The Santiago Court of Appeals has ordered the release of Luis Felipe Polanco Gallardo from Punta Peuco. Polanco was one of the officers who participated in the Caravan of Death and a former military pilot operating the death flights who was condemned to prison for the murder of history professor Marta Ugarte, whose body was discovered in September 1976 on La Ballena beach. Ugarte was one of the victims destined for disappearance, like other political opponents who were murdered and their bodies disposed of in the ocean.
Ugarte was detained in August 1976 and transferred to La Torre in Villa Grimaldi, where she suffered excessive torture – her nails were ripped off and her body burned during torture sessions.
Investigations also showed that despite being given a lethal injection by Dr Osvaldo Pincetti (a torturer within DINA who also worked at Cuartel Simon Bolivar), Ugarte was still alive at the time her body was being packaged for disposal into the ocean.
Her body was discovered half naked in a sack, with a wire around her neck. According to evidence given to the courts, Ugarte was strangled quickly before being taken on board the death flights. Ugarte’s body was tied to the rails used to weigh down the body to ensure sinking into the ocean with the same wire used to strangle her. However, the wire loosened, thus causing the body to float and eventually carried to rest on a beach.
Ugarte, who held the position of National Comptroller of Education during Salvador Allende’s presidency, was the first confirmed victim of the Pinochet dictatorship.