Operacion Colombo

26 DINA agents sentenced for their role in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of MIR militant Miguel Angel Acuña

The sSantiago Court of Appeals has sentenced 26 former DINA agents for the roles in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of MIR militant Miguel Angel Acuña – one of the victims of Operación Colombo.

Acuña was arrested near his home by DINA on the night of July 8, 1974 and transferred to Londres 38, where he was subjected to torture. The exact date of disappearance is not known. It is estimated that the last time Acuña was seen alive would have been in July or August 1974.

César Manríquez, Pedro Octavio, Miguel Krassnoff and Raúl Iturriaga were sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment as perpetrators of the crime.

Gerardo Urrich, Gerardo Godoy, Ricardo Lawrence, Ciro Torré, Sergio Castillo, Manuel Carevic, Basclay Zapata, José Fuentes, Julio Hoyos, Gustavo Carumán, José Ojeda, Luis Villarroel, Rudeslindo Urrutia, Juan Duarte, Pedro Araneda, Víctor Molina, Manuel Rivas, Hugo Hernández, Juan Urbina, Risiere Altez, Hermon Alfaro and Raúl Rodríguez were sentenced to ten years.

The right to memory in Chile: an interview with Erika Hennings

(First published in Upside Down World)

Operacion Colombo, or the case of the 119[1] was an intelligence operation staged by DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional), which sought to exterminate political opponents of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Most of the victims were members of MIR. Having first been detained in Londres 38[2], most of the detained persons were ‘disappeared’[3] by DINA. In what amounted to a treacherous conspiracy, Pinochet’s dictatorship allied itself with other repressive governments in Latin America, seeking to influence public opinion about the fate of the desaparecidos by publishing articles about supposed political turbulence within the left which led MIR members to turn against each other.

In memory of the desaparecidos, as well as an assertion in favor of the right to memory, Londres 38Espacio de Memorias inaugurated an exhibition detailing the origins and set up of Operacion Colombo. Erika Hennings, President of Londres 38, speaks about the right to memory – a contrast with state laws and dictatorship practices which act as censorship or criminalization of social mobilization in Chilean society.

Ramona Wadi: Explain the historical connection between Operacion Colombo and Londres 38.

Erika Hennings: The victims of Operacion Colombo are all people arrested by DINA, whose systematic method of disappearance started in Londres 38. That location was a place of detention, torture and extermination of people, mostly leftist militants during that particular period of MIR. DINA devoted itself primarily to the extermination of MIR (Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionaria). Besides the missing victims there are innumerable persons who survived their detention in Londres 38, and were witnesses of the detention and missing of people who are in the 119 list, and therefore are also witnesses of the farce and set-up which was realized to conceal the facts.

RW: What was the dictatorship’s aim in orchestrating Operacion Colombo? How did other governments in Latin America collaborate with DINA’s manipulation of events?

EH: Operacion Colombo was staged by the repression of the dictatorship, together with its intelligence agency, DINA, to conceal their crimes, most of which still remain unpunished. Operacion Colombo was part of Operacion Condor, which coordinated the repressive apparatus of the Southern Cone together with the participation of agency officials such as embassies and news media. With the repressive Argentine intelligence and complicity of the Chilean press, such as El MercurioLa Segunda and La Tercera, the dictatorship found a way to sway public opinion with regard to the desaparecidos, attributing their deaths to internal leftist political strife, especially with regard to MIR. In this context, the Chilean press reports reproduced information published in journals: Lea in Argentina and Novo O Díain Argentina and Brazil, which ‘clarified’ the whereabouts and circumstances of the 119 persons. The first of these publications reported about the fate of 60 desaparecidos, while the others reported about the remaining 59.

RW: Has any information resurfaced about the fate of the victims? Can you relate the stories of any of the desaparecidos?

EH: In the case of persons disappeared by DINA, the 119 and the other hundreds of desaparecidos, there has never been any confirmed information relating to their fate.

RW: What does the exhibition attempt to convey and how does it challenge current laws and impunity in Chile?

EH: The exhibition “Montajes Comunicacionales del pasado y el presente” arises out of a need to visualise the operations conducted by the dictatorship to hide their crimes, most of which still remain unpunished due to impunity.

The Courts of Justice are still investigating the case of Operacion Colombo; family members and human rights agencies hold a firm conviction that permanent struggle and determination can support the achievement of justice. Some condemnations have been achieved in a few cases of the desaparecidos, however sentences have not been harsh and many cases still fall under the impunity.

At the same time it is necessary not only to achieve permanent mobilization against cases in the recent past, but also towards present cases which are a continuity of practices from the dictatorship. State security law and the anti terrorist law are being used to criminalize all social mobilization. 

RW: How did the idea for the exhibition originate? Describe the exhibition and what it seeks to portray through the various mediums used.

EH: Londres 38Espacio de Memorias, raises the significance of memory that links them to the present, in order to release knowledge that may lead to reflection and action on what is occurring today, which should generate a contribution to legal and social justice, as well as respect for human rights in its broadest perception.

This exhibition traces the origins of Operacion Colombo. Panels portray the origin of Operacion Colombo, its context and its relationship to other frame ups such as Operacion Salamandra, also known as El Caso Bombas. The exhibition also includes life size silhouettes of the missing 119 detainees, whose detention and attempted murder was denied by those orchestrating Operacion Colombo.

RW: What effect does this exhibition have on memory and citizenship and how does it establish a link between relatives of the desaparecidos and the public?

EH: I can’t say what effect this exhibition had, but the wide participation of the citizens in this effort meets the goal of imparting knowledge about what happened and delivers elements which make it possible for people to reflect on how impunity allows the continuity and repetition of facts to silence all social and political mobilization. The relatives of the desaparecidos are part of the ‘public’, part of the citizens – they are informed and mobilized.

RW: Has the exhibition compelled people to come forward with any information relating to Operacion Colombo or other dictatorship related torture?

EH: The people approach, discuss, they comment with regard to the exhibition, they wonder and question. There is a perceived great interest to discover and link with other cases of  frame ups which they have known or heard of.

RW: How does the exhibition challenge Chilean media and is there any repetitive pattern in media manipulation from the dictatorship era?

EH: A leading role was played by the press addicted to the dictatorship. Chile’s media and journalists from the media provided space in their pages to try to give credibility to the lie known as Operacion Colombo. More than 30 years later, media such as La SegundaEl Mercurio and La Tercera have never given an explanation about their lies and complicity with these crimes. They enjoy total impunity. It is this impunity that allows more than 30 years later, journalistic practices which are complicit in political, economic, religious, the police and any other kind of power. Empowered by the same impunity, the media which in the past participated in Operacion Colombo now echo, without ever questioning police versions, or else in collusion with government prosecutors, the cases which affect the Mapuche people or young anarchists.

The Patriot Act, the law of state security and the press have been used in these years of democracy as means to criminalize social movements and struggles. More recently, the prosecution was unable to sustain terrorism charges against young anarchists whilst the media had already condemned them.

RW: How much would you say the right to memory is respected in Chile, and can you speak about any contrasts between Chilean civilians opposing the dictatorship and the government, with respect to the right to memory?

EH: The exhibition “Montajes comunicacionales del pasado y el presente” was scheduled to be launched in January this year at the Library of Santiago, but the entity attempted to modify the contents of the exhibition – an act of censorship that was rejected by Londres 38, Espacio de Memorias.

For Londres 38Espacio de Memorias, modifying the contents of the exhibition by a public body not only violated editorial principles but also, the attempt at censorship contradicted the principles of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and specifically, those posed by its Committee of freedom of expression and access to information, which states that libraries contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help safeguard basic democratic values and universal civil rights. Furthermore, it states that libraries should acquire, organize and disseminate information freely and oppose any form of censorship. Also libraries should preserve and make available the widest variety of materials reflecting the plurality and diversity of society, providing users with the ability to communicate and express themselves; which should not be censored or restricted by policy approaches.

In this sense, Londres 38Espacio de Memorias, defends its right to maintain and preserve its editorial policy, where the contents of memory retrieval are a necessity related to the present. Similarly, Londres 38states that the state has the obligation to guarantee the right to memory; it should ensure the plural use of public spaces for citizens’ organizations. After a meeting with the Director of the Dibam (Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos), on whom the library of Santiago depends, it was decided that the exhibition would be displayed on the site as originally designed by Londres 38Espacio de Memorias.

For now the show will remain in Londres 38 until April 25. Immediately after that date, the exhibition will be visiting various facilities of the Universities of Chile and Catholic Universities – organized by their respective student federations – municipalities such as La Granja, San Miguel and San Joaquin, as well as library spaces of independent publishers such as GAM and Museo de la Memoria.

Notes:

Chilean Court Orders Re-Enactment Of The Death Of A Revolutionary Leader

(First published in Mint Press News)

miguel en

MIGUEL ENRIQUEZ (MIR)

Augusto Pinochet’s obsession with eradicating socialist opposition to his dictatorship prompted the creation of specialized brigades operating with the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) – a fact established many times throughout Chilean history and in court cases pertaining to the assassinations and disappearances of Communist Party and Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) leaders and militants.

Last week, visiting Judge Mario Carroza ordered the re-enactment of the death of MIR founder and General Secretary Miguel Enríquez. The re-enactment, according to reports on Chilean news website El Ciudadano, is aimed at establishing whether Enríquez’s death was the result of a premeditated execution or the fallout of his clash with an armed group.

The formal request for the re-enactment was made by Enríquez’s son, Marco Enríquez-Ominami; Miguel Enríquez’s partner, Carmen Castillo Echeverria; the Chilean human rights group Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos (Relatives of Executed Political Prisoners); and the Human Rights Program of the Ministry of Interior of Chile.

The Rettig Commission Report, commissioned by former President Patricio Aylwin in 1991, states that on Oct. 5, 1974 Enríquez was surrounded by a contingent of armed DINA officers, and a helicopter hovered overhead as reinforcement. As the agents opened fire upon Enríquez, the revolutionary leader attempted to shield Castillo, who was attempting to leave the scene. Castillo, who was six months pregnant at the time, was severely injured in the onslaught. She was transferred to a hospital and later detained by the same DINA agents reportedly behind Enríquez’s murder: Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko and Marcelo Moren Brito. According to autopsy reports, Enríquez was wounded 10 times by bullets throughout the hour-long attack.

Enríquez-Ominami has emphasized the importance of establishing the facts that led to his father’s death: “The context is very important, because it was against MIR that Pinochet ordered torture and violence to eliminate the rebellion and resistance headed by my father.”

The re-enactment will require the cooperation of witnesses who were present when DINA agents surrounded Enríquez’s safe-house in Santiago. Yet Enríquez-Ominami expressed doubt about the participation of witnesses, stating that the fear of retribution must be eliminated for the investigation to be valid.

A situation the U.S. helped to create

A physician and a well-read individual with extensive knowledge of Chilean history and the Cuban Revolution, Miguel Enríquez became MIR’s general secretary in 1967, distinguishing himself through the application of revolutionary socialist theoretical knowledge.

As Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular government pursued the revolutionary process through the existing democratic frameworks corrupted by the Chilean right-wing, MIR increased its criticism of Allende’s political decisions, in particular as overt and covert U.S.-backed operations to destabilize the socialist government threatened social order. Departing from the perception of the Cuban Revolution as a threat, the United States’ intent was to stifle any form of support for socialist governance in Latin America. Allende’s electoral triumph, in particular, was seen as a possible turning point — not least due to the fact that socialism in Chile was achieved through democratic elections as opposed to armed resistance against U.S.-backed right-wing dictatorships.

Church Committee report from 1975 established that the U.S. had begun supporting covert operations in Chile in 1962, culminating in operations designed to prevent Allende’s electoral triumph. Throughout the period of socialist governance, the U.S. government channeled funds to right-wing political parties and the CIA aided militant right-wing groups in carrying out acts of sabotage designed to create instability. Ironically, in 1974, the CIA was asked to compile human rights reports regarding the human rights violations committed by the dictatorship — a situation which the U.S. government and the CIA helped to create.

MIR affirmed its adherence to armed resistance, calling upon Allende to arm the people against right-wing violence. In fact, Cuba provided support to MIR’s training for armed revolutionary struggle – a reflection of Cuban internationalism as well as Fidel Castro’s discussion with Allende in which he urged the Chilean president not to put trust in the military.

The Sept. 11, 1973 military coup was the initiation of a brutal extermination of socialist opposition. While a considerable percentage of socialist militants attempted to seek refuge in foreign embassies to avoid political oppression or retribution, Miguel Enríquez refused political asylum and the possibility of exile in order to attempt to lead the resistance against Pinochet’s dictatorship from within Chile.

Operating within organized cells, MIR became a target for Pinochet. Evidence of the torture, assassination and disappearance of MIR militants is abundant — many having met their end at Cuartel Simon Bolivar, the torture and extermination center described as “the place where no one got out alive” by former errand boy and DINA agent Jorgelino Vergara Bravo.

One of the agents responsible for the torture, assassination and disappearance of MIR militants was Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko, the former head of Brigada Caupolican, who attempted to shift his role from that of torturer to analyst. He is currently serving 144 years in prison for his role in various acts of brutality.

During the trial pertaining to the disappearance of MIR militant Maria Cecilia Labrin Saso, Krassnoff denied his role as torturer, despite the testimony of former torture survivors, some of whom stated that Krassnoff never attempted to conceal his identity and described himself as an agent undertaking analysis and intelligence studies aimed at providing information about “terrorist groups like MIR.” Yet it is an established fact that Pinochet’s intention was to eradicate the revolutionary movement to prevent any possible formidable opposition to his rule.

Investigative research by Mauricio Weibel published in the book “Asociación Ilícita: los archivos secretos de la dictadura” (“Illicit Association: The secret archives of the dictatorship”) details the spy network maintained abroad by Pinochet and collaborative governments and entities to keep tabs on exiled militants. A particularly notorious endeavor of the dictatorship is Operacion Colombo, also known as the Case of the 119 – a reference to the list of 119 militants (the majority of whom belonged to MIR) executed and disappeared by the dictatorship. The dictatorship narrative, this time in collaboration with Argentina and Brazil, attempted to influence public opinion by publishing articles alleging that the militants had fallen victim to political turbulence and splintering within the revolutionary movement itself.

Murdering Miguel Enríquez proved to be a difficult task for DINA. With political rhetoric aimed at uniting the masses – a direct defiance of Pinochet’s enforcement of terror and oblivion, Enríquez recognized that his survival and that of the revolutionary movement could only be ensured if he worked clandestinely.

In October 1974, DINA’s surveillance network managed to locate Enríquez’s relatives by curtailing the movements of his daughter, thus narrowing Enríquez’s location to a working class area south of Santiago where the revolutionary leader was thought to have taken up residence.

Then, on Oct. 5, he was surrounded and killed.

 

Accountability and impunity

While DINA’s aggression is clearly documented in Chilean history, it remains unclear whether Miguel Enríquez was armed at the time of his attack. Thus, obscure definitions and loopholes come into play. The Rettig Commission Report states that “the Commission cannot regard the death of Miguel Enríquez as a human rights violation in the strict sense. However, it does believe that he lost his life as a result of the situation of political violence, since he died resisting arrest by an agency which he had grounds for believing would torture and kill him if he were arrested.”

It is evident that criteria had to be established in order to determine and classify the various human rights violations committed during Pinochet’s dictatorship. However, in the cases of Miguel Enríquez and others, the notion that Pinochet’s dictatorship itself constituted a human rights violation has been disregarded, thus affording DINA officials the impunity to triumph over a proper reconstruction of events that would reveal the identities of the perpetrators.

The primary and most important premise has been eliminated from the narrative regarding Enríquez’s death: Pinochet’s intention was to entirely exterminate the MIR. This goal violates people’s legitimate rights of armed resistance against oppression.

Although several decades have passed, establishing the series of events and the facts that led to Enríquez’s assassination will serve to articulate the notion that even if Enríquez was indeed in possession of weapons at the time of the assault, his death was part of a predetermined, nationwide terror structure, thus ensuring a proper placing of accountability rather than the reliance of legal jargon to safeguard impunity through initiatives of the Chilean state.

Asociacion ilicita. Los archivos secretos de la dictadura.

AsociacionIlicita

Mauricio Weibel Barahoma, Carlos Dorat Guerra

Ceibo Ediciones, 2012

(review first published in Chileno)

Re-enacting Chile’s dictatorship history is an arduous task, undoubtedly hindered by Augusto Pinochet’s insistence upon oblivion and legally sanctioned by the enacted impunity laws. Seeking to annihilate memory by imposing a reign of persecution, torture, disappearances and exile, the struggle to delegitimize the leftist struggle degenerated into Pinochet’s obsession to legitimise his dictatorship. Evidence compiled by authors Carlos Dorat and Mauricio Weibel reveals a sinister collaboration extending beyond the secret network Dirección de Intelligencia Nacional (DINA) and later Central Nacional de Información (CNI), involving ministries, embassies, diplomats, the FBI, the Vatican and right wing Latin American governments.

Asociación Ilícita: los archivos secretos de la dictadura (Ceibo Ediciones, 2012) examines documents which for some reason, failed to be destroyed by the CNI in 1988 prior to the transition period. The documents, detailing extensive correspondence on behalf of Pinochet, are mainly attributed to Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, Odlainer Mena, Humberto Gordon and Hugo Salas, proving the extent of collaboration between various governmental and international bodies, as well as incursions to divert civilian attempts to shed light upon Chile’s reality. From El Plan Condor to inscribed orders from Pinochet requesting the detention of socialist opponents, terror and diplomatic strategy comprise the analysis of what the authors term ‘a catalogue of horror and intolerance’.

September 11, 1973 unleashed the neoliberal experiment upon Chile, supported by the US which was, in Kissinger’s words, unwilling ‘to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide from themselves’. Following an initial purging of socialism in Chile, the published documents in this book reveal how political strategy, in collaboration with the Vatican, was aiming to install Pinochet as an icon of freedom and anti-communist struggle. Apart from the well known targeting of Communist Party and Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionario (MIR) militants, the military advocated a complete dismantling of social movements, student organisations and embarked upon restricting the Church’s activities. With regard to the latter, correspondence with the Vatican illustrates the alignment of the church oligarchy with Pinochet’s dictatorship, as opposed to priests working in the country who, contrary to what had occurred in other countries, aligned themselves with the left. While the Vatican urged priests to adhere solely to ceremonial roles, Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez had abandoned the designated conservative role in favour of exposing dictatorship atrocities through the Vicaria de la Solidaridad. Part of the political strategy against human rights groups was to seek invalidation of exposed atrocities by citing Marxist infiltration.

A brief overview of DINA establishes an ideological framework attributed to Jaime Guzman, who fostered a counterinsurgency programme based upon combating Marxism and seeking the annihilation of social movements from the political scene. As DINA’s power intensified, counterinsurgency became central to the stability of the dictatorship, lending the state a channel through which to intensify diplomatic efforts with other right wing governments and repressive bodies, in order to present a formidable opposition to organisations expressing their outrage at the widespread violence. Documents relating to Operaciones Epsilon reveal that former head of DINA, Manual Contreras, was authorised to give orders to various ministries. An 11 page document relating to the assembly of ‘Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos’ sought to ‘neutralise worldwide accusations of human rights violations in Chile’, instead proposing an emphasis of human rights disputes in Vietnam and the Soviet Union, among other countries.  The neutralisation of any verbal opposition against the dictatorship was to be met with an open and clandestine psychologicalcampaign, in order to preserve Chile’s ‘image’ from any possible ‘discrediting and spreading of false information’.

The political threat was personified in particular by the clandestine Communist Party and MIR, who waged armed resistance against the dictatorship and suffered great losses due to persecution and disappearances of many militants, including the notorious Operacion Colombo. The book states that, according to research carried out by renowned author Manuel Salazar, Contreras had been compiling information about political leaders of leftist organisations since Salvador Allende’s presidency. Related documents published in this book and stamped as confidential outline the activities of several left wing leaders, including Victor Diaz and Luis Recabarren.

‘The problem of human rights’ constituted a major problem for the dictatorship, as it relentlessly sought to portray any internal or external criticism as tarnishing the image of Chile. Despite the extermination of socialist leaders, subsequent regrouping of MIR, Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario (MAPU) and other left wing groups gave rise to an initiation of protests against the dictatorship, with people demanding the return of their exiled relatives. Hundreds were massacred by the CNI, as the military was deployed to the streets in an effort to stifle dissent. As the dictatorship faced the most difficult years of its era, Guzman advocated an ideology shifting towards permanent military rule.

The authors describe the oppression as methodical – indeed the documents reveal statistical data of ‘terrorist activity’ and ‘manipulation of conduct’. The constant preoccupation and compilation of data enabled the dictatorship to enact legislation according to the circumstances, in order to ensure a continuation of impunity. A trend of state terrorism is easily gleaned from the documents produced in the book, as well as the analysis provided by the authors. The ‘Caravan of Death’, the ‘Plan Condor’, which was carried out in collaboration with other Latin American countries, ‘Operacion Colombo’ – also known as the Case of the 119, ‘Operacion Epsilon’ and the collaboration with the US regarding ‘the distortion of Chile’s truth in favour of Marxism’ gave rise to the tracking of dissidents’ and exiles’ activity abroad, in order to prevent the possibility of the formation of a government in exile. Embassies were also authorised to keep copies of any published material relevant to Chile, in particular reports concerning human rights violations. The exercise was described as ‘censorship of negative information’. However, the dictatorship’s targeting of any person suspected of harbouring leftist sentiment, even through association not related to political activity and irrespective of nationality, led to disclosure of torture practices in international media. The case of Sheila Cassidy – a British doctor suspected of having offered medical assistance to Pinochet’s opponents led to international outrage, which in turn the dictatorship tried to stifle by refusing to issue working permits for journalists travelling to Chile in order to report on human rights. State organisations were also forbidden to comment about Chile without prior permission granted through formal official channels. At least 761 journalists were prohibited from reporting about human rights violations in Chile and their details were included in the dictatorship’s archives.

Hostility against the media was enhanced by the fact that culture – an integral part of Allende’s campaign and perhaps synonymous with the nueva canción movement, was not to be stifled. Inti Illimani and Illapu, together with other singers in exile such as Angel Parra, Isabel Parra and Patricio Manns maintained their political stance and disseminated their convictions through music. The literature of Ariel Dorfman and Antonio Skarmeta was banned in Chile, as was the political thought of Eduardo Galeano and Karl Marx.

Perhaps the significance of this book lies in the fact that it is yet another sliver in Chilean memory elucidating the callous ideology behind the committed atrocities. By analysing this archive of documents, Dorat and Weibel have succeeded in reassembling the fragments of the dictatorship, most importantly eliminating the gap between the experienced violations and the dictatorship laws which ravaged the lives of thousands of Chileans.  

El Despertar de los Cuervos. Telas Verdes, el orgien del exterminio en Chile

rebolledo cuervosJavier Rebolledo (Ceibo Ediciones, 2013)

Following the macabre narration ‘La Danza de los Cuervos: el destino final de los detenidos desaparecidos’, which describes the torture and extermination of dictatorship opponents carried out in Cuartel Simon Bolivar, Javier Rebolledo’s latest book, ‘El despertar de los Cuervos. Tejas Verdes, el origen del exterminio en Chile’ (Ceibo Ediciones, 2013) provides a detailed account of DINA’s formation in Tejas Verdes – the location where experimentation with torture was carried out in the early days of the dictatorship.

The prologue to the book describes perversity as an inadequate term in relation to dictatorship atrocities committed in Chile. With the full truth of horrors still concealed from the nation, the subject of torture, extermination and disappearance is shrouded within various levels of anonymity – the anonymity enforced by DINA upon the disappeared, torturers whose identity is still undisclosed, and tortured victims who are reluctant to disclose their accounts and add to the Chilean collective memory framework.

Alternating between testimonies from torture survivors, information from official investigation documents and critical commentary, Rebolledo’s account of Tejas Verdes validates his earlier statement dwelling on the difference between conventional reporting about atrocities and survivor testimony. The dehumanisation of detainees through various forms of torture, degradation, manipulation of culture and a refusal to acknowledge individual identity of detainees created harrowing narratives vacillating between the need for recognition and the experiences which DINA attempted to mire within a widespread imposition of oblivion in order to consolidate impunity.

The importance of Tejas Verdes has been overshadowed by other infamous torture centres such as Londres 38 and Villa Grimaldi, as well as by operations carried out by DINA involving the extermination of MIR and Communist Party militants such as the Caravan of Death and Operacion Colombo. However, prior to the formal establishment of DINA, political opponents of Augusto Pinochet were already being tortured and disappeared from Tejas Verdes – the primary torture and extermination centre in Chilean dictatorship history.

Tejas Verdes served as the initiation into torture and a focal point for other torture and extermination centres in Chile. The majority of torturers received their instruction at Tejas Verdes – names such as Marcelo Moren Brito, Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko, Ricardo Lawrence and Cristian Labbé featuring prominently in dictatorship history. Operating under various brigades, DINA agents were tasked with intelligence operations, specific targeting of MIR and Communist Party militants, security and clandestine operations involving extermination of dictatorship opponents. Of particular mention are Brito’s role in the Caravan of Death and Krassnoff’s torture practices in Londres 38. Brigada Halcón, which operated in Londres 38, was also involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Víctor Díaz which occurred at Cuartel Simon Bolivar. The refinement of torture practiced in other torture centres such as Clínica Santa Lucia – an issue discussed by Patricio Bustos Streeter indicates a continuous attempt to obliterate any previous errors and cultivate an elaborate impunity. Rebolledo also discusses the existence of Brigada Mulchén under the command of Cristian Labbé – a relatively unknown brigade involved in clandestine operations but whose complicity has been difficult to prove, apart from the murder of Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria in 1976.

Rebolledo shows how, despite judicial investigations initiated by Judge Alejandro Solis, it has been impossible to determine the number of detainees held in Tejas Verdes. What emerged, however, were the details of an appalling torture network headed by Manuel Contreras Sepulveda – a testimony of sadism in the name of eradicating Marxism from Chile. Torturers indicted by Judge Solis portrayed themselves as patriots unjustly accused, who had allegedly saved Chile from the grips of a communist dictatorship. Through the exhibited vestiges of dictatorial power during the trials of former DINA agents, such as Contreras’ threats to Judge Solis, it is possible to discern the traits of an organisation which operated with impunity.

The testimonies of Anatolio Zarate, Ana Becerra, Olga Letelier and Feliciano Cerda, supplemented by other narrations garnered from official investigation documents, portray the extent of human rights violations which DINA agents indulged in. The torture sessions were designed to create a barrier of immense magnitude between torturer and detainee, between detainee and humanity. Torture survivors describe electric shocks through use of the parilla, sexual violence and coercion, severe beatings, mock executions, the insertion of mice and spiders in the vagina, genital mutilation, use of dogs in sexual torture, mutilation, amputations and crude cauterisation, violation in the presence of family members, degrading language, as well as forced ingestion of urine and faeces. Pleas for death on behalf of detainees were met with additional bouts of torment.

Former soldiers who testified against Contreras claimed that detainees were lured to Tejas Verdes upon the premise of ‘discussing’ points of contention, which was imparted in an official letter. Prospective detainees usually complied and exhibited no resistance, discovering upon arrival the nature of DINA’s alleged discussion. Some were assassinated upon the fabricated pretext of attempting escape, others who voiced their fears of being murdered, such as detainee Lucho Normabuena, were systematically disappeared. Medical professionals who attempted to inscribe the truth about the cause of death were detained in Tejas Verdes. Detainees were forced to listen or witness their friends being tortured, while DINA embarked upon plans in the hope of extracting information from detainees upon other detained militants. Olga Letelier describes how torture sessions were usually attended by a group of DINA officers, alternating between watching and participating in torture.

The book also expounds upon the network of health care professionals recruited to supervise torture and instruct DINA torturers in recognising individual thresholds to reduce the possibility of murder during a torture session. With most medical torturers still benefiting from impunity, Chilean society has to contend with yet another contradiction – that of entrusting their health to doctors whose complicity in torture and murder is still concealed. A list of former medical torturers still practicing their profession has been circulating on the internet, in a bid to expose further DINA atrocities. The literature dealing with medical torturers in the book explicitly portrays how the dictatorship disfigured the profession. Among others, Rebolledo’s book refers to Vittorio Orvieto Tiplisky, who commenced his career with DINA at Tejas Verdes and later participated in the extermination of militants at Cuartel Simon Bolivar; nurse Gladys Calerdon who administered lethal injections to tortured detainees prior to their disappearance and Roberto Lailhacar, who recently admitted to the disposal of six disappeared dictatorship opponents in wells on his property at Curacaví.

Rebolledo has bequeathed another significant treatise to Chile’s recent history. It affirms a previous statement by Chilean author and survivor of Tejas Verdes, Hernan Valdes, who summarised Tejas Verdes thus: “All I knew about evil until then was only caricature, only literature. Now evil has lost all moral reference.” Pinochet’s plea for oblivion decades later served as a reminder of what leftist opposition had struggled against. Oblivion had already been implemented by the dictatorship prior to any public call, as evidenced from the early disappearances from Tejas Verdes, the certainty of impunity which was flaunted time and again at tortured detainees, the illegal adoptions of babies born to detainees in order to eliminate traces of rape in detention centres, the medical practitioners who worked under assumed names, thus separating their roles as torturers from the role assumed within the wider berths of society. The detailed testimony and commentary in this book prove that Tejas Verdes should be at the helm of any detailed research regarding Pinochet’s dictatorship – it is through an understanding of Tejas Verdes as the primary reference to human rights violation that one can comprehend the extended torture network and state complicity during the Chilean dictatorship.