João Pina

In 1975, at the height of the Cold War, six Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay) then ruled by right wing military dictatorships, created Operation Condor. It was a joint secret military plan aimed at eliminating political opponents using common resources, exchanging information, prisoners and torture techniques. This plan, which was carried out over more than 3 years, resulted in the “extrajudicial executions” of dozens of thousands of people, mostly leftist youths inspired by the Cuban revolution and its role models Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.  The number of victims may be much higher, but cannot be confirmed both because of the secrecy in which the repression took place, and because, in some cases, mass executions took place and the bodies were “disappeared” — thrown into rivers and the ocean, buried in unmarked mass graves.

The secrecy has endured even further because of the nature of the political transitions that took place.  In most of the countries involved in Condor, sweeping political amnesties for the military were forced upon the fragile democracies that succeeded them in power. It has taken years for these amnesties to be overturned, and in some places, is still an ongoing battle. Many relatives of the victims still don’t know what happened to their loved ones, and the majority of those responsible for their deaths and disappearances have never been brought to justice.

From the Amazon jungle in Brazil to the cold open lands of Patagonia, thousands of victims still lie buried in unmarked graves, while the survivors struggle to cope with their own memories. I have witnessed survivors and families dealing with problems ranging from acute depressive states, to paranoia and other psychiatric illnesses due to the immense traumas they underwent at the hands of the regimes that ruled their countries many years ago.

Photographs taken in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Paraguay, USA, and Uruguay (2005-2014)


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