Miguel Etchecolatz, deputy Buenos Aires provincial police chief during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, suffered a stroke early this week in prison and was reported at death’s door by his lawyer although there was no change in his condition at press time.
Four decades ago Etchecolatz, 88, was the right-hand man of the notorious police chief General Ramón Camps and was widely seen as the operational mastermind behind the disappearances of thousands of people, especially since, unlike the late Camps (imposed on the force from the Army), he was a long-standing member of the Buenos Aires provincial police, heading its detective squad at the time of the 1976 coup. He reportedly ran over 20 concentration camps in the province.
Such activities eventually earned him no less than six sentences to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, the first back in 1986 after the so-called Camps trial and the other five as from 2004 under Kirchnerite presidencies.
At a time when the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado is uppermost in the news, Etchecolatz was a protagonist in Argentina’s last high-profile disappearance – Jorge Julio López, a building worker who vanished in 2006 just before he was due to testify against the ex- policeman in one of those trials.