Friday, January 31, 2014

The Calama massacres: five victims identified, including Carlos Berger, husband of human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz

Carlos Alfredo Escobedo Caris
Mario Arguelles Toro
Leopoldo Llanos, the visiting minister in charge of investigating human rights violations committed during Pinochet's dictatorship, confirmed the identification of five victims of the Caravan of Death. Servicio Medico Legal (SML) asserted that the identified remains correspond to the massacres committed in Calama on October 19, 1973.

Luis Alfonso Moreno Villaroel
The identification of the victims was confirmed during a meeting with relatives, in which the scientific evidence regarding the massacre was discussed. It was established that the victims were murdered prior to 1975 and their remains buried for over ten years, until the illegal exhumation Operacion Retiro de Televisores was carried out under direct orders from Pinochet, rendering any discovery of intact remains impossible. As with other previously identified victims, only fragments of bones were discovered due to heavy machinery being used to exhume the victims for permanent disappearance, either through burning in drums or else packaged and dropped into the ocean from helicopters. The order to exhume bodies from mass graves was given by Pinochet after the discovery of fifteen bodies in an abandoned furnace in Lonquen.

Hernan Elizardo Moreno Villaroel

The identities of the victims correspond to:

Carlos Alfredo Escobedo Caris, age 24, socialist militant. Detained on September 26, 1973. Incarcerated at the Calama Prison at the time of execution.

Hernan Elizardo Moreno Villaroel, age 29, socialist militant. Detained under house arrest from September 12 to October 12, 1973, later transferred to Calama Prison. No evidence of judicial process or condemnation exists, however it is rumoured that Moreno was sentenced to two years in prison.

Mario Arguelles Toro, age 34, socialist. Detained on September 26, 1973 and condemned to three years imprisonment on October 16, 1973. Murdered while awaiting transfer to incarceration.

Carlos Berger Guralnik
Luis Alfonso Moreno Villaroel, age 30, socialist militant. Detained on October 12, 1973 after presenting himself voluntarily to the military and incarcerated in Calama Prison. There is no indication of judicial process or condemnation pertaining to Moreno.

Carlos Berger Guralnik, age 30, husband of human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz. A journalist, lawyer and Communist Party militant, Berger was detained on September 11 1973 and condemned to 60 days in prison on September 29, 1973. Berger's execution occurred while serving his sentence.

Their remains were discovered in a mass grave on the road to San Pedro de Atacama, only 15km away from Calama. The Rettig Commission report established that the victims were brutally mutilated and massacred. The secret burial in a mass grave was carried out to avoid confrontation with the victims' relatives, who later defied the atrocities of the dictatorship and embarked upon a personal search of the Caravan of Death victims.

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