Ford, Pinochet and dictators

Fraud News
24 November 1999

The Spanish judge, who is trying to prosecute the Fascist and friend of Margaret Thatcher, General Pinochet, has also received a 5,000-page legal report at his Madrid court from the Argentine trade union, CTA.

The case was initiated two years ago by the relatives of some of the estimated 600 Spanish citizens who disappeared in Argentina during the military repression

According to the CTA report the Ford Motor Company’s factory in an industrial suburb of Beunos Aires served as a clandestine detention centre for workers who “disappeared” under the military dictatorship of the 1970s.

They charge that workers were selected for detention, torture and execution in consultation with Ford management, which provided the military with facilities in Ford’s General Pacheco plant and even donated vehicles to transport prisoners to military prisons and torture centres.

The number of workers who either disappeared or suffered torture, imprisonment, exile or politically-motivated victimisation totalled more than one million during the six years of dictatorship (1976-1982) the report stated. Of the 30,000 disappeared, more than two-thirds were workers.

According to the evidence presented by the CTA much of the repression was directed by Ford and other major industrial companies. It is alleged these companies drew up lists of “subversive” workers and handed them over to the military “task forces” which were allowed to operate within the factories. These groups kidnapped workers, tortured them – at times within the plants themselves – and then murdered them.

The role of corporations in this process has long been known in Argentina, but the CTA documents bring together for the first time a great deal of concrete evidence concerning their activities. In the case of Ford, it is alleged that the company’s Argentine factory was used between 1976 and 1978 as a detention centre and that management allowed the military to set up its own bunker inside the plant.

Among the cases cited in the report is that of Juan Carlos Conti, a Ford union delegate from the SMATA mechanics union. Conti was kidnapped on 14 April 1976 and taken to the detention centre inside the plant.

“The operation was carried out by a task force belonging to the Argentine Army, which for some time had been operating inside the plant, made use of the company’s installations and was known by everyone,” the document states, and:

“Conti was taken to a cell inside the company’s building. He was taken out of the plant, in the full light of day, in a truck belonging to the company, with his hands tied with wire and with the full knowledge of his supervisors.”

Shortly after Conti was abducted and disappeared, Ford management sent a telegram to his home informing him that he had been fired for “abandoning his work”. His wife answered the charge, explaining that her husband had disappeared, but the company fired him anyway.

Having survived the repression, Conti took Ford to the labour court in 1984. His claim was for back wages and benefits unjustly denied him. To prove his case, however, Conti was compelled to detail the “forces beyond his control” which prevented him from reporting to work. The proceedings of his claim, which was successful, are included in the report to the Madrid court.

Also submitted is evidence gathered by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) concerning the connections between Ford and the dictatorship’s repression. This included testimony by Ford worker Adolfo Omar Sanchez, who recounted a meeting between workers’ delegates and the plant’s directors on 25 March 1976, just one day after the military coup.

Sanchez recalls that at the end of the meeting, Ford’s head of labour relations mockingly told the workers, “You’ll be giving greetings to a friend of mine – Camps.” He was referring to Ramon Camps, the chief of police in the province of Beunos Aires, who was responsible for setting up the clandestine detention and torture centre there.

Three days later Sanchez was abducted and taken to a military detention centre...