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In this study of the roots of Operation Condor, I track the development of this unusual military alliance forged by six Southern Cone governments (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay) during the 1970s, as well as the push-and-pull relationship between the transnational migration of political militants and the military’s impetus for collaboration. While most accounts of Condor focus on the United States as the operation’s primary orchestrator, I contend that initial motivation for the type of cooperation that Condor would later formalize was driven not by the U.S., but by the Southern Cone militaries’ perception that Marxism had to be excised from the entire region. In addition, while Condor scholars have either ignored or minimized the role of the left as political actors and placed the blame for violence exclusively on the militaries and the United States, I draw from unpublished Argentine police records, Argentine Embassy documents, and Chilean-Argentine solidarity group publications to argue that it is essential to broaden our understanding of what both sides in this ideological confrontation were attempting to accomplish. The transnational left, never a homogenous group, evolved to meet a variety of objectives. Many militants continued to be politically active while they were in exile, and many acted in solidarity with like-minded leftists in their midst.
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