Archives of Terror

Archives of Terror

The “Archives of Terror” (Archivos del Terror) were found on December 22, 1992, by lawyer and human-rights activist Dr. Martín Almada, and judge José Agustín Fernández, in a police station in a suburb of Asunción (Lambaré), capital of Paraguay. Fernández was looking for files on a former prisoner. Instead, he found archives describing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This was known as Operation Condor.

The “terror archives” listed 50,000 people murdered, 30,000 people disappeared and 400,000 people imprisoned. They also revealed that other countries such as Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela cooperated, to various degrees, by providing intelligence information that had been requested by the security services of the Southern Cone countries. Some of these countries have used portions of the archives, now in Asunción’s Palace of Justice, to prosecute former military officers. Much of the case built against General Pinochet by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón was made using those archives. Dr. Almada, himself a victim of Condor, was twice interviewed by Baltasar Garzón.

“[The documents] are a mountain of ignominy, of lies, which Stroessner [Paraguay’s dictator until 1989] used for 40 years to blackmail the Paraguayan people,” states Dr. Almada. He wants the UNESCO to list the “terror archives” as an international cultural site, as this would greatly facilitate access to funding to preserve and protect the documents.

In May 2000, a UNESCO mission visited Asunción following a request from the Paraguayan authorities for help in putting these files on the Memory of the World Register, one element of a program aimed at safeguarding and promoting the documentary heritage of humanity to ensure that records are preserved and available for consultation.