Friday, August 23, 2013

Pinochet era biological and chemical weapons clandestinely destroyed

A recent declaration by the Institute of Public Health acknowledged Pinochet's possession of chemical weapons and their destruction in 2008. Ingrid Heitmann, former director of the institute, declared that Pinochet had obtained 'enough chemical weapons to eliminate thousands of people in Chile and abroad'.

Human rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto has expounded upon the importance of disclosure, in order for Chileans to comprehend the character of the armed forces, as well as the 'culture of death' operating during Pinochet's dictatorship. The destruction of the weapons, according to Carmen Hertz, may have also served to annihilate proof of the chemicals being used in assassinations. The same concern was echoed by former health minister Alvaro Erazo, who claimed to have no previous knowledge of the weapons' existence. Both Caucoto and Hertz have called for further investigations, with Caucoto stating that Chileans have the right to learn about the 'culture of death' still heavily protected in Chile by the military. As in the case of Victor Jara's murder, Caucoto reiterated the lack of cooperation exhibited by the Chilean Armed Forces, who continue to withhold information which, if declassified, would shed light upon the multitude of atrocities committed by the dictatorship.

Previous reports and research indicate that the manufacture of such weapons, entrusted to Eugenio Berrios and Michael Townley, was a priority for DINA in relation to el Plan Condor. Human experiments involving sarin gas were carried out on detainees held in Cuartel Simon Bolivar, epitomised by the torture inflicted upon two unidentified Peruvians who were forced to inhale the lethal spray and later administered a cyanide injection by Gladys Calderon. Other experiments were conducted upon detainees held at Colonia Dignidad - a detention centre which also hosted a laboratory used for the production of bio-chemical weapons.

In July 1976, Spanish diplomat, former Unidad Popular advisor and member of CEPAL Carmelo Soria was abducted by DINA agents and his corpse discovered in Canal del Carmen in Santiago. Despite dictatorship reports claiming his death had occurred as a result of a car accident, Soria had been detained in Via Naranja - the same location used by Michael Townley and Eugenio Berrios for their clandestine work, and subjected to sarin gas.

Following the assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washingtom, Eugenio Berrios was helped to flee to Uruguay to avoid testifying regarding his role in el Plan Condor, including the murder of Carmelo Soria. In November 1992, having escaped from the house of Uruguayan Colonel Eduardo Radaelli, Berrios declared to the police that he was being held hostage upon orders from Pinochet. His body was discovered three years later on the beach of el Pinar.

Suspicions have also been raised regarding the deaths of former president Eduardo Frei Montalva and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, both believed to have been administered a toxic substance while at the Santa Maria Clinic.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Search for desaparecidos in Curacaví

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Former DINA agent Roberto Emilio Lailhacar Chavez
Based upon testimony by a former DINA agent and psychiatrist Roberto Emilio Lailhacar Chavez, the Chilean police section investigating human rights violations (PDI) and Servicio Medico Legal (SML) are searching for the remains of at least six victims of the dictatorship. According to  Lailhacar's testimony, the bodies were thrown into wells built on his property at Curacaví. The atrocity is estimated to have occurred between 1973 and 1975.

In his role as psychiatrist, Lailhacar assisted torturers through conducting psychiatric analysis of detainees in various torture centres, including Clinica Santa Lucia which fell under the administration of Werner Zanghellini Martinez, who was accused by Villa Grimaldi survivors of allegedly administering an injection containing the rabies virus to dictatorship victim and desaparecido, Jorge Fuentes Alarcon.

The investigation has been ordered by Judge Sylvia Pizarro from the Court of Appeals in San Miguel. In his testimony, Lailhacar stated he is unaware of the identities of the desaparecidos disposed of in his property - "they could be from Santiago, Curacaví, or any nearby area". The excavation is expected to pose several difficulties as it involves an investigation of various wells on the property which have since been blocked with cement. The same property had also been utilised to host functions and social gatherings for DINA's top command.

Following the dissolution of DINA and later collapse of Pinochet's dictatorship, Lailhacar occupied the role of president of the 'Sociedad Chilena de Sexologia y Educacion Sexual' in Providencia until 2001.

Further information about the case and the dynamics of DINA, which originated from the Tejas Verdes contingent, will be divulged in Javier Rebolledo's forthcoming book published by Ceibo Ediciones, 'El despertar de los Cuervos: Tejas Verdes, el origne de extermino en Chile'.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Review: Ways of Going Home

9781847086266Ways of Going Home
Alejandro Zambra
Granta Books, 2013

Delving into Chile's turbulent past requires a thorough analysis of the country's fragmented society, usually vaguely described and simplified as a split between socialists and Pinochet adherents. In 'Ways of Going Home', Alejandro Zambra portrays a deeper complexity which resonates through a technique of employing different narrators who are an extension of each other, striving to understand the macabre circumstances which altered life and perception.

Commencing with a compelling metaphor - a boy is lost and discovers another way home, the book plunges into the disorientation experienced by the child, whose perceptions are inextricably linked to silence - the silence emanating from a fear of dictatorship and its imposed culture of oblivion. On one hand, Pinochet is depicted as an annoying abstract - an unwanted interlude into a child's life. However, the boy's life is thwarted from innocence an truth by a prevailing mistrust and fear of association which the adults, having experienced the dictatorship and its atrocities, have employed as a possible means of escaping the ruthless regime. Zambra is careful to acknowledge the disorientation on various levels - notably the elders' fears translating into an inconclusive issue for a child whose parents' obsession with neutrality sought to alter, through a possibly unwanted means of protection, the tangible collective memory of Chile's left wing.

For the neutral parents, it is perhaps soothing to portray left-wing militants as having disturbed 'the peace' - an euphemism revealing the challenge for memory frameworks to emerge. As the narrator's parents indulge in neutral rhetoric, ultimately seeking an ephemeral protection against the macabre culture permeating Chile, the narrator reveals an awareness of the alternative, and stronger, collective memory - that of psychological trauma, torture and disappearances, revealing the network of relationships forged across society once distanced from the family home. A discussion of political allegiances raises the ultimate reality of neutral stances, epitomised by "But we were never, your father and I, either for or against Allende, or for or against Pinochet" - an effective method of acquiescing to Pinochet's imposed culture of oblivion.

The refusal to acknowledge passive support for the dictatorship leads to an outburst which pits time against What do you know about those things? You hadn't even been born yet when Allende was in power. You were just a baby during those years." here, knowledge is expected to have been gained solely through experience, despite the fact that an altered narration of memory deconstructs the process of knowledge. The victim's narration remains embroiled in a continuous struggle with the society of spectators, which misconstrues a violent memory for a good story.

Zambra's novel weaves a depth of dimensions and contrasts between the narrating voices, families, political perceptions and memory, depicting a lingering isolation which fails to resolve due to the characters' reticence in reclaiming memory. With the story of the militant deconstructed into that of an abstract terrorist, Pinochet's stronghold over Chile is reflected into the more mundane aspects of the story which deal with the narrator's reflections regarding relationships and society. The absence of tenacity, the lack of solid identification with history possibly elicits a far deeper frustration - the urge to discover resistance is smothered within a series of anti-climaxes which indicate the continuous stifling of excruciating memory in return for a semblance of the neutrality which the narrator so vehemently abhors.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Former DINA officials charged with the murder of Littré Abraham Quiroga Carvajal

littre quiroga carvajal
 Littré Abraham Quiroga Carvajal
Judge Miguel Vasquez Plaza from the Santiago Court of Appeals has charged six former DINA agents with the murder of Littré Abraham Quiroga Carvajal. Quiroga, the director of prisons during Salvador Allende's government, was allegedly murdered by the same agents responsible for Victor Jara's murder.

Hugo Sanchez Marmonti stands accused of murder, while Raul Jofre Gonzales, Edwin Dimter Bianchi, Jorge Smith Gumucio, Nelson Haase Mazzei and Ernesto Bethke Wulf are accused of complicity. The accused, who were granted bail in the early stages of the case pertaining to Victor Jara's murder, have been notified of the charges.

Quiroga was detained on September 11, 1973 by a police patrol and transferred to the Estadio Chile (later named Estadio Victor Jara), which fell under the administration of various military units, including the Tejas Verdes, Esmeralda and Valparaiso regiments.

Quiroga was recognised by military personnel within the enclosure and, like Victor Jara, was singled out for brutal torture. Having been questioned between September 13 and September 16 by a military prosecutor, Quiroga  and Victor Jara were separated from the rest of the detainees and murdered by officials from the Tejas Verdes contingent. According to the autopsy, forensic and ballistic reports, Quiroga was shot at least 23 times. His body, exhibiting signs of torture, was dumped next to the Cemeterio Metropolitano and discovered by people living in the vicinities.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Charges related to the dictatorship crimes of Pisagua

File:Memorial DDHH Chile - 01 Fosa de Pisagua.jpgAfter forty years of impunity, charges have been filed against former soldiers Sergio Eugenio Benavides Villareal, Roberto Antonio Ampuero Alarcón, Arturo Alberto Contador Rosales, Sergio Eduardo Figueroa López,  Gabriel Alonso Guerrero Reeve, Manuel del Carmen Vega y Miguel Aguirre Alvarez for their participation in the execution and disappearance of prisoners at Pisagua.

The crimes occurred between September 29, 1973 and October 11, 1973. Investigations have been ordered by Judge Mario Carroza to establish a detailed chronology of events.

According to preliminary investigations, Juan Calderón Villalobos, Marcelo Guzmán Fuentes and  Luis Lizardi Lizardi were executed on September 29, 1973. The same date also corresponds to the disappearance of Michel Nasch Sáez, Nolberto Cañas Cañas and Juan Jiménez Vidal.

Calderon, Guzman and Lizardi were escorted out of their cells by officials, on the pretext of being assigned to do voluntary work. The prisoners were executed in the outskirts of the Pisagua cemetery and their remains buried on the north side of the cemetery. The bodies were discovered seventeen years later almost intact, with red targets marked upon the prisoners' shirts. The Chilean military attempted to justify the murders by insisting the prisoners had attempted an escape. The military had also insisted that the three other prisoners, Nasch, Cañas and Jiménez has also been buried in the same location; however their remains were never discovered.

On October 11, 1973 Julio Cabezas Gacitúa,  Mario Morris Barrios, Juan Valencia Hinojosa, Humberto Lizardi Flores y Julio Córdova Croxato were interrogated by military prosecutor Mario Acuna Riquelme and executed that same morning, upon allegations of treason to the homeland, espionage and violation of the state's security law. Their remains were buried in the same mass grave, discovered in exactly the same conditions as the prisoners executed previously.


Echoes of Pinochet's 'Caravan of Death'

A revelation made by an unidentified soldier prior to his death led to the discovery of rails used to dispose murdered opponents of Pinochet's dictatorship into the sea. Less than five remnants of rails were found on the shores of Caldera - the second discovery pertaining to the crimes committed during the 'Caravan of Death'.

It is estimated that around 500 dictatorship opponents, amongst them members of MIR and Partido Comunista, were disappeared in the ocean between October 1973 and August 1977. The recently discovered rails are now located at the PDI's Criminal Laboratory in Santiago, to determine whether any further information regarding the crimes may be obtained. The probability of establishing further proof is remote, particularly if no further details regarding the operation were divulged prior to the soldier's death.

It has been reported that two particular cases might be linked to the recent discovery - the case of three extrajudicial killings at Copiapó in 1973, and the case of 26 prisoners murdered in the Atacama desert in 1973. The bodies were recovered by the dictatorship in 1976 and disposed of into the ocean from helicopters.

The criminal procedure has been narrated in great detail by Jorgelino Vergara Bravo - a servant in the household of Manuel Contreras who later served at Cuartel Simon Bolivar. following severe torture, detainees would usually be administered a lethal injection before the bodies would be 'packaged' in the middle of the night, awaiting their final destination.

Only one victim defied the intended disappearance, thus enabling identification as well as proof of the atrocity. Marta Ugarte, a teacher, seamstress and member of the Chilean Communist Party, had been detained by DINA and tortured at Villa Grimaldi in August 1976. A month later, her body was discovered on the shores of La Ballena in Los Molles. The body was discovered inside a bag, with a wire around the victim's neck indicating strangulation. According to official records, the wire had been used by DINA agent Emilio Troncoso Vivallos upon realising that despite the administered lethal injection, Ugarte was still alive.