(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
The case of the Bishop of San Nicolás de los Arroyos, Monsignor Dr Carlos H. Ponce de León
On 11 July 1977 the Bishop of San Nicolás, Carlos Ponce de León, also died in a car accident in suspicious circumstances. The prelate was driving towards Buenos Aires accompanied by Victor Oscar Martínez, his assistant, taking documents on the illegal repression (kidnappings and torture) that was being perpetrated in the Diocese of San Nicolás and also in Villa Constitución (in Santa Fe province) to the Papal Nuncio. The information implicated the then General Carlos Guillermo C. Suárez Mason (Head of the 1st Military Corps), Colonel Camblor (Head of the Regiment of Junin) and, most directly, Lieutenant-Colonel Saint Aman (Head of the Regiment based in San Nicolás). It should be pointed out that General Suárez Mason was retired from the army half-way through 1984 because he did not answer a summons to appear before a Military Court on charges of being responsible for human rights violations. The General is currently wanted by the Judiciary.
The documents that the Bishop of San Nicolás had in his possession disappeared without being reclaimed by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Monsignor Roberto Mancuso, who was Chaplain of the District Prison.
Victor Martínez recalls how, after attending the funeral of Monsignor Angelelli, Bishop of La Rioja, the Bishop (of San Nicolds) said: 'It's my turn 'next.'
As a result of the car crash, the Bishop was taken to the Clinic of San Nicolás, where Victor Martínez also was, and where he died a few hours later from his injuries, It has been discovered that not even his personal doctor was allowed to go into the emergency operating room. The only person who was allowed to see him before he died was his mother.
A few days after the accident, Victor Martínez - who was doing his military service in the Garrison of San Nicolás - was arrested on the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Saint Aman and suffered all kinds of physical and mental torture while in prison.
'They beat me for hours until I lost consciousness. Then they began to ask me what the activities of the Bishop were, who visited him, how many extremists he had hidden.' (Testimony of Victor Oscar Martínez, file No. 734.)
Monsignor Ponce de León had been receiving threats for a long time.
…as well as the personal threats he had received from Lieutenant-Colonel Saint Aman: 'Take care, you are considered a Red Bishop'. The same military officer had forbidden him from celebrating Mass in the regiment 'because no red priests can enter there', (Testimony of Victor Oscar Martínez.).