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LATIN AMERICA | 23-08-2021 16:19

Italy asks Chile to extradite 'Operation Condor' criminals

Italy seeking extradition of three former members of Chile's military sentenced to life by European nation's courts for murdering two Italians in 1973.

Italy is seeking the extradition of three former members of Chile's military sentenced to life by the European nation's courts for murdering two Italians in 1973, the country's Justice Ministry confirmed over the weekend.

The request came after Italy's Supreme Court in July upheld the sentences for Colonel Rafael Francisco Ahumada Valderrama, non-commissioned officer Orlando Vásquez Moreno and Sergeant Manuel Vásquez Chahuán . 

They were found guilty of murdering Juan José Montiglio and Omar Venturelli nearly 50 years ago during Operation Condor, the secret plan by South American dictators in the 1970s and 1980s to eliminate leftist opponents.

Justice Minister Marta Cartabia signed a request on Saturday for the arrest and extradition of the defendants, which was sent to Italy's Embassy in Santiago, a spokeswoman confirmed to AFP.

Operation Condor was a coordinated plan of repression of leftist opponents launched at the height of the Cold War by the military regimes of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, then under right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The trial in Rome against the three Chileans, along with 24 other former members of South America's military and security services – only one of whom resided in Italy – began in 2015, with most defendants acquitted. 

Four years later, an appeals court sentenced all defendants who were still alive to life in prison, a decision upheld by the highest court in July. 

Montiglio and Venturelli were killed in 1973. 

Montiglio was a student who joined the GAP, the armed guard to protect Salvador Allende. Venturelli was a priest and teacher at the Catholic University in Temuco in the south of Chile, who belonged to a socialist Christian movement at the time.

Montiglio was arrested the day of Pinochet's coup d'état against Allende and then shot along with other Allende supporters, with only a fragment of bone later discovered to allow for his identification through DNA. 

Venturelli was believed to have been handed over to the notorious "Caravan of Death," a death squad that executed dozens of political prisoners following the coup.

Italy's investigation into the disappearance of Italian citizens in Chile during the Pinochet regime dates back to 1998. 

Twenty-three Italians who lived in Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay were killed during Operation Condor.


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