The Condor Trials
Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America
Imprint: Yale University Press
“Outstanding. . . . An Olympian view of the Condor system.”—Philip Chrimes, International Affairs
Through the voices of survivors and witnesses, human rights activists, judicial actors, journalists, and historians, Francesca Lessa unravels the secrets of transnational repression masterminded by South American dictators between 1969 and 1981. Under Operation Condor, their violent and oppressive regimes kidnapped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of exiles, or forcibly returned them to the countries from which they had fled. South America became a zone of terror for those who were targeted, and of impunity for those who perpetuated the violence.
Lessa shows how networks of justice seekers gradually materialized and effectively transcended national borders to achieve justice for the victims of these horrors. Based on extensive fieldwork, archival research, trial ethnography, and over one hundred interviews, The Condor Trials explores South America’s past and present and sheds light on ongoing struggles for justice as its societies come to terms with the unparalleled atrocities of their not-so-distant pasts.
“[A] vital two-part study. . . . [Lessa’s] painstaking work on Plan Condor and Latin America’s state criminality is both admirable and important.”—Miranda France, Times Literary Supplement
“Accessible despite its legal components, the book sheds light on the struggle for justice and human rights in South America. As our reviewer rightly praises, Lessa usefully anchors the book in its Latin American context, and away from historiographic preoccupations with the US role.”—Mariana Vieira, International Affairs Blog
“This book is a homage to the remarkable efforts of many individuals outraged by these crimes to bring the perpetrators to justice.”—Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books
“The level of detail Lessa provides . . . is, simply put, astounding. And her especially insightful treatment of justice seekers . . . who spearheaded innovative legal strategies to hold perpetrators accountable speaks to the text’s deeper stakes.”—Max Counter, Journal of Latin American Geography
“The sophistication of Lessa’s interdisciplinary method shines through in the book’s detailed content and nuanced arguments.”—Alison J. Bruey, H-Net Network on Latin American History
Honorable Mention received for the Bryce Wood Book Award, sponsored by the Latin American Studies Association
Winner of the 2023 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America, sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute
“Lessa’s exploration of transnational repression in 1970s South America could not be more current in these days of resurgent authoritarianism. Her analysis of the Condor period is groundbreaking and documents both the human rights crimes and the efforts of international ‘justice seekers’ to breach—eventually—the dictatorships’s impunity.”—John Dinges, author of Hunting Enemies Abroad
“There is no other book that combines a decade of research on Operation Condor and transnational repression by the South American military regimes with synthesis of the literature on efforts to achieve accountability for human rights violations and analysis of the prosecutions in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Italy.”—Brian Loveman, San Diego State University
“This gripping account of Operation Condor breaks important new ground in our understanding of complex justice processes for grave human rights violations. Lessa’s analysis of ‘justice seekers’ highlights the central role of victims in transitional and transnational justice processes. Most importantly, she centers the deeply moving stories of the victims of Operation Condor, whose lives were forever altered by transnational state terror.”—Jo-Marie Burt, George Mason University