(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
H. Trade Unionists
Of the disappeared prisoners reported to the Commission on Disappeared People, 30.2 percent are blue collar workers, and 17.9 per cent are white-collar workers (of the 21 per cent represented by students, one in three had a job).
Under Item 2 (headed 'Mission') of Secret Decree 504/77 (Continuation of the Drive against Subversion), which replaces and orders the incineration of Order 222/76 ('Pilot Operation in the Field of Industry'), the following can be read:
The Army will act selectively on state companies and industrial concerns, in coordination with state organizations related to the field, in order to promote and neutralize clashes arising from labour disputes, provoked by, or which can be exploited by, subversion, with the object of preventing agitation and mass insurrection and contributing to the smooth functioning of the country's machinery of production.
The then Minister of Labour, General Horacio Tomás Liendo, stated in this respect:
... with regard to subversion in manufacturing industry, we know that it is intent on developing an intense and active campaign of terrorism and intimidation in the labour sector. It is necessary to become familiar with the methods of operation of subversive activity in manufacturing industry in order to combat and destroy it. These are some of the methods they employ: individual and group indoctrination for the conquest of the working classes, heading the false claims of that sector; setting up artificial conflicts to force a confrontation with the bosses and discrediting the genuine leaders of the workers. As a result, the Government and the Armed Forces have committed their resources and maximum effort to guaranteeing the freedom to work, and family and individual security for management and workers, and the annihilation of that public enemy. But it is worth remembering that those who deviate from the course taken by the 'Process' in search of individual or group benefit become accomplices of that subversion which must be destroyed, as do those who lack the courage to assume the responsibilities imposed by this situation, (La Nación, 12 November 1977.)
These deterrent threats were intended, by their deliberate vagueness, to apply to any person or sector.
The words of the army chaplain Monsignor Victorio Bonamín seem to show a similar preoccupation:
The country is aware that trade unionism has always been an undoubted force, which came to have undue political power and which it appears to want to regain, if indeed it lost it at any time ... (La Nación, 12 November 1977.)
Analysing the dates of the arrests of workers who were or still are disappeared, we notice that a large proportion of the operations were carried out on the day of the coup itself, or immediately after.
The Mestrina dockyard, in the north of Buenos Aires, was the scene of the arrest of the worker delegates on 24 March 1976: Hugo Javier Rezeck (file No. 658) (whose wife was also abducted from their home on 16 March 1976 whilst they were looking for him), Pandolfino, Salvador, Jorge Lezcano, Albornoz, Zoila Ayala, Boncio. In the case of Boncio the statement made by his mother is significant, pointing out that from the time the kidnappings took place 'there were no new union delegates in the company'.
All the detainees were held in Tigre Police Station. Their families were able to send them food and clothing for a week, at the end of which they were told that 'those who had brought them had now taken them away again'.
Hugo Javier Rezeck was seen in Campo de Mayo by Pedro Palacios García (file No. 5603).
Another dockyard in the same area hard-hit by the repression was Astarsa, in San Fernando. One of the reports referring to the disappearance of Rodolfo José Iriarte (file No. 6674), a union delegate and member of the committee on industrial safety at that dockyard, says that he was arrested at work on 24 March 1976, at six in the morning, along with another sixty workers and employees of the same company, by Major Ricardi of the School of Engineering of Campo de Mayo. The wife of the disappeared man states:
... in that incident some sixty workers and employees were arrested, the repressive forces having a list of company staff [according to what Major Ricardi himself told her]. The victim was taken in his own car to Tigre Police Station. She followed her husband to the various places where he was held, up to the Don Torcuato Police Station after which she lost all trace of him.
In Don Torcuato, she was told to bring antibiotics and medicines to her husband as he had some problems. She took home some dirty clothes of her husband's, which were stained with blood, implying that he was wounded; she left him some clean clothes. Until the end of April 1976, her husband had been held in Don Torcuato, where they then told her that he had been taken away, with no explanation as to who had taken him or where to. On one of the many searches for her husband she contacted the School of Engineering of Campo de Mayo and was seen by Major Ricardi, who told her that he himself had arrested her husband under orders he had received, and that her husband was now at the disposal of the three Commanders-in-Chief. At the Ministry of the Interior she was seen by
someone she couldn't identify who let her read File No. 178, 383/76 which stated that Rodolfo José Iriarte was under arrest and at the disposal of Area 710, his whereabouts unknown; this was dated 9 June 1976 approximately, according to the report, which came from the town of La Plata.
On 20 May 1976 Ramón Humberto Poiman disappeared, on 10 June Hugo Rivas disappeared, and on 29 September Jorge Elbio Lescano. All four were union delegates in Astarsa.
On 24 March 1976 René Salamanca, ex-General Secretary of the Córdoba Mechanics Union (S M A T A) disappeared. According to testimonies received by this Commission, on a visit to La Perla camp General Menéndez had Salamanca brought before him and after an argument between them General Menéndez was heard to say, as he came out of the room, I want this one "transferred" in the first truck.'
Graciela Geuna (file No. 764) states:
Tomas di Toffino was abducted on 30 November 1976, though in my opinion the plan which culminated in his abduction began long before. As kidnap victims being held in La Perla, we were effectively hostages who could be used for specific objectives of the Military. In September 1976 they abducted Patricio Calloway, fair-haired, bearded, with light-coloured eyes, aged about twenty-two, a member of the Juventud Peronista. So it was that, faced with the impending strike by the Córdoba Power Workers' Union (Luz y Fuerza) soldiers in the unit decided to make it illegal or, as they said, 'Montonerize' it, thus finding a pretext to label it as subversive. With this aim soldiers at La Perla themselves printed leaflets they signed 'Montoneros' - leaflets calling on the power workers to strike.
When the workers began their action, setting yet another important example in the resistance to the military dictatorship, under the leadership of Tomás di Toffino amongst others, an unusual thing happened in La Perla. One night they took Patricio away alone, which seemed strange to us since 'transfers' generally took place during the day and in large groups. We later learnt that they had killed Patricio outside EPEC. They announced in the media that the incident had been a shoot-out between the forces of law and order and a Montonero activist who was calling for strike action. As part of this set-up they placed the leaflets printed beforehand by the soldiers in La Perla in Patricio's hand.
That was how they made the strike illegal, attempting to spread terror amongst the workers: this macabre operation ended soon after in the abduction of Tomás di Toffino.
It was a closed circle: Patricio was murdered so that they could justify repression in the Power Workers' Union. The leaflets were produced in La Perla, Di Toffino was abducted and taken to La Perla.
Everything began and ended at La Perla.
When Tomás arrived there, since they had no proof of any political allegiance of his, he was put down in the daily register as an 'undercover leftie'.
Tomás was transferred on Monday 20 or 21 February; that day General Luciano Benjamin Menéndez came for an inspection at the time of the transfer. We were told that in Tomás's case, General Menéndez would supervise the execution in order to 'set an example', 'strengthen the troops', etc.
This was not the only fake confrontation set up by the 3rd Army Corps.
This account demonstrates the close links between union activity and resulting unrest and the disappearance of persons. Such is the case of the General Secretary of the Powers Workers' Union of Buenos Aires, Oscar Smith, who disappeared on 11 April 1977, whilst playing a leading role in actions over claims strictly concerned with work.
Similarly, the report presented by Rosendo Abadía on the disappearance of his daughters Felicidad Abadía (file No. 474), aged twenty-flve, and Dominga Abadía (file No. 667), aged twenty-seven, contains very serious allegations which prompted a lawsuit before the Judge of the Criminal Court, Rolando Juan Satchmalieff, of Buenos Aires province. Señor Abadía states in his deposition:
A conflict arose between the company and staff concerning a wage demand. Faced with this situation the supervisor called the staff to a meeting and announced that if they did not withdraw their demand to be paid by the day instead of according to productivity, somebody was going to be sorry. These statements were made by Commander Máximo Milarck, military supervisor of both the trade union and the factory. Next, two workers at the factory, Pablo Villanueva and Rodríguez, were summoned to the Ministry of Labour where, in the presence of Señor Penna, personnel director at the factory, Commander Máximo Milarck and a Captain Martínez instructed them to tell their colleagues to abandon the action or they would be placed under the law of Security or under Decree
20.400, which outlawed this kind of action. It is clear that Pablo Villanueva was subsequently kidnapped, just like my daughters and on the same night. I should also report statements made by Pablo Villanueva's wife that her husband had on one occasion, near the time of the unrest, been summoned to the District Station of the Boulogne Military Police, where they had also said something similar to him ...
His daughters were kidnapped on 2 November 1977, apparently by military personnel:
There were trucks belonging to the Argentine Army at each corner of the block. That night they took five people from the same factory, Lozadur, from their respective homes...
The most significant thing for Señor Abadía was that the leader of the operation:
... set to checking my daughters' bedrooms; I could hear them crying while he told them to get dressed. I also heard him say, 'Stop staring, You'd think You'd never seen a guy before.'
The Ford factory in General Pachecho, Buenos Aires province, is a typical example of the focusing of repressive activity on union delegates. Numerous testimonies have been gathered, of which we have selected the most illustrative. In each case people disappeared, were held in secret detention centres, and were later officially recognized, usually held as prisoners of the National Executive for varying lengths of time, eventually to regain their freedom.
We can point to facts in the testimonies presented before this Commission which correspond with most of the testimonies quoted from earlier: time of occurrence of the arrests, trade union activity of the victims, etc.
Adolfo Omar Sánchez (file No. 7683) reports:
... on 26 March 1976 union delegates were called to a meeting, which was attended by Galarraga, labour relations manager, Marcos, manager of the Pressing Plant, and Luis Pérez, labour representative. At that meeting Galarraga told them that the company no longer recognized their status as worker delegates. At the end of the meeting he said mockingly to them, You'll be giving my regards to a friend of mine, Camps...
... the deponent did not know at that time who he was talking about, until the day of his arrest ...
... the worker delegates present at that meeting were the deponent, Amoroso, Murúa, Chitarrone, Manzano, Villagra, Castelli, Stortini and others he can't clearly remember.
On 28 March 1976 at about 21-00 hours, he was at home playing with his children when out of the window he saw two unmarked Torino cars park. A group of people got out of them and knocked on the door.
There were seven or eight people, some bearded and wearing caps, dressed in windcheaters, carrying rifles and Itakas. The leader of the operation called himself Captain. They forced him into one of the cars.
They asked him if he knew Juan Carlos Amoroso and told him they were going to fetch him and that they would kill both of them, all the Peronists, and that they were going to throw them into the river.
Sánchez pointed out that he was neither a member of nor active in any political party whatsoever, he only carried out trade union duties ...
On subsequent days they were taken somewhere where there were more colleagues from Ford and other companies such as Terrabusi, Astarsa, and the Sánchez dockyard ...
This was Ingeniero Maschwitz Police Station, as the Commission was able to establish during an inspection on 12 September1984.
After the above night-time raids, in the morning staff at the police station were commenting that 'the soldiers had been along'.
After being there for two months, a uniformed army officer took him to make a statement.
He asked him what he did in the factory and he was told that he would soon be released because the reports were good. Nearly two months later, on 19 May 1976, he and other colleagues were transferred to Villa Devoto Prison, cell block No. 5, where he was kept with three others in a cell for two. In Devoto they informed him that he was at the disposition of the National
To this we can add the confirming testimony of Pastor José Murda (file No. 7688), also a delegate at Ford, who further elaborates:
Amid jokes and mockery, such as 'the game's up now', 'lend me your racket, we've got the balls now', Señor [not that he is worthy of a title, adds the deponent] Galarraga taunted Amoroso and said to him, 'Regards to Camps...'
The testimony of another Ford delegate, Francisco Guillermo Perrota, also concurs with the above statements.
Pedro Norberto Troiani (file No, 1638), also a Ford delegate, has more to add:
In 1970 his colleagues elected him branch delegate in fair and free elections under the control and responsibility of SMATA. At the proper time, and with the authorization of the company, new elections were held, in which he was re-elected, and this duly happened a third time. This ratifies his good standing as an individual, a colleague and a delegate. Up to the time of his arrest his relations as a union delegate with the company had been good.
In March 1976 the coup took place. From then on there was an abrupt change in relations between the company and the deponent and his colleagues. Troiani says that from the 25th on they became aware of the first arrests within the factory. At the time they asked for explanations of this abuse of authority over these colleagues from the factory. Then the manager of the plant intervened, telling them that they should keep calm as they were prepared to take anybody away. From then on they started taking away two or three people a day. This, he says, was done by people in uniform, belonging to the Army and Navy. The deponent was arrested on the morning of Tuesday 11 April 1976.
At this, the powerful company would laugh at us and, feigning complete ignorance of what was going on, would send telegrams ordering us to report to work within twenty-four hours or we would face dismissal for abandoning our duties. He says his wife replied to these telegrams with another telegram which read, 'Arrested at the company, Tigre Police Station, you well aware', which the Ford company rejected as unfounded. She was then able to see the manager of labour relations, Señor Fernández (since deceased) who, during their long conversation, confirmed that the company had been directly involved in these events. She went several times to see him at his home in San Isidro to receive fortnightly payments and wages which he personally arranged.
Juan Carlos Amoroso (file No. 1638) states in his turn, in his important testimony:
On 23 March 1976 the company convened the body of delegates who were in the Pressing plant, the company being represented by Señores Marcos (manager of the plant), Pérez (labour representative), and Galarraga (labour relations manager). On behalf of the workers, there were, amongst others, Murúa (delegate for the bodywork plant), Sánchez (delegate for the assembly line) and the deponent. At that meeting Señor Galarraga read out a paper he claimed had been given to him by a colonel whose name he refused to disclose, since 'his word was enough', exhorting them to devote themselves to their jobs and to forget all claims. That, he declared, was the end of their problems. As negotiations were under way with the company to check the calculation of their wages, the deponent asked Galarraga about this: the latter, making a gesture of annoyance, went up to him saying, 'You're right, this meeting is closed,' and stretching out his hand said, 'Amoroso, give my regards to Camps,' at which Marcos burst out laughing. When he asked who that was, since he hadn't heard of him, he was told, 'You'll find out soon enough' at which they both went off laughing.
When they came down the stairs, Señor Herreros from the board of Labour Representatives of the company was waiting for them; he shouted to them, 'Give us back the ball, we,ve got the racket now!' in the same jokey manner as the managers had used. They continued working normally until 28 March 1976. That night, two cars full of heavily armed men turned up at the deponent's house. They banged on the door until it gave way, and threatening him with rifles, asked him if he was a delegate at Ford; one of them had a Kardek card with Amoroso's photo and asked him if that was him. ... He adds that when he saw it he recognized it as his factory pass and the photo in it as one taken nine years earlier. Amoroso further says he tried to take the documents with him, but they told him he wouldn't be needing them where he was going, but that he should take a pullover, with which they hooded him as he got into one of the cars and made him lie on the floor in the back, where there was already someone else, whom he later identified as the assembly line delegate, Chitarrone. They were taken to a detention centre and put in a cell with several other people.
As their abductors did not come back for about sixty hours, they gradually removed their hoods and ropes and saw that Sánchez, Murda, Chitarrone and the deponent were present, and in a cell opposite were Manzano and Cantelo (all in file No. 1638), colleagues he hadn't seen for about two months, since they had given up their jobs. They shouted out many times to staff passing by for water but had nothing given to them during all that time, although on the second night men came in the dark and, pointing at them with sawn-off guns, once again hooded them and tied them up, threatening to kill them if they untied themselves. ... On the fourth day they took photos of them, gave them water and identified themselves as officers of Buenos Aires Provincial Police, Maschwitz station.
Later on he recounts that they were transferred to Tigre Police Station, where they themselves were not tortured, but others being held there were.
The Commission carried out an inspection of both detention centres in Maschwitz and Tigre Police Stations on 12 September 1984.
On the next day police personnel were saying that the soldiers had been, that they had nothing to do with it and to expect the worst.
Transferred to Villa Devoto, Amoroso was conditionally released on 23 March 1977.
Adrián Horacio García Pagliaro (file No. 4047) was abducted outside the Caja Nacional de Ahorro y Seguro (National Savings Bank), his abductors having waited for him in two cars in the car park, reserved for the Commission on Legislative Counsel, into which only official vehicles are allowed entry. The whole incident, which occurred on 28 March 1977 at 5.15 p.m., was watched by security staff of the Bank and by a security guard who not only:
did not intervene to defend my son, but when he tried to re-enter the building to evade his abductors, locked the doors, preventing him from taking cover and locking in the rest of the staff who were trying to leave ...
I should set down on record that the President of the National Savings Bank at that time was Colonel (retired) Héctor Enrique Walter: the Head of Security was Señor Adolfo B. Cuenya, and Señor Enrique Calvo was Deputy Head of Security, all of whom I hold responsible for the actions of the Institution's security staff and the police officer on duty.
Likewise, I declare that three people who identified themselves as members of Robberies Squad of the Federal Police removed a car belonging to me from the garage at 1586 Calle México, a red Fiat 600 R, licence number 615450, 1974 model. There was no break-in to my home. When I had the chance I asked Colonel Héctor E. Walter to tell me what had happened to my son and he told me that he had been kidnapped by subversive individuals who had got into the car park with false papers.
Adrián Horacio Garcia Pagliaro was seen in the Quinta de Seré secret detention centre, in Castelar, by his Work colleague Carmen Graciela Floriani (file No. 7372). This young woman, who worked in the National Savings Bank, was arrested on 2 June 1977, outside the bank at 5 p.m., when she usually left work. Of the twenty-six employees of the bank who were abducted - of whom seventeen are still disappeared - nineteen were members of the body of union representatives.
The General Secretary of the Teachers' Union (CTERA), Alfredo Bravo, was arrested at the school where he worked on 8 September 1977 and disappeared for thirteen days, being subjected to severe ill-treatment.
Marina Leticia Vilte (file No, 1616), General Secretary of the Provincial Teachers' Association, Jujuy province, arrested on 31 December 1976, is still 'disappeared'.
Another CTERA leader, Eduardo Requena (file No. 4826), was abducted in Córdoba on 23 JUN 1976 and later seen by a released prisoner, Piero di Monte, in La Perla secret detention centre, where he heard about the torture Requena suffered and witnessed his 'transfer' in August 1976.