Venda Sexy, a former detention, torture and extermination centre during the Pinochet dictatorship, will be recognised as a memory on Wednesday. The centre will be administered by Colectivo de Mujeres Sobrevivientes Siempre Resistentes after a long social media campaign in which various human rights organisations participated. In a statement, the organisers insisted that the Valech Commission’s failure to specify the torture practices against women at Venda Sexy are an omission of memory that needs to be corrected, in order to avoid the generalisation of torture. The memory site will be exclusively run by women.
Former DINA agent, torture instructor and mayor of Providencia, Cristian Labbe, has been arrested upon orders by the Valparaiso Court of Appeals for his role in the kidnapping, detention and torture of Cosme Segundo Caracciolo Alvarez.
Caracciolo Alvarez was kidnapped from his home in March 1975 and taken to Rocas de Santo Domingo.
Labbé was also prosecuted in 2014 for his association with Tejas Verdes upon a series of accusations related to torture which came to light after publication of Javier Rebolledo’s book, “El Despertar de los Cuervos.”
Ingrid Olderock: la mujer de los perros
Author: Nancy Guzmán
Publisher: Ceibo Ediciones, 2014
“In this type of investigation, objectivity is non-existent.” Alejandro Solís Muñoz’s statement in his prologue to “Ingrid Olderock: la mujer de los perros” necessitates reflection. Objectivity, in the wrong hands, is a weapon of normalising violence and human rights violations. The end result would be normalising the dictatorship and its atrocities. It would also be an aberration to normalise the experience of Ingrid Olderock as part of the dictatorship’s intelligence services, elevated to the rank of Captain by former DINA chief Manuel Contreras.
The book is based upon three interviews with Olderock conducted by Nancy Guzmán in July and August of 1996, following a request by the BBC request to work on a documentary about torture. Ingrid Olderock was on the list of names given to the author by Chilean human rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto.
Years after her involvement with DINA, Olderock’s existence was mired in fear. Reprisals not only from the Chileans who she persecuted and tortured, but also from former DINA colleagues, became a reality. Her knowledge of surveillance tactics was not enough to shield her from an assassination attempt on July 15, 1981, when two MIR militants shot her at close range but failed to kill her. In hospital, Olderock refused anesthesia – memories of DINA tactics to coerce information out of detainees or to prepare the detainees for the death flights were prominent. It was not, however, a fragment of belated compassion. Olderock had been going to therapy sessions during which, it was possible, that she had divulged secret DINA information. Mistrust – a component of DINA’s psychological tactics – was well ingrained in Olderock.
Balancing interviews and facts, Guzmán imparts a vivid account of Olderock’s character, as well as her role in DINA. Olderock is most known for her role in training dogs to violate female detainees, according to testimonies from torture survivors. The depravity, however, is not limited to this aberration – from surveillance to torture and disappearances, Olderock formed part of the most feared DINA brigades and collaborated with other torture and extermination centres.
Guzman’s research is meticulous. Her analysis of Olderock’s childhood, in which racism and Nazism were venerated while exhibiting profound anti-communist sentiment, set the pace for the unfolding information as narrated by the former DINA agent. Olderock moved seamlessly in a realm where Nazism, racism and anti-communist sentiment were normalised and fanatically admired since childhood. During the interviews, Olderock states: “I have been a Nazi since childhood … I was also in agreement with Colonia Dignidad,” with reference to a German colony run by former Nazi Paul Schafer and which also served as part of Pinochet’s surveillance, detention and torture centres.
Despite her crucial role in DINA, Olderock was relatively unknown prior to the assassination attempt. Guzman explains that the previous focus was on male DINA agents. However, through testimony from former detainees, Amnesty International had informed the UN of Ingrid Olderock’s role as DINA torturer. Meanwhile, Guzmán explains, the assassination attempt was an additional worry for the dictatorship, particularly since the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) had managed to organise from exile and returned to Chile to resist the dictatorship through armed struggle. For DINA it was a time of upheaval after Pinochet dismissed Manuel Contreras and dissolved DINA, replacing it with the CNI which, although described as less brutal, was more efficient in surveillance and targeting of individuals, including those in exile, due to its collaboration with governments abroad.
Apart from her interviews with Olderock, Guzmán also sought commentary from other professionals to shed light on issues such as repression and armed struggle, as well as Olderock’s claims of suffering from amnesia as a result of her assassination attempt. The foundations, in both scenarios, lie in the systematic repression practiced by the dictatorship. The militant ideology is a direct protest against dictatorship brutality, thus making armed struggle legitimate. Olderock’s claims of forgetting, on the other hand, are a form of convenient dissociation from themes which she preferred to leave unexplored – a form of self-defence on many levels, particularly from possible retribution by former DINA agents.
The latter is not hard to imagine. Prior to the assassination attempt, there were plans to fly Olderock out of Chile in return for information about DINA and the CNI. During the course of the interviews, Olderock divulges to Guzmán that she is in possession of secret DINA information: “Contreras will kill me if he finds out,” she says.
Gaps in Olderock’s narrative are explored by Guzmán ’s research. While Olderock is keen to speak of her role in DINA as Captain and recruiter of female agents, as well as torture instructor – roles assigned to her by Contreras, it is clear that she maintains a balance between imparting information and incrimination. Indeed, one of the courses she taught to female DINA agents was on the evasion of accountability with regard to torture and disappearances. Her female recruits include Gladys Calderdon, who later moved on to Cuartel Simon Bolivar and was assigned the role of injecting detainees with toxic substances or anaesthetic in preparation for the death flights. The courses taught by DINA fuelled hatred and detachment in order to train recruits in ruthlessness. For target practice, agents were required to fire upon posters of MIR militants. In turn, this generated further hatred of socialism and communism. Recruits were also tested for stealth in infiltration – one of the tests described by Olderock and which almost all failed to accomplish was for recruits to infiltrate Tejas Verdes without being identified.
As a female DINA captain and member of Brigada Purén, Olderock had more access than most to different torture centres. Apart from being assigned by Contreras to administer the DINA archives at the Clinica Santa Lucia – a location that was previously utilised by MAPU and transformed into a detention and torture centre by DINA, she had direct access to Villa Grimaldi and Venda Sexy. At the Clinica Santa Lucia, detainess were held until a decision about their fate was taken – a transfer to other torture centres or extermination and disappearance. Brigada Purén also reported directly to Contreras.
Olderock also denied the use of dogs in sexual violations at the detention and torture centre known as Venda Sexy – a place where music blared 24 hours a day to obliterate the incessant screams of agony from tortured detainees. In her mind, the denial is absolute – she refutes evidence of her being part of the brigade. However, testimony form torture survivors state the opposite. Alejandra Holzapfel Picarte, a former detainee and torture survivor, states that the torture took place in the basement of Venda Sexy, including Olderock’s depravity of using a German Shepherd named Voloida, as part of the sexual torture. The torture took place in the presence of other DINA agents who wished to watch.
Guzmán remarks: “The normal life that had existed in this country on September 10, 1973 was lost in a few hours … Public spaces were transformed into spaces for the destruction of society and humanity.” Venda Sexy was one such manifestation. The torture is said to have been more sophisticated than what occurred in Villa Grimaldi. According to records, the youngest torture victim at Villa Grimaldi was a six month old baby, presumably to coerce the parents into divulging information. In Venda Sexy, there was a time table for torture dictating which torture sessions should take place and when. Women were sexually humiliated and forced to perform obscene acts on male detainees. All the agents at Venda Sexy, including Olderock, were responsible for torture, murder and disappearance. Former DINA agent Manuel Rivas Diaz also shed light on Venda Sexy as being part of the extermination centres, having witnessed the preparation of detainees for the death flights. Other testimony explicitly states that the death flights were also a form of murder – detainees were sometimes alive when tied and thrown into the ocean from helicopters.
Through the three interviews granted by Olderock, Guzmán skilfully portrays Olderock’s commitment to DINA – to the extent that she betrayed her sister to DINA upon her return to Chile from Germany, thus facilitating her detention and torture at Villa Grimaldi. The methodical practices described by Olderock and researched by Guzmán shed light upon one of the most dehumanising experiences inflicted upon a country.
Apart from insights into Olderock’s psychology and the construction of Chilean collective memory, this book stands out in its ability to connect the missing pieces of information to show DINA’s reach at a national and international level. For Olderock, working with DINA was a mere question of obeying the orders given by her superiors, hence the absence of any remorse as regards her role in human rights violations. The collaboration between torture centres makes DINA’s pact of silence even more relevant as regards impunity. A leak from one source could have jeopardised the entire dictatorship structure. Hence, this pact of silence is also a reflection of the measures taken by DINA to silence any form of dissent in Chile and abroad through targeted assassinations and surveillance collaboration. In recognition of this fact, Guzmán ends the book with a warning: “Memory should clearly and completely expose the criminals … to avoid normalisation of barbarism.”
(First published in Upside Down World)
Chile’s supreme court of appeals has temporarily suspended the exile sentence imposed upon an ex-militant of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). Hugo Marchant was detained in 1973 for distributing leaflets containing anti-Pinochet propaganda and later became a member of the (MIR) while in exile. Marchant entered Chile clandestinely in 1980 as part of a guerilla group opposing Pinochet’s dictatorship.
Accused of involvement in the killing of Santiago General Carol Urzúa Ibáñez, Marchant and his family were arrested and tortured by Centro Nacional de Intelligencia (CNI) agents. Following nine years of imprisonment, Marchant’s sentence was commuted to exile during Patricio Aylwin’s presidency. Founded in 1965 by left-wing students, MIR quickly established support in Santiago, especially from working class neighborhoods. MIR supported Salvador Allende; however the group expected more radical social reforms. Nevertheless, prior to the military coup, MIR began contacting junior officers within the army, urging them to support the civilian elected government. With Allende overthrown by Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1973, MIR were targeted and thousands of members, including the leaders, were arrested and killed, with those surviving the clampdown fleeing from Chile.
Marchant’s previous attempts to enter Chile were quickly repudiated by the Chilean authorities. Now nearing the end of his first exile sentence, Marchant’s renewed attempt to enter Chile brought about a legal triumph. Upon presenting his passport, Marchant found himself detained by the police and subsequently deported to Buenos Aires, where he awaited the final decision of Chile’s supreme court of appeals. Echoing Marchant’s adamant opinion that legalities were in his favour, the judiciary declared the temporary lifting of the exile, granting Marchant fifteen days, starting on December 29, 2011 at 9:30am, to visit Chile and be reunited with his family.
The appeal has garnered a lot of media attention as well as support from human rights and activists groups. It is estimated that between 1500 – 2000 MIR militants have been killed, exiled or disappeared by the Pinochet dictatorship. A few ex-militants remain exiled; their sentences will be nearing completion between 2012 and 2014.
The supreme court declared that Chile had transgressed the 1993-1994 American Convention of Human Rights (Article 22:5) and the Pact of Civil and Political Rights (Article 12:4) which specifically states that no one can be banished from national territory and no one can arbitrarily prevent anyone from re entering one’s own country.
Ramona Wadi: How did you become involved in MIR?
Hugo Marchant: I was a member of Frente de Estudiantes Revolucionarios (FER) during my years as a student at the military high school. FER was the students’ social front of (MIR). In 1977 I entered the party while in exile.
RW: What was your role within the movement?
HM: I was to enter Chile clandestinely in November 1980, as part of the Central Force in the area of logistics.
RW: At what point during Pinochet’s dictatorship were you and your family arrested?
HM: On Tuesday September 7, 1980 at 13:45pm I was stopped by a score of Central Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI) agents in the San Pablo con Bandera province. My family was arrested by the same intelligence body in Serrano. The agents arrested my wife, Silvia Sepulveda Aedo, my daughter Javiera who was eight months old, and my son Pablo, aged 4. My son, Simon, was hidden by neighbors for three days in the attic of a neighbouring house. My wife held Javiera in her arms while Pablo played with a little car in a cell at the CNI headquarters. The memory of these moments – the interrogation and torture, is so horrendous I cannot bear to talk about it.
RW: How did your memory of Chile alter during the nine years in prison and the subsequent nineteen years exiled in Finland?
HM: The nine years of imprisonment and nineteen years of banishment, exile, have not alienated me from my country or the struggle for Chile. Through the press, the reading of several testimonies has allowed me to retain the reality. The cruelty of this enforced exile is the emotional upheaval. I cannot walk with my kids and my wife through the streets which witnessed our struggles. I have been unable to mourn at the graves of my fallen comrades in battle. I failed to attend my mother’s funeral. Exile has prevented me from standing with the Mapuche people who are under military occupation of their land by the government in power. I have also been unable to accompany the students in their struggles. And during each day which passes in exile, I know I am suffering a wrongful conviction since fighting injustice and oppression is a legitimate cause.
RW: Did the Valech Commission* report have any effect on your case?
HM: The Valech report notes the violation of human rights committed in Chile and supports our defense. However, a new trial never materialized for me.
RW: What was the response from the government with regard to your case?
HM: The government’s response was a resounding ‘NO’. Not even the unanimous decision from the Commission of Human Rights in parliament, neither the authorisation allowing us time to file an appeal at the Appeals Court, were an impediment for the government to express its hatred for our history.
RW: Has your case created more awareness about the plight of exiled political prisoners in Chile?
HM: The strategy of attempting direct entry into Chile through the airport has been effective in demonstrating the injustice of exile. The laws of the state are in our favor, however the government reacted violently and expelled us. The publicity generated by the media garnered the attention of various social and political groups both nationally and internationally, effectively extending our campaign to terminate this exile. Social movements in Chile have expressed support in a concrete way for our cause. On an international level, a complaint is being filed with the Inter American Court of Human Rights since the state of Chile is violating international treaties to which it is supposed to adhere to.
RW: What do you think will influence the final decision of the appeal? The government or the judiciary?
HM: This is clear – a look at the history of political prisoners and judicial proceedings will show that the judiciary is the only way through which the political confrontation between the popular sectors in struggle and the state of domination or governance can be expressed. With our campaign, political facts have been installed in the political scene. Therefore if we continue accumulating the social and political support with our campaign, we will achieve a force that allows us to realize major actions. Meanwhile our people’s advances in pursuing the fight for human rights will change the legal results. At the international level it is important to perform specific tasks to raise awareness and opposition, such as sending letters to the Judiciary, the Ministry of Interior, The President of the Republic and repudiating manifest injustices such as banishment, exile and forced exile. Collection of signatures should be sent to Comite Fin Al Destierro Ahora – our committee which campaigns to end exile. Every initiative in favor of human rights, every stand against banishment, is a necessary initiative.
*The Valech Commission report is a record of abuses committed in Chile between 1973 – 1990, documenting over 38,000 political prisoners – most of them tortured.
Miguel Krassnoff Martchekno, Pedro Espinoza Bravo and 10 other former DINA and CNI agents serving multiple life sentences for atrocities committed during the dictatorship, including torture, extermination and disappearances, are on the list presented by the military to the Santiago Court of Appeals for possible parole.
According to El Ciudadano, the government, through justice minister Jamie Campos, has denied knowledge of this process.
The Chilean Supreme Court has requested the extradition from Argentina of retired military officer Carlos Alberto Fernando Herrera Jime’nez, who is wanted for his participation in the torture of detainees at the concentration camp in Pisagua.
Herrera Jime’nez will be prosecuted for responsibility in the torture of 13 detainees: Hugo Bolivar Salazar, Juan Mercado Jordán, Ángel Prieto Henríquez, Carlos Lillo Quea, Orlando Herrera Pinto, Ernesto Montoya Perduro, Francisco Prieto Henríquez, Jorge Zúñiga Poblete, Luis González Vivas, Juan Gomez Guerrero, Juan Guillermo Peterson, Artemio Salinas Valdivia and Pedro Aguilera Zanquea.
Javier 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.