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South America Ford bosses face Argentina trial over kidnap and torture of trade unionists under the junta

TWO former Ford bosses face trial in Argentina for helping the 1970s dictatorship to kidnap and torture trade unionists.

Former factory director Pedro Muller and ex-security manager Hector Francisco Jesus Sibilla appeared before the San Martin federal court outside Buenos Aires on Tuesday.

They are accused of colluding with Jorge Videla’s military junta, which ruled Argentina from 1976 until 1983.

Prosecutors allege that the pair provided names, identity numbers, pictures and home addresses to military commanders who used the information to abduct 24 trade unionists working at a Ford factory north of the capital. 

It is claimed that they allowed the Argentinian military access to Ford’s premises, which were used for torture, and provided cars to drive workers to police stations.

Two other Ford officials allegedly involved in the collusion — human resources chief Guillermo Galarraga and president of Ford Motors Argentina Nicolas Enrique Courard — have since died.

It is alleged that the victims were subjected to hours of torture at the company site before being taken to military prisons.

The court heard details of a meeting at the Ford factory around the time of the March 1976 coup where union leaders were allegedly told to drop “labour complaints.”

Former Ford employee Carlos Propoato said he had been abducted from the factory and tortured at a police station for 40 days. 

“They tortured me from 11 o’clock in the morning to 11 at night — there were beatings, electric shocks,” he said, adding: “What was my crime? Fighting for workers’ rights.”

Mr Propoato spent nearly two years in prison before being released.

According to official figures, 13,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared under military rule, with members of left-wing groups and trade unions targeted. Human rights organisations suggest that the real number is around 30,000.

The former Ford bosses’ trial is expected to last several months.

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