Taking advantage of Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s May 13, 2010 visit to Victoria, a city in the province of Entre Ríos, prominent Argentinean ufologist Silvia Pérez Simondini handed the president’s chief of security and protocol an envelope with a ten-page report about UFOs from CEFORA (Spanish acronym for Commission for the Study of the UFO Phenomenon in the Argentinean Republic). Pérez, who is the director of the Victoria-based Visión OVNI (UFO Vision) group and museum, had the opportunity of talking briefly with President Fernández during the ceremonies commemorating the bicentennial of Argentina’s independence. Forty-eight hours later, Pérez received a call from the Casa Rosada (the Argentinean offices of the president) acknowledging receipt of the CEFORA document and promising a quick response.
CEFORA is an umbrella organization of various Argentinean UFO groups and researchers, specifically created to lobby for the declassification of official UFO files in Argentina. CEFORA is also working on a campaign to collect one hundred thousand signatures petitioning UFO declassification to be presented to the Argentinean congress when completed. Andrea Pérez Simondini, Silvia’s daughter who is also a prominent ufologist and chemist who has documented dozens of cattle mutilation cases in Argentina, cautioned that the successful delivery of the CEFORA documents to President Fernández “may have extraordinary results or may end up in nothing.” CEFORA is clearly following the Brazilian model created a few years ago in a “Freedom of Information” public campaign that yielded significant results when the Brazilian Air Force instituted an official policy to declassify its voluminous UFO files, which is still ongoing.
President Fernández’s political biography has been compared to that of Hillary Clinton. Her husband, Néstor Kirchner, was the former president of Argentina, and she was a powerful senator from Buenos Aires province when she won the presidential election in a landslide in October 2007 (she is the second female president in Argentina’s history). Whether President Fernández will implement pro-UFO policies remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Argentina’s military has in its possession a certain amount of UFO-related documents and probably some physical evidence. Although very few actual documents were released in the past, the history of the military’s involvement in various UFO cases and investigations is, on the other hand, well documented. Back in 1997, I published a special report for the Japanese magazine Borderland titled, “Argentina’s Military UFO Dossier.” The article appeared in Japanese, but the original English version was never published…until now. Here, then, is the first part of that report.
ARGENTINA’S MILITARY UFO DOSSIER
Argentina is one of the few nations with a rich history of UFO military investigations. For almost 20 years beginning in the early 1960’s, its military authorities became involved in the ufological controversy sweeping across South America and the rest of the world. The Navy established a Permanent Commission for Studies of the UFO Phenomenon in 1962, which lasted until 1974 when its director, Captain Engineer Omar R. Pagani, retired from the service. A new effort was launched by Air Force Captain Augusto Lima at the National Commission for Space Research, which is sort of Argentina’s NASA but under Argentinean Air Force (AAF) supervision.
The UFO projects faded away by the early 1980’s. Argentina’s military rulers now faced a number of crisis: the disastrous war against Great Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1983, followed by a return to democracy, trials for human rights abuses, and drastic budgetary cuts. While UFO sightings obviously continued to be reported by the media and investigated by local ufological groups, they were no longer a priority item for the military. Unfortunately, no final conclusions of either the Navy or AAF studies have been released so far, but a number of documents have been obtained by independent researchers like the Buenos Aires journalist Alejandro Agostinelli. These include a detailed 26-page UFO Questionnaire, memos summarizing incidents involving military personnel, photographs, and a few striking official statements acknowledging the reality of UFOs.
For instance, in the wake of an intense flap over several meteorological stations in Antarctica in 1965, Capt. Pagani declared in a press conference that, “Unidentified flying objects do exist. Their presence and intelligent displacement in the Argentine airspace has been proven. Their nature and origin is unknown and no judgment is made about them.” The first UFO flap in Argentina took place in mid-July 1947, right on the heels of the North American wave. Reports of “platos voladores” (flying saucers) in La Plata, Punta del Este and elsewhere were reported in local newspapers. The first official UFO project began in 1962, but some cases were investigated prior to that.
The AAF publication Revista Nacional de Aeronáutica (National Review of Aeronautics) became the focus of UFO discussions in official circles in the mid-1950’s. Some of the reports published include:
- A multiple-witness UFO sighting by personnel on duty at the Control Tower of the airport in Cordoba, the country’s second largest city, before dawn on Nov. 25, 1954.
- A UFO photo taken by a journalist in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Dudignac on the morning of Aug. 30, 1955, investigated by the chief of the police precinct; the negative was analyzed by photo experts, which found it had “not been retouched or faked.”
- Another UFO photo taken by AAF Captain Niotti in Yacanto, Cordoba, on July 3, 1960. (Details below)
In addition, the Review reported on the investigations of the USAF Project Blue Book and lobbied for the establishment of “an organization devoted to the study of the [UFO] problem in our country.” Undoubtedly, one of the best AAF cases was the photograph taken by one its own officers.
1960: YACANTO PHOTO CASE
The details of this case were provided by Captain Hugo Luis Niotti himself, who wrote a thorough account of his observation for the Review, submitted with the original print and negative of his photo for technical analysis by AAF experts. Capt. Niotti wrote:
“That photograph was taken on the day July 3 of this year , approximately at 16:30 Hrs., with a 35 mm camera while driving on Route Nº 36, at a distance of about 70 KM from the city of Cordoba. Film 21º DIN was used, with diaphragm open at 2,8, 1/60 second speed, and distance focus on infinity.” The officer added he was driving from Yacanto to Cordoba when, “I observed an object suspended in the air some 100 meters to the right of the road. I estimate that between stopping the vehicle and getting the camera, I must have taken maximum 40 seconds, and the object took a few more seconds to disappear between the clouds… [it] was shaped like a cone rotating on its axis, slowly moving toward the south… The object was about 100 meters from the road and at an altitude of 15 m over the terrain.”
Capt. Niotti estimated its size: “diameter of 3 to 4 m, by 6 to 8 m of height (axis); color: dark gray, opaque; speed between 5 to 7 km/h., with a final rapid acceleration that took it to 200 km/h. in 3 seconds more or less.” The original negative was analyzed by photo technicians from the AAF Aeronautical Information Service. The experts concluded: “From the analysis undertaken it can be determined that the developing process of its negative was normal; it can thus be asserted without any doubt that there exists a register of an object that could very well be linked to what the officer stated.” The analysts noted that the base of the cone appeared darker in the photo than the gray mentioned by Niotti, speculating that “this could be attributed to the sensibilization of the photographic film to the influence of radiations not within the light spectrum and of unknown nature.
Additional analysis of the photo was conducted years later by two leading Argentinean ufologists, Guillermo Roncoroni and Gustavo Alvarez, who concluded that Capt. Niotti’s photograph was “a unique case in Argentina” because of its official endorsement by the AAF. A first generation print was also sent by Roncoroni to Ground Saucer Watch (GSW) in Arizona for computer enhancement. GSW confirmed the authenticity of the photo, writing in its final report that, “the UFO is definitely not a small model thrown in the air or suspended by a wire,” and that “there is no evidence of photomontage or other photographic trick.” The Yacanto case shows that some UFO photos are indeed real and that careful, professional analysis can be undertaken if the photographer cooperates and facilitates the original negative.
MAY 1962: BAHIA BLANCA FLAP
The launch of the Navy’s Permanent Commission for Studies of the UFO Phenomenon, headed by Capt. Pagani, was triggered by a UFO wave centered around Bahia Blanca, a city in the southern part of Buenos Aires province, in May 1962. The sightings began on May 11 and continued on May 13, 18, 21 and 22. The Navy’s top admiral in the area and his entourage were among the witnesses. A May 25 CIA report monitoring the foreign media mentions one case:
“The appearance of unidentified flying objects over the city of Bahia Blanca is causing the most varied comment among the people there. The most extraordinary occurrence was on 21 May when many people observed a strange luminous body suspended for several minutes over the city, and then saw it disappear quickly. A local photographer was able to take two pictures of the object, which looks like a luminous oval on the print. The Cordoba Astronomical Observatory is compiling data about this phenomenon which has been observed in other regions of Argentina, although not as clearly as in Bahia Blanca.”
On May 22, a formation of aircraft from the Naval Air Station Comandante Espora encountered several UFOs for 35 minutes. A 2-page “Confidential Official UFO Report” from the base, signed by Captain Sanchez Moreno, provides all the pertinent data [see Document]. The incident began at 7:10 PM with a first sighting by a student pilot. “At 7:20 PM,” continued the memo, “another student pilot flying at 4000 feet, reported that his tail section was suddenly illuminated by an object located behind his plane. A luminous UFO then flew under his plane, vanishing out of sight among the lights of the city [Bahia Blanca]. During this observation his radio ceased to function.” At 7:30 PM, the flight instructor, Lt. Galdos, also reported an “orange luminous disc” over the city. At 7:45 PM, officers at the Control Tower observed “a luminous object that was approximately ten degrees altitude above the horizon. The UFO was moving vertically and horizontally and 15 seconds later disappeared into the horizon.”
There was no denying the incident since, the memo adds, “the Commander of the Naval Base at Puerto Belgrano, Rear Admiral Eladio M. Vazquez, also declared that he clearly saw a strange luminous object in space that night. Rear Admiral Vazquez was in the company of Captain Aldo Molinari, second-in-command of the naval zone, who was also a witness to the emotional experience. Both were waiting in Espora for a U.S. military mission when they saw the unidentified flying craft. With the objective to collect detail about the incident, the Department of the Navy sent a delegation by Captain Dr. Constantino Nuñez to the city of Bahia Blanca. The detection or sighting of the UFO by military personnel was kept in rigorous secrecy.” Argentina’s Naval Intelligence Service published a 26-page booklet entitled, “Questionnaire of Technical Information about Unidentified Flying Objects O.V.N.I.” (Spanish acronym for UFO). It is basically a Spanish translation of the standard reporting UFO form used at the time by the USAF Project Blue Book.