March 27, 2012 / 8:46 PM / 7 years ago

Suspected death squad cars found at Argentine base

* Rusty, dust-covered cars found at a naval base warehouse

* Part of probe into Dirty War-era human rights crimes

* Falcons have sinister reputation in Argentina

By Luis Andres Henao

BUENOS AIRES, March 27 (Reuters) - Argentine investigators have unearthed 43 Ford Falcon cars that death squads may have used to abduct dissidents during the country’s 1976-1983 “Dirty War,” court documents published on Tuesday showed.

The Falcons conjure spine-chilling memories in Argentina because they were used to haul suspected leftists off for questioning during the military dictatorship, when up to 30,000 people were killed.

The rusty, dust-covered cars dating back more than 30 years were found in a warehouse at the Puerto Belgrano naval base, located near the city of Bahia Blanca in Buenos Aires province.

They will be searched for traces of blood, hair or any other evidence that might link them to the Dirty War, as part of a federal court investigation of crimes against humanity, court papers published by the official judicial news agency showed.

“This car model effectively contributed to the military’s dark actions, allowing for the kidnapping and transportation of countless people while also becoming a symbol that seeded terror,” the documents stated.

Miriam Lewin, a 54-year-old journalist who was kidnapped in a bordeaux-colored Falcon in the 1970S, said the discovery of the cars proves the Navy continues to cover up evidence 30 years after the dictatorship ended.

“If the Navy has these 43 cars stashed in a dark warehouse on a military base, that means they could be a clue to something. Otherwise they would have sold them,” said Lewin, who was forced into the trunk of another Falcon when she was moved from one political detention center to another.

Separately, the judicial news agency said investigators searched for evidence in airplanes at a nearby naval air base and naval aviation museum to see if they were used during dictatorship-era “death flights,” when drugged political prisoners were thrown from military planes into the River Plate. (Reporting by Luis Andres Henao; Editing by Hilary Burke and Bill Trott)

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