-flight explosion of a Cubana de Aviación civilian aircraft (leased from Air Canada – TS) off the Barbados coast.

“There were 73 passengers on board. Nobody survived to tell the tale. The saddest thing is that before and after the horrendous October 7, 1976 crime, 13 plots were organized to sabotage other civilian aircraft.”

The details concerning the brutal sabotage off the Barbados case are in the public domain. Everyone knows the names, both of the perpetrators and the masterminds of the attack. However, one detail merits attention. Immediately after the Cuban aircraft was bombed, El Miami Herald newspaper reported having received a call from an individual claiming that a group called El Cóndor had carried out the attack.

It was the first time that this word was publicly uttered.

Note: This is an inconclusive history until all the corpses of those kidnapped appear and are given an honorable burial. Before it can be finally closed all those responsible must be brought to trial and appropriately sentenced for their crimes. (Taken from Tribuna de La Habana newspaper)

Granma newspaper, Havana

Related Reading

Operation Condor played out in the 1978 World Cup

Kissinger and the 1978 World Cup in Argentina

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3 responses to “The 1978 World Cup: Operation Cóndor against Cuba

  1. Pingback: Operation Cóndor played out in the 1978 World Cup | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

  2. Pingback: Kissinger and the 1978 World Cup in Argentina | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

  3. Pingback: The politics of futbol: When Real Madrid was the fascist Franco’s team | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

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