Repressor Luciano Benjamín Menéndez died today in Córdoba’s military hospital at the age of 90. The most convicted criminal of the last dictatorship, he was serving twelve consecutive life sentences and two 20-year ones, and died facing yet another trial for crimes against humanity – in this case, crimes committed in clandestine detention centers in Córdoba between February 1975 and 1978. Overall, he faced roughly 800 cases of crimes mostly committed during the dictatorship.
Menéndez didn’t initially answer for his crimes as a result of 1986’s so-called “Punto Final” law – “Full Stop Law,” which mandated the end of the investigation and prosecution of people accused of crimes during the dictatorship – and an official pardon from then-President Carlos Menem in 1990.
However, following the annulment of the impunity laws in 2003 and his personal pardon in 2005, the trials against him resumed. He was finally convicted for the first time in 2008, after being found guilty of counts of kidnapping, torturing and murdering members of the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (one of the many left wing organizations that were persecuted during the dictatorship) in the context of an operation conducted in 1977 by the Third Army Corps, which he commanded.
The most relevant case against him was the so-called “mega case” from 2016, where 43 repressors were tried for the crimes against humanity committed in the biggest underground detainment and torture center in Argentina’s interior known as “La Perla.”
Active from 1975 to 1979, it’s believed that at least 3,000 people were detained at La Perla, with few survivors and hundreds still unaccounted for. Offenses included counts of aggravated rape, theft, kidnapping, torture and murder from 1974 onward. In total, there are 23 cases within the “mega case” itself.
The main perpetrator was Menéndez, who was in charge of all acts of State terrorism in the area, according to a schematic division implemented by the military at the time to distribute the work of repression. He was found guilty of 282 acts of disappearing people in La Perla and Campo de la Ribera, in addition to 260 kidnappings, 52 homicides, and 656 cases of torture.