Airplane used to transport State terrorism victims during Operation Condor found in Uruguay

An Argentine court demanded the Uruguayan government preserve it

A military airplane used to transport State terrorism victims during Operation Condor in the 1970s was found in Uruguay. The plane had originally been bought for the “exclusive” use of Emilio Eduardo Massera, Argentina’s Navy Commander in Chief and part of the Military Junta during the last dictatorship. Now, the Argentine government is demanding Uruguay authorities preserve it.

The plane, a Hawker Siddeley HS-125 model 400B jet, was abandoned at the Ángel Adami (Melilla) Airport in Montevideo in 2008, after being sold by the Argentine Navy in 1987.

The story behind the finding showcases the connections between the dictatorships throughout South America in the seventies. The plane was used in the case known as “Five in Asunción”, where five political exiles—three Argentine and two Uruguayan— were forcibly flown from Paraguay’s capital to Buenos Aires.

The case involves Uruguayan Gustavo Inzaurralde and Argentine José Luis Nell Granada, two activist leaders who were attempting to arrange safe passage to Europe for fellow activists in Asunción. They traveled there with Nelson Santana Scotto (Uruguayan), Alejandro Logoluso and Dora Landi (Argentine).

The five of them were kidnapped in March 1977 by Paraguayan security forces and subjected to brutal interrogation, not only by Paraguayan authorities, but also Argentine and Uruguayan, who flew there especially for this. The group was transferred to Buenos Aires in May 1977, as registered in the so-called “Terror Archives” found in Paraguay in 1992. Those documents state the airplane was an “Argentine Navy twin-jet aircraft, registration number 5-7-30-0653.”

The airplane was discovered in September 2022, when Uruguayan artist Sebastián Santana Camargo was working on illustrations commissioned for a research project on human rights violations in South America in the 1970s, led by Francesca Lessa, a Latin American Studies and Development lecturer at Oxford University.

One of Sebastián Santana Camargo’s illustrations of the plane. Source: Courtesy of Sebastián Santana Camargo.

While working on one of the illustrations, connected to the case of the “Five in Asunción”, Santana Camargo began searching online for pictures to use as reference. He found multiple images of the plane in blogs and Facebook pages with the registration number 5-T-30 clearly visible. The only difference with the number registered in the original Paraguayan documents is the “seven”, which appears to have been a transcription error.

One of the photos the illustrator found on a blog included a Google Maps image with a pin showing the precise location of the plane, the Melilla Airport in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was supposedly abandoned there in 2008, after being sold by the Argentinian Navy in 1987.

Santana reported the finding to lawyers representing victims and survivors in Argentina. They have requested the plane be preserved and possibly transferred to Argentina as evidence in ongoing criminal cases.

Argentine lawyers filed the information before three criminal courts in Buenos Aires, including Criminal Court No 7, which is specifically investigating Operation Condor victims cases. 

Santana Camargo appeared before Argentine authorities to report his findings. Last week, after hearing his testimony, the national judiciary demanded the Uruguayan government preserve the aircraft in its current state.

Another Argentine airplane, used for “death flights” during the 1970s, is being flown back to the country after being found in 2010. That particular Skyvan flew on the night of December 14, 1977, carrying in its cargo bay Mothers of Plaza de Mayo founder Azucena Villaflor and several other desaparecidos —including French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet, who had been kidnapped at the Church of the Holy Cross (‘Iglesia de la Santa Cruz’) in Buenos Aires and brought to the ESMA. The other passengers were the military men who would push them to their deaths.

Video from Francesca Lessa’s reaserch project on the “Five in Asunción” case


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald