The Disappearance of Roberto Quieto

After 30 years, there might be more to learn about the Montonero Leader

May 7, 2018, Williamsburg, VA – 43 years after the disappearance of Roberto Quieto, leader of the Montoneros, the largest leftist insurgent group in Argentina, the National Security Archive today posted declassified documents that describe the mysterious disappearance of one of the Argentine Military Government’s high-profile subversive threats. Roberto “El Negro” Quieto, born on January 30th, 1938, was a lawyer and founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias or FAR). “El Negro” was arrested for the first time on July 4th, 1971 after a fellow FAR member released information regarding Quieto’s criminal acts while under interrogation. As a result, Quieto was sent to Rawson Prison in the province of Chubut, in Patagonia, from which he escaped in August 15, 1972. After escaping to Chile and briefly visiting Cuba, “El Negro” returned to Argentina after the FAR joined with the Montoneros in October of 1973, assuming a leadership role within the subversive conglomerate.


A selection of six U.S. documents illustrate Roberto Quieto’s disappearance on December 28th, 1975 and describe the financial agreement between Argentine businessman, David Graiver, head of “The Gelberd-Graiver Group”, and the Montonero leader. The limited selection of documents on the high-profile subversive and two fully excised documents titled “Roberto Quieto” – from U.S. Ambassador of Argentina, Robert Hill to Legal Attaché, Robert Scherrer on January 1, 1976 and March 5, 1976 – indicate that there is more to be known about “El Negro”, which will hopefully will be revealed in future declassifications.




January 5, 1976 – Disappearance of Montonero Leader Roberto Quieto

[Department of State Virtual Reading Room 00009FD9.pdf]


This Department of State cable from U.S. Ambassador, Robert Hill to Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger illustrates the disappearance of Roberto Quieto on December 28, 1975. The comprehensive document describes that the leader of the Montoneros “disappeared December 28 from a local beach where he was relaxing with his family.” The U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires reports that according to the Argentine press, “he was taken without a struggle by approximately 8 young men, one of whom reportedly identified himself as ‘Subinspector Rosas.’” Despite the absence of “specific charges” or a “warrant for his arrest,” Quieto’s whereabouts “remain a mystery and federal and provincial police deny that they have him in custody.” The document reports that the leftist group’s denouncement of “Quieto’s disappearance” appears to discredit a theory that “he was ‘detained’ by the Montoneros themselves in an internal dispute.” Finally, Hill recognizes Quieto’s importance, acknowledging that “the guerillas might logically be looking for possible kidnapping targets” in response to “El Negro’s” disappearance, which has resulted in uncharacteristic “nervousness in the diplomatic community.”


*“Subinspector Rosas” is not referenced in any subsequent documents, supporting the notion that the name was most likely an alias.


January 9, 1976 – Foreign Political Matters Argentina

[FBI Condor F14n2393665]


In this partially redacted cable, Legal Attaché, Robert Scherrer informs CIA Director, William Colby about the disappearance of Roberto Quieto on December 28th, 1976. Scherrer reports that Quieto “was picked up on a beach in Martínez, Buenos Aires province, by individuals who identified themselves as officers of the Federal Police of Argentina.” However, despite the reports, “the Argentine Army and other Argentine government entities steadfastly denied that Quieto was in custody.”


*George H. Bush would replace Colby as director of the CIA on January 30, 1976, appointed by President Gerald R. Ford.


January 13, 1976 – Possibility of Terrorist Attacks to Free Montonero Leader Roberto Quieto

[Department of State Virtual Reading Room 00009FDD]


In this comprehensive one-page cable, U.S. Ambassador, Robert Hill updates Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, on the status of Roberto Quieto who “was picked up in an extralegal arrest on December 28.” Hill describes that the Legal Attaché, Robert Scherrer, has received information that “Quieto is alive and being held and interrogated by the Argentine Army.” Although Quieto has already provided “a wealth of information on Montonero activities and capabilities,” his fate has not yet “been decided by military authorities.” Hill concludes by recommending additional security measures for the embassy, reporting that “the Montoneros are aware that Quieto is alive and is being interrogated” and may be “planning some major action to free him.”


March 17, 1976 – Terrorist Activities Continue at a High Level

[Department of State Virtual Reading Room 0000A007.pdf]


In this two-page Department of State telegram, the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires reports the recent proliferation of terrorist activities in Argentina. On the second page, the document illustrates that although “leftist terrorists are carrying out operations at almost an unprecedented level” an “internal strain” surfaced this week regarding Roberto Quieto. The telegram reports that after realizing that “several recent police raids had resulted from info received from jailed Montonero leader Roberto Quieto,” the Montoneros issued a statement “‘sentencing’ Quieto to death for having sold out to police.”


*Quieto’s cooperation with authorities prompted some Montoneros to rework the guidelines regarding behavior while under interrogation and suggest the usage of cyanide pills.




August 9, 1976 – Memorandum Terrorism in South America

[Department of State Virtual Reading Room 9e9e.pdf]


This seven-page CIA confidential memorandum regarding terrorism in South America reports the success of government tactics toward subversive groups in Argentina, five months after the military coup that overthrew Isabel Perón on March 24, 1976. On the seventh page, the comprehensive memorandum describes that “more than seven months have elapsed since Montonero chieftain Roberto Quieto was captured by security forces” and during that period, the Montoneros “have made no-known attempt to free him or to secure his release.” Several months after issuing a “death sentence” for Roberto Quieto, the document indicates that the Montoneros “are on the defensive” as a result of the “harassment by military forces.”


April 25, 1977 – Graiver/Timerman Investigation and Related

[Department of State Virtual Reading Room C06305414]


By April 25, 1977 Argentine leftists had suffered for more than a year from the military government repression, led by General Jorge Rafael Videla at the helm of the military triumvirate. This five page comprehensive cable from Ambassador Robert Hill to Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance describes Quieto’s full cooperation with Argentine officials “since his detention in December 1975.” Hill also illustrates the financial “commitment between the Montoneros and the ‘Gelbard-Graiver Group,” led by Argentine businessman, David Graiver. In the comprehensive cable, Hill reports that Quieto has informed his captors that “the Montoneros maintained a Swiss bank account containing $150 million, with another $50 million distributed throughout Argentina.” Hill concludes by describing that the Montonero leader has denied that this money was at any point “laundered through Graiver Banks,” indicating that Quieto’s life has “been spared because of his cooperation.”


*Graiver was investigated for laundering $17 million dollars for the Montoneros and later died in 1976 in Chilpacingo, Mexico.