Date: Mon, 19 Oct 98 10:25:03 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Chile: Under the Dictatorship: Background (1/7)
Under the Dictatorship
20 October 1998
The Under the Dictatorship pages look at the human rights situation in
Chile during the 17-year military dictatorship of General Augusto
Pinochet, from 1973 to 1990.
On September 11, 1973, the Chilean Armed Forces staged a military coup
to overthrow the constitutionally elected Popular Unity (UP) government
of Salvador Allende, which proposed a peaceful transition to socialism.
President Allende died in the La Moneda presidential palace, and his
ministers and collaborators were arrested and sent to concentration
camps. Many of them were later killed or made to disappear. Through
Decree Law No. 5, announced September 12, 1973, the Armed Forces
declared the existence of an "internal war" in the country.
Thus began 17 years of dictatorship which ended March 11, 1990. Within
a few hours, the social conflict which had permeated Chilean society
immediately before the coup was defined as a "war" and the concept of
the "enemy within" as well as the National Security Doctrine were
imposed throughout the nation. The enemy within was the Communist, the
Marxist, the Socialist, the revolutionary, the subversive, indeed,
anyone perceived by the military to constitute a challenge to the new
A state of siege was declared throughout Chile and was extended, except
for brief periods, until 1987. This meant that all legal cases
involving infractions of State of Siege regulations were transferred
from the civilian courts to war-time military institutions.
These military concepts were used to justify the repression and killing
unleashed upon Chile's population. The repression was not limited to
one part of Chile, nor was it limited by social class, gender,
profession, civil status or age.
Thousands of people were detained throughout Chile on the day of the
coup and the days which followed. According to Amnesty International
and the United Nations' Human Rights Committee, 250,000 Chileans had
been detained for political reasons by the end of 1973. Summary
executions, disappearances and killings in false armed confrontations
became the norm. Neighbors, colleagues and others began denouncing each
other, a practice encouraged by the military Junta and which became
part of Chilean society at the beginning of the dictatorship.
On June 14, 1975, the regime officially created the DINA secret police
agency. This organization already existed before Decree law No. 521
made it a legal entity. In August 1977, the DINA was dissolved and was
replaced by the CNI secret police "to gather information and safeguard
internal security." The CNI carried out its task until democracy in
Chile was restored. The CNI ceased to legally exist in February 1990.
At the start of the dictatorship, the military Junta closed down the
National Congress and Constitutional Tribunal. It declared all
left-wing political parties dissolved and considered them to be illicit
associations. Other political parties were declared to be in recess
while the voter registration rolls were incinerated and the functions
of mayors and city councilors annulled.
Parallel to these measures during the military regime, numerous
organizations developed to protect the persecuted, denounce human
rights violations and conduct legal follow-ups to make known the abuses
of the government. The Catholic Church and the relatives of the direct
victims played a leading role in creating organizations and
associations for the defense of human rights. The Comite para la Paz,
the Vicaria de la Solidaridad, the Association of Relatives of the
Disappeared and the Association of Victims of Political Executions are
but a few examples of these. Similarly, other organizations were set up
to promote human rights, such as the Committee for the Defense of the
People's Rights (CODEPU), the Christian Churches Social Assistance
Foundation (FASIC) and the Foundation for the Protection of Children
Damaged by States of Emergency (PIDEE).
During this period, despite the heavy repression, there always existed
an opposition movement to the regime. This opposition adapted its
struggle to the conditions that the dictatorship established. In the
1980s, it began to openly protest against the regime in large
nationwide demonstrations. The government responded with massive,
indiscriminate repression, particularly in poblaciones where many
victims without any political affiliation died.
In 1988, after a period of negotiations with some sectors of the
opposition to the dictatorship, the regime called a plebiscite as
planned in the 1980 Constitution. In the plebiscite, the head of the
regime and of the Army, General Augusto Pinochet, proposed the
continuation of his government and of his leadership. Pinochet lost the
plebiscite, which meant he was obliged to call presidential elections.
Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, won these elections and on March
11, 1990, was sworn in as president, thus initiating a new period of
transition to democracy in Chile. The after-effects of the prolonged
violation of human rights became one of the greatest conflicts which
the new democratic governments have had to confront.
How the information is organized
In the Victims page, you will find information on victims of human
rights violations, with "victims" broadly defined as individuals,
families, social and political organizations and society as a whole.
The page characterizes the types of victims according to different
chronological periods, and outlines the repression against specific
target groups and these groups' methods of resistance and
The Perpetrators page is under construction. It will contain
information on the individuals and institutions that perpetrated the
human rights violations under the dictatorship.
The Judiciary page is under construction. It will take a hard look at
the role of the Chilean judicial system's role with regards to the
continual human rights violations during the dictatorship as well as
legislation affecting human rights cases.
The International page is under construction. It will contain
information on the reaction of the international community to the human
rights situation in Chile and also activities of the DINA secret police
and other security agencies abroad, the 1976 assassination of Orlando
Letelier in Washington, D.C. for example.
Victims of the Military Regime
"In Chile, there exists a high degree of consensus, that during the
military regime, human rights were repeatedly violated with the aim of
annihilating the political opposition to the regime as a necessary
condition for laying the foundations of a new state whilst making the
economic model of this new state a reality."
(Persona, Estado, Poder. Vol. II, Chile 1990 - 1995. CODEPU)
"At first I was afraid, I couldn't control myself. When I was left on
my own, isolated... I never cried. I thought of dying, I thought of my
son, and I asked myself if everything I was doing was really worth it.
My convictions and ideologies were strengthened. I didn't feel sadness,
only great anger and impotence."
(Testimony of young woman tortured by repressive agents, 1984, from
Persona, Estado, Poder. Chile 1973 - 1989. CODEPU)
"(During the national protests) ... people who were not previously
selected by the perpetrators died, they were not being searched for
because of who they were, nor was their political militancy of any
importance, neither were their personal relationships. Those who died
were children and old people, adults and young people, men and women,
those who were participating in the protests, and people who were not
taking part in them."
(Comisin Chilena de Derechos Humanos y Centro IDEAS. July, 1991)
Types of Human Rights Violations
1973 - 1990
The types of repression used in Chile by the military regime included:
arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, torture, forced disappearances, summary
executions, collective executions, the negation of the right to appeal
War Council sentences, homicide, exile, internal exile, abduction,
intimidation, attempted homicide, death treats, raids, dismissal from
jobs and surveillance. Such treatment violated the following rights:
the right to life, the right to personal integrity, the right to
personal liberty, the right to personal security and the right to live
in one's country.
Violation of the right to life:
Carried out through executions, after being made to disappear,
through torture, in alleged armed confrontations, premeditated
homicide, abuse of power and others.
"Can anyone explain why Alejandro was sentenced to die without a trial?
Why were his remains buried clandestinely in Army property? Why were
his detention, murder and burial concealed for 15 years? Who is
(Read excerpt from Utopas de fin de siglo: verdad, justicia y
Violation of the right to physical integrity:
Torture. Various methods of torture: physical and psychological,
electrocution, sexual violence, blows, forced intake of drugs, burning,
immersion in liquids.
Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Frustrated homicide attempts.
Violation of the right to personal freedom:
Arbitrary detentions. Selective, individual arrests, and arrests
during protests, mass raids and kidnappings.
Internal exile, to distant and isolatedplaces.
Violation of the right to personal security:
Harassment and threats.
Violation of the right to live in one's country:
The application of the National Security Doctrine by the state during
the 1973 to 1990 period culminated in the most systematic and massive
violation of human rights in Chile's recent history. The following is a
brief description of some cases which characterize the types of state
terrorism applied throughout the 17 years of military rule:
The bombing of the presidential palace La Moneda on September 11,
1973, in which President Salvador Allende dies before his ministers and
collaborators are detained and many of them killed or disappeared.
The execution of seven people arrested in Curacav on September 17,
1973. Out of the seven people that are taken away to be executed, two
survive. One of these, Jos Barrera, after finding out through the
Defense Ministry that he is no longer wanted, stops living a
clandestine life and returns to Curacav in March 1974, only to be
arrested once more. He becomes one of the disappeared.
The execution of 19 people from Laja and San Rosendo by Carabineros
police from Laja. They are executed September 18, 1973, on the road to
Los Angeles and their bodies concealed.
Jose Gabriel Campos Morales, a 26 year old farm worker and union
leader, was at home when soldiers arrested him on September 18, 1973.
Taken initially to the Linares public jail, he was later brought to
Investigations police headquarters in Constitucion, from which place he
was not seen or heard from since.
The execution of 18 rural workers from Paine September 24, 1973 by
officials from the San Bernardo regiment.
The execution of an estimated 22 people in the southern city of
Valdivia in October, 1973 by Army personnel.
The execution of six political prisoners shot while allegedly trying
to escape, in Pisagua, September 30, 1973.
The execution of four university students in Cauquenes, October 3,
1973 by local military personnel.
The execution of 13 farm workers in Mulchn in October, 1973 by a
group of Carabineros police, military personnel and civilians.
The execution of 72 political prisoners between October 15 and 19,
1973 in the cities of La Serena, Copiap, Antofagasta and Calama, at the
hands of the so-called "Caravan of Death," a military delegation headed
by General Sergio Arellano Stark.
The death March 14, 1974, of Air Force General Alberto Bachelet as a
result of torture.
An elementary school teacher and former secretary to a Communist
member of Congress, Elsa Victoria Leuthner Munoz, who was married and
mother of three, was apprehended by agents of the DINA secret police
while at a friend's house. Her whereabouts have been unknown since the
time of her arrest on August 15, 1974.
Death of former Army head General Carlos Prats and his wife Sofa
Cuthbert in Buenos Aires, Argentina September 29, 1974, as a result of
a car bomb.
Publication July 23, 1974, in Brazil and Argentina of a list of 119
disappeared Chileans who were reported dead in alleged internal MIR
party purges and alleged armed confrontations.
Murder of Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria in July, 1976. His tortured
and strangled body was found in a canal July 16. His death occurred at
the hands of DINA agents.
Homicide of former Chilean UP minister Orlando Letelier September 21,
1976, in Washington, D.C. as a result of a car bomb, which also killed
his US assistant, Ronnie Moffitt.
Death of journalism student Eduardo Jara Aravena July 23, 1980, as a
result of prolonged torture by Covema a paramilitary organization
supporting Pinochet, which kidnapped Jara along with a number of other
people suspected of being involved in the July 15 murder of Army
intelligence head, Coronel Roger Vergara.
Homicide by stabbing and shooting of union leader Tucapel Jmenez,
February 25, 1982.
Twelve-year-old Francisco Antonio Fuenzalida died in his home March
27, 1984, from a bullet fired from a helicopter by Carabineros police
attempting to disperse a neighborhood protest in Santiago against the
Death of Loreto Castillo, May 16, 1984. The victim is tied to an
electricity pylon and blown up with dynamite.
Kidnapping and murder of three Communist Party members, Manuel
Guerrero, Jose Manuel Parada and Santiago Nattino. All three are found
with their throats slit March 29, 1985.
Death of young brothers Rafael and Eduardo Vergara, both of whom are
shot by Carabineros police March 29, 1985 on a Santiago street. On the
same day, 20-year old Paulina Aguirre is shot dead by CNI agents.
The young photographer, Rodrigo Rojas is burnt to death on a Santiago
street by a military patrol July 2, 1986. At the same time, Carmen
Gloria Quintana is also doused with petrol and burnt alive. She
survives with horrifying burns to 60 % of her body. Rodrigo Rojas was
one of seven people killed on July 2 and 3, 1986 while participating in
street protests against the military regime.
Kidnapping and shooting to death of four opponents of the regime: Jos
Carrasco, Abraham Muskablit, Felipe Rivera and Gastn Vidaurrzaga. They
are killed between September 8 and 9, 1986, by armed civilians calling
themselves the "September 11 Commando" who claim to be taking vengeance
for a failed attempt the day before on Pinochet's life by members of
the Manuel Rodrguez Patriotic Front (FPMR).
Twelve members of the FPMR are murdered by the CNI between June 15
and 16, 1987 in Santiago in the so-called "Albania Operation,"
otherwise known as the "Corpus Christi Massacre."
Death by shooting of MIR party leader Jecar Neghme September 4, 1989
Who were the victims?
In the months immediately following the regime, the majority of those
who become victims of the violation of human rights were:
Leaders and collaborators of the Popular Unity government
People who sympathized or were suspected or accused of sympathizing
with the UP government
Leaders, members and sympathizers of leftist political parties, that
is, the Revolutionary Left Movement, (MIR), the Communist Party (PC),
the Socialist Party (PS), the Christian Left (IC), the MAPU; some
members of the Radical Party (PR) and the Christian Democrats (PDC)
also became victims at this stage
Trade Union leaders and workers
In the countryside, leaders and sympathizers of the agrarian reform
movement were targeted as well as people accused or perceived to be
sympathizers of the left
The family members and close friends of the above groups of victims
were also targeted by the regime's repressive agencies
The regime also targeted representatives from the cultural world,
intellectuals and university personnel and students
<- Military personnel, ranging from conscripts to high-ranking officers,
including a former commander in chief who opposed the military coup and
the actions of the repressive agencies, also became victims of
violations of all the human rights mentioned above
Throughout the regime, the above named continued to be targets of
As the opposition to the regime began to take shape and Chile's
political parties and social organizations started to organize in the
mid 70's and into the 80's, repression by agents of the state was aimed
at members of other organizations such as:
Human rights activists.
Members of organizations created by relatives of victims of
executions, forced disappearances and political imprisonment.
Religious leaders and members of religious movements who opposed the
Members of the armed opposition to Pinochet's regime, for instance
the Manuel Rodrguez Patriotic Front.
Members of leftist social and political organizations which sprang up
as opposition to the regime.
The family members and friends of the aforementioned groups, also
became subject to arrest, imprisonment, torture, vigilance, exile,
internal exile among other violations of human rights.
During the 1980's, arrests, physical violence and shooting deaths
became common during the national protests which emerged and gained
strength during the period.
The report of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created
in 1991 by the civilian government of Patricio Aylwin, also identified
a group of victims it categorized as "victims of political violence."
In other words, throughout the period of military rule, not all the
victims were targeted beforehand. For instance, the Rettig Report cites
a number of deaths which occurred as a result of shooting by military
personnel on bystanders and pedestrians during raids and protests. It
also cites deaths resulting from stray military bullets which
penetrated the walls of the victims' homes, as well as victims killed
for violating the curfew imposed by the military.
(From the book La memoria y el olvido: Detenidos Desaparecidos en Chile
by Elias Padilla, 1995, Ediciones Origenes.)
So widespread was the repression unleashed upon Chile's population,
that some sectors immediately organized in order to assist the victims
of human rights violations, despite the real dangers this posed. By
doing so - organizations such as the Catholic church's Comit para la
Paz (Peace Committee), created in October 1973, and the Vicaria de la
Solidaridad, founded January 1976, as well as a large number of
non-government organizations - managed to collect data and information
which to the present date give an insight into the extensive scope of
repression carried out by agents of the state.
From March 1974 onward, the Comit para la Paz began to receive large
numbers of protective writs from family members of people imprisoned or
disappeared. By the end of 1974, the Committee had received 1,341 such
writs. From 1976 -1985 the Vicaria assisted 34,000 people with legal,
social, medical or psychotherapeutic assistance.
"According to figures given by the military regime and registered by
the Vicaria de la Solidaridad, between 1973 and 1975 there were 42,486
political detentions. Also, according to the Vicaria, between 1976 to
1988, 12,134 people were individually arrested for political reasons
and 26,431 collective arrests took place. Between 1977 to 1988 4,134
persons were threatened or harassed, 1,008 were victims of forced
disappearance and 2,100 people died for political reasons." (Estado,
Poder, Persona, Vol. II, CODEPU, 1995)
The Latin American Institute on Mental Health and Human Rights (ILAS),
created in 1988 with the aim of assisting victims of human rights
violations, estimates that 10 % of the total population of Chile in the
early 1980s was affected by a repressive situation. ILAS defines a
"repressive situation", as arrests for any length of time, threats, a
relative in prison, killed or disappeared, as well as expulsion for
political reasons from the place of work or university. ILAS cautions
that this figure is conservative. Of this total ILAS believes
"situations of extreme trauma" affected some 200,000 persons, a figure
derived from the numbers of prisoners in detention camps until 1975,
persons forced into exile, persons tortured, executed or disappeared,
and their immediate family.
The Rettig Report and the National Corporation for Reconciliation and
Reparation, established January 3, 1992 to continue the work of the
Rettig Commission, concluded in 1996 that:
- A total of 3,197 people died or went missing between September 11,
1973 and March 11, 1990 as a result of human rights violations at the
hands of the state agents of repression.
- Of these 1,102 classify as disappeared and 2,095 as deaths.
The Rettig Report and the National Corporation for Reconciliation and
Reparation only investigated those cases which concluded in death or
disappearance. They did not take into account the thousands of cases of
torture and imprisonment which took place during the period of military
The Far Reaching Effects of Repression
Victims and the Family
The Solitary "Cueca"
I am mother, I am wife,
I am daughter, I am sister...
My name is Pisagua and I dance the cueca.
I dance for you.
I dance the cueca and I dance alone,
I dance alone so that you see me,
with you and without you I dance,
approaching and moving away,
I dance the cueca alone.
I make a toast to truth,
justice and reason,
so that oppression and insecurity
do not exist
with courage and dignity,
We must overcome this evil,
we will reconstruct,
with firm foundations,
so that never again
does this happen in Chile.
Chilean psychologists, human rights activists and other sectors working
with victims of human rights violations coincide in that the effects of
such violations reach deep into Chilean society.
The research by these groups concludes that within families of the
affected there exist two categories of victims: direct victims and
indirect victims. Persons who are tortured, forced to disappear,
executed, murdered, detained, abducted or forced into exile, are direct
victims of human rights violations. The work carried out in Chile with
victims and their families concludes that direct victims, or first
generation victims, also includes the entire family group of the person
subjected to a human rights violation. Children who are born later into
this family group are considered indirect victims, as they too are
affected by the change in relationships within the family which occur
as a consequence of the deep anxiety suffered by the family group to
which the victim belongs.
These anxiety-filled situations include the death or imprisonment of a
relative, the search for a disappeared family member, police raids on
the family home, the dispersal of family members, children placed in
the charge of other families for months at a time, and long separations
when a member of the family must assume a clandestine existence.
The Politics of Fear: Society as a Victim
Studies carried out in Chile on the effects of the military regime upon
Chilean society coincide on the use of fear as a means of controlling
the population. According to ILAS researchers Elizabeth Lira and
Isabel Castillo: "The entire Chilean society is transformed into
victims by the threatening tone of the official language used by the
regime, which materializes in repressive actions which are legitimized
by decreed laws."
Lira and Castillo describe the atmosphere of fear created by the
military presence in the country: "Heavily armed military forces are
visible in the streets; helicopters fly over major cities at night.
Arrests are made in the light of day, and people are taken away in
Armed Forces vehicles. The press and mass media relay extensive
information about military operations."
"one hears the silence of fear in the subway stations and other places
where many people congregate and which were always noisy in the past...
No one whistles, no one hums a tune, no arguments are heard. One sees
the fear in the fleeting glances, in the controlled gestures, ... In
(Read excerpt from Persona Estado Poder: Estudios Sobre Salud Mental,
Chile 1973-1989, CODEPU, 1989.)
According to the ILAS researchers, the large-scale exhibition of the
regime's repressive capacity and apparatus, the application of the
Doctrine of National Security, the concept of the "enemy within" and
the message that everyone is a potential enemy and therefore under
surveillance "strikes generalized terror and fear through all the
population, regardless of each person's real political participation."
They describe how the press collaborate in the creation of this climate
of fear: "Through the El Mercurio daily newspaper, on September 17,
1973, "...the military forces appeal to citizens to aid armed forces
and police in locating Marxist leaders and activists who must be put on
trial for their anti-patriotic activities... in identifying these
individuals, one must take into consideration that it is likely that
they have altered their customary appearance by either shaving or
growing a mustache or beard, dyeing their hair, or even using feminine
Lira and Castillo also speak of the official language employed by the
military rulers, particularly the use of the verb "to clean", to
describe military operations: "Public walls are cleaned. With black or
white paint, slogans and murals of the past are erased. Public offices
are "cleansed," and everyone who brought dirt into the workplace is out
of a job. ...In one clean-up operation thousands of books, magazines,
phonograph records and posters are confiscated from the San Borja
high-rise apartment complex (in Santiago) and burned in public
Furthermore, say Lira and Castillo, "The regime remodels the very
perception of social reality, changing names of towns and streets that
recall forbidden ideas... A community born of a land occupation during
the Popular Unity government was named "New Havana." The military
rulers renamed the place "Nuevo Amanecer" (New Dawn). In Temuco, the
low-income community of "Lenin" became "Lanin," the name of a volcano
which exists on the Argentine-Chilean border. In Tarapaca, the new
officials forbade residents to paint their houses red."
Thus, the politics of fear erase the past.
(Psicologa de la Amenaza Poltica y del Miedo, Elizabeth Lira and Mara
Isabel Castillo, ILAS, 1991)
At least 80 children 15 years of age or younger died as a result of
violent repression or were shot outright. Young people between the ages
of 16 and 30 accounted for more 62 % of all victims of repression. At
least 68 minors and young people are among the disappeared. At least
691 children are known to have become orphaned when their parents were
arrested and subsequently disappeared.
Although the street - where more than 24 % of all disappeared were
apprehended - was the most dangerous place to be during these years,
the home harbored no assurances of safety: 28.5 % of the disappeared
were taken from their homes.
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS PAGE FOR ADDITIONS AND UPDATES!
Chronological Development, 1973 - 1976
The Initial Crackdown
The regime's initial crackdown was swift and massive, allowing it to
gain absolute control of the country in less than a week. It aimed
mainly to demobilize left-wing parties and organizations by arresting
their leaders, interrogating them under torture and in many cases,
executing them. By arresting thousands of people in their place of work
or at home, setting up prison camps, carrying out mass executions
throughout the country, raids on entire neighborhoods and industrial
zones - all in the space of a few hours - the new military leaders
created a psychological climate of fear and intimidation that would be
"To the parents of Mr. Carlos Contreras Maluje: On Wednesday, November
3 (1976), at 11.30 a.m., between Aconcagua Street and Nataniel Street,
your son Carlos Contreras Maluje was arrested by DINA agents..."
(Read anonymous letter to the parents of Carlos Contreras, disappeared
More people were killed in the four months following the coup than in
any other year of the dictatorship. "Between September 11, 1973 and
December 31, 1973, a total of 1,213 people died or disappeared at the
hands of state agents." (ILAS). The figure represents more than half
of the total number of deaths in the entire 17-year period of the
regime. These practices devastated the extended family and friends of
the victims, most of whom, 25 years later, have still received no
answers regarding the whereabouts of their loved ones.
The early months after the coup were [Image] characterized by
large-scale human rights violations but which were carried out in a
rather disorganized and almost haphazard fashion. In those days, for
example, torture sessions were uncontrolled and often resulted in
death. Methods of repression gradually became more systematic and
sophisticated over time, particularly with the creation of the DINA
intelligence service in 1974.
The opponents of the new regime, taken by surprise by the bloody
aftermath of the coup, spent the initial part of this period divided
and in disarray, and delayed in understanding the repressive tactics of
the military and in adapting to the new political context.
The first victims of the new regime were targeted as such even before
the coup operation was complete. A group of about 50 government
ministers and advisors, Allende's personal security force (GAP) and
Investigations police officers were held inside the La Moneda
presidential building after it was attacked on September 11, 1973.
In the following exchange between Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto
Pinochet and National Defense chief Vice Admiral Patricio Carvajal, the
coup plotters discuss what to do with these soon-to-be prisoners:
"Carvajal: -Allende's former minister Flores and his secretary called
me from La Moneda. They expressed their intention to leave by the
Morande Street door... and they have been told to come out holding a
white flag to hold their fire... The idea is not to converse, but to
take them prisoner immediately.
Pinochet: -Confirmed. Patricio, the airplane has to be ready in
Cerillos (airport). The people get there and that's it; they take them
on the plane and they take off. With a large number of escorts.
Carvajal: -...The idea would be to take them prisoner, nothing more for
the moment, later we see...But for the moment the idea is to take them
Pinochet: -Well, but if we have them we give them time. ... My opinion
is that these gentlemen are taken and sent someplace by airplane and,
even, have them thrown out of the plane on the way there."
(cited in Memoria Prohibida, vol. 1, 1989)
The military leaders eventually agreed to escort the surviving members
of Salvador Allende's family out of the country and transfer those
inside La Moneda to either the Military Academy (Escuela Militar) or
the Tacna Regiment. From there, many government ministers were shipped
to the Dawson Island concentration camp in the extreme south of Chile.
Between September 13 and 14, 32 people held at the Tacna Regiment were
Meanwhile, massive arrests took place at the factory workplaces in
industrial zones along Vicuna Mackenna Avenue in Santiago. About 80 %
of major national trade union leaders were arrested, persecuted or
forced to go into hiding in this initial stage. Most were brought to
Chile Stadium and later transferred to the National Stadium, both set
up as temporary prison camps. The State Technical University (UTE) also
became a place of massive arrests from which the world renowned folk
singer, Victor Jara, was arrested, alongside many other student
leaders, UP sympathizers, university staff and students, who were taken
to the Chile Stadium. Jara was later murdered in the stadium.
The Left Outlawed
Left-wing political parties in general suffered human rights abuses in
this period. Political parties were outlawed, Congress shut down and
the parties that continued to operate clandestinely were targets of
In 1974, the DINA and other military intelligence forces focused their
repressive tactics on the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). A
large number of its leaders disappeared after detention. In 1975, both
the MIR and the Socialist Party suffered disappearances. Subsequently,
the DINA tracked down and killed or made to disappear two consecutive
hierarchies of the Chilean Communist Party within a period of one
year. Members of moderate parties who opposed the regime, such as the
Christian Democratic Party, also suffered human rights violations.
But not only politically active people were victimized in this period.
Common criminals were also often executed as part of the general
"cleansing of unwanted elements" advocated by the military Junta.
Likewise, church leaders involved in defending individual rights and
doctors treating injured victims, suffered from persecution and a
significant number of individuals with no known involvement or
political affiliation were shot for violating curfew.
The DINA Abroad
During this period, the DINA also operated in other countries of the
region, carrying out secret operations such as high-profile political
assassinations, as was the case of the murders of UP minister Orlando
Letelier, and former Army head General Carlos Prats, and misinformation
campaigns, such as the "Operacin Colombo," among others.
Click here to enter the International page and read more about the
DINAs activities abroad. (under construction)
Change in Repressive Tactics
This period can be characterized by, first, the dissolution of the DINA
secret police and its replacement by the newly created CNI on August
13, 1977, and, secondly, an evident change in repressive tactics used
by the state, principally the end of the practice of "disappearance"
except in a few isolated cases. Between 1978 and 1981, there are a few
cases of disappearances, but this practice is not systematically
applied and they are not the responsibility of the CNI, rather, they
are carried out by paramilitary commandos.
According to the Rettig Report, the CNI concentrated its efforts on
gathering information between November 1977 and mid 1980, "as can be
seen by the drop in the number of deaths caused by this organization."
Nevertheless, beginning 1980, until the end of the dictatorship, the
CNI intensified its repressive activities. One of its most important
functions, in conjunction with similar organisms, was to instill fear
Due to the closure in 1976 of the regime's concentration camps, people
arrested by the state's repressive agencies were generally no longer
subjected to long-term detention beginning in 1977. Rather, towards
the end of the 1970s, individuals were usually detained for a number of
hours or a few days, during which he or she was interrogated and
Also during this period, activists against the regime began to be
targets of harassment and threats from special "commandos" set up by
the CNI in different locations, such as university campuses,
specifically for this purpose. Other commandos such as the Commando for
the Vengeance of Martyrs, COVEMA, achieved notoriety through the
practices of kidnapping, torture and homicide.
Enemies of the State
The type of person targeted by the security forces changed during this
period. Leaders and members of clandestine political parties,
principally the MIR, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party
continued to head the regime's hit list, but unlike the 1973-77 period,
relatives of the disappeared and of other victims also fell within its
definition of "enemy of the state." So did those who defended human
rights, and leaders, organizers and participants of social movements
which emerged as the new opposition to the military regime.
The CNI also targeted those it qualified as "subversive criminals" or
"enemies of the state" who allegedly or truly promoted armed resistance
against the regime. Real or false armed confrontations served as the
backdrop for the execution of "terrorists" and "extremists." The
victims of these confrontations were usually members of the political
parties which were back in operation after the heavy setbacks suffered
pre-1977. These included the MIR - which in 1979 began its "Operacion
Retorno" aimed at reorganizing the party through the clandestine return
to Chile of exiled MIR members trained in armed combat abroad - the
Communist Party and the Socialist Party.
The Resuscitation of the Opposition
From 1977 to 1982, a severely weakened union movement gradually
re-organized and a palpable opposition movement began to take shape. In
July 1978, for example, the Chuquicamata miners organized a protest to
express their dissatisfaction with their working conditions. The
regime's response was harsh. On October 19, 1978, it closed seven
confederations, which represented over 500 unions.
By the first half of 1980, there was a notable change in the opposition
movement, reflecting Chile's worsening economic conditions. Its
re-articulation responded to the new political conditions which evolved
in the country from the onset of the military coup. On March 8, 1980,
International Women's Day, and on May 1, International Workers' Day the
same year, the number of people protesting on the streets had evidently
increased. The latter protest was organized by the newly created
National Union Coordinator, CNS, and other union organizations. The
regime sent 45 people to internal exile following both protests.
By 1982 the repressive mechanisms against the growing union movement
culminated in the murder of union leader Tucapel Jimenez. On December 2
of that same year, the CNS organized a protest which was met with
strong repression and the exile of CNS leaders Manuel Bustos and Hector
Cuevas. It was during this protest that the so-called "gurkas" first
appeared. Infiltrated among the protesters, these state agents dressed
in civilian clothes, attacked and wounded their victims in a surprise
offensive, resulting in dozens of injuries and arrests.
As large-scale protests became more common, the state's security
agencies began to carry out mass arrests. By 1982, the number of mass
detentions was far greater than the number of individual detentions. In
the first six months of 1981, 254 people were arrested during protests,
and 448 people were victims of individual detentions. By the first half
of 1982, these figures had practically reversed, at 447 and 220
In 1982, 53 public demonstrations against the regime took place in the
country, and the regime changed its repressive tactics, relying more on
constant surveillance, harassment, raids and arbitrary arrests, all of
which aimed to control its opponents through the systematic use of
1983 - 1989
The Era of National Protests
During this period, repression was aimed primarily at the organizers of
and participants in mass protests, particularly from 1983 to 1985.
Human rights violations consisted mainly of abuse of power by state
agents during the protests, mass arrests, harassment and torture. The
practice of forced disappearances returned, but on a very small scale
The use of particularly brutal or cruel violence against selected
individuals was also an important characteristic of this period.
The gradual resuscitation of the labor movement and political parties
in the early 1980s, the campaigns carried out by associations made up
of victims' family members and mounting discontent over the economic
situation led to an increasingly bold defiance of the regime,
culminating in the era of social protest. For first time in 10 years,
the climate of fear was broken. The tactic of selective victimization
and cruelty were intended to instill terror and defuse the growing
State of Siege
In November 1984, in response to the national protests, the military
government reimposed a state of siege, which remained in place until
June 1985. The state of siege, which imposed a 10:00 p.m. curfew,
gave rise to an increased incidence of arbitrary detentions, raids on
poblaciones, abuses and deaths. The Vicaria of Solidarity reports that
39 % of all deaths that occurred in the 1983-89 period took place in
this eight-month period. Abuse of power, as in the notorious case of
the military patrol which poured kerosene over Rodrigo Rojas and Carmen
Gloria Quintana and set them on fire, accounted for about half of all
deaths in 1986. In that same year, when demonstrations and protests
increased considerably, more than 35,000 human rights violations were
It was during the state of siege that, on March 28, 1985, police
abducted and brutally murdered teachers Santiago Nattino and Manuel
Guerrero and Vicaria staff member Jose Manuel Parada. Curfew was also
used to carry out grave violations of human rights, as was the case of
the four leftist opponents - Felipe Rivera, Gastn Vidaurrzaga, Abraham
Muskablit, and Jose Carrasco - killed September 9, 1986 in revenge for
the deaths of Pinochet's escorts during an assassination attempt.
Death Threats And Torture
Intimidation in the form of death threats, common throughout all the
military regime, became widespread in 1987 and 1988. The Chilean Human
Rights Commission reported 1,088 such threats in 1987, twice the number
of the previous year. Authors of threats appear to have been
paramilitary groups or squads associated with the CNI. Perhaps the most
active was the Chilean Anti Communist Action (AChA), responsible for
threats by telephone and mail against union leader Manuel Bustos and to
Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez. Targets for death threats ranged from
community and union leaders and human rights activists to clergy,
journalists, actors, lawyers and political figures.
As a concession to the outcry against the continued practice of
torture, in June 1986 a new decree law called for CNI agents to turn
over detainees to police. Americas Watch was one of several
international and national human rights monitoring groups that
confirmed that while CNI agents refrained from torturing in their own
premises, they continued to do so in police stations.
International Operations of Chile's DINA
[Orlando Letelier, former Foreign Relations Minister, assasinated by
the DINA in Washington D.C. in 1976. Photo courtesty of N.Muoz]
"It is a fact that Orlando Letelier del Solar died September 21, 1976,
due to the explosion of a bomb placed in his car, in Washington, D.C.
It is a fact that the attempt was carried out by Michael Townley, a
North American citizen residing in Santiago, who traveled to the United
States, on September 8, 1976, with a false passport, and returned to
Santiago on the 23rd of the same month;
It is a fact that the attempt was a crime carried out because of the
victim's opposition to the Chilean government;
It is a fact that the criminal had a triple political alliance with: a)
the National Intelligence Agency (DINA), dependent on the Chilean
government; c) groups of exiled Cubans resident in the United States,
enemies of the government of their country and supporters of the use of
violence in political conflicts, and supporters of the Chilean
government; c) and, finally, with the Central Intelligence Agency,
(CIA) dependent on the United States government; (...)
It is a fact that the DINA sent three missions of agents to the United
States, with falsified passports in August and September, 1976, one of
which was aborted in Asuncion, Paraguay."
Excerpt from "El asesinato de Letelier", Jaime Castillo Velasco (text
of the claim presented by the defense representing the Letelier family
in the case investigating the homicide of former Foreign Minister
Orlando Letelier del Solar) Revista Hoy, 1987
This page is still under construction. It will contain information on
the reaction of the international community to the human rights
situation in Chile and also activities of the DINA secret police and
other security agencies abroad, the 1976 assassination of Orlando
Letelier in Washington, D.C. for example.
Targets of Repression
Persecution by Decree
Leftist political parties were subject to carefully planned and
selective persecution from the ]day of the coup and throughout the
entire 17 years of authoritarian rule.
Declaring that "the new government has the mission to eradicate Marxism
from Chile," the Junta announced, through Decree Law 77 of October 13,
1973, that all political parties of the left and other leftist
organizations were "dissolved, prohibited and considered illicit
The Decree specifically names the Communist Party (PC), Socialist Party
(PS), Popular Socialist Union, Popular United Action Movement (MAPU),
Radical, Christian Left, Independent Popular Action and all other
entities "founded on the Marxist doctrine... which aim to destroy the
principles ...of this Junta." Not only did Decree 77 consider a crime
the act of promoting or organizing any of these parties but also
confiscated their property, transferring it to the state.
On October 17, 1973 , Decree Law 8 declared a temporary "recess" of all
political parties not included in the former decree. These included
parties of the center and right such as the Radical Democratic Party,
Christian Democratic Party (PDC), National Democratic Party, Radical
Left Party and National Party.
"we resolved to keep as many party leaders as possible inside the
country. It was our first political decision..."
(Read testimony of Jaime Gazmuri, Socialist Party member)
Unlike the generation of party activists that came of age politically
in the 1980s, those heading parties in 1973 had no experience
whatsoever with the type of repression exercised by the new regime nor
with clandestine operations. Faced with a drastically changed set of
political rules that were imposed literally overnight, political
parties were at first reduced and disorganized but within months began
conducting party activities clandestinely or abroad.
According to the Rettig Commission, the following figures correspond to
the deaths and disappearances of leftist party militants:
The Socialist Party lost 405 of its members, or 17.8% of the total.
The MIR victims numbered 384 or 16.9% of their total membership.
The Communist Party lost 353 or 15.5% of its members.
Members of the Popular United Action Movement (MAPU), the Manuel
Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), the Radical Party, the Christian
Democrats, the Christian Left, the National Party also suffered serious
human rights violations.
Nevertheless, according to the Rettig Commission, 46 % of the fatal
victims had no known affiliation with any political party. The view of
Chilean sociologist Elas Padilla, in his study "La memoria y el olvido"
is that this figure may be misleading and does not necessarily mean the
victims were non-political, but rather that information on their
political affiliation was not available or was inconclusive.
UP Government Officials
Many members of the Communist, Socialist and MAPU parties occupied
leadership positions in government, both nationally and regionally at
the time of the coup, which placed them in immediate danger of serious
human rights violations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
verified that persons executed or disappeared by agents of the military
regime included: six mayors, four governors, 16 city councilors, three
intendentes, and two congressmen, all of whom represented the UP
government. In addition, 31 Popular Unity leaders, 140 leaders of
community organizations and 30 high-ranking members of state-run firms
were among those executed or disappeared from 1973 to 1989.
T[Release of political prisoners from the Penitentiary, Santiago,
4/20/1978. Photo: L.Navarro] Christian Democratic Party (PDC) had
supported the coup, although with strong internal dissident views from
the outset, but it later adopted a more critical stance. By the end of
1974, leaders of the PDC also became targets for repression.
Unions as Victims
Labor unions and their leaders were one of the main targets of the
regime's initial wave of violence and human rights abuses because of
their traditional allegiance to the leftist ideologies the
authoritarian government sought to nullify. Trade unions were
drastically disabled in the initial stages of the regime but were
nonetheless at the forefront of the opposition movement that emerged
In the month following the September 1973 coup, the military closed
down labor federations, associations, and unions, raided their offices,
took possession of documents and property and arrested union leaders
nationwide. Decree Laws 12 and 13 annulled the legal status of the
Central Union of Workers (CUT), Chile's most powerful labor
confederation, and banned all forms of organization, activity and
The Junta revised the legislation and regulations pertaining to union
organizing and other labor activities. The changes included suspending
collective bargaining rights, banning union meetings without prior
authorization from police and suspending the direct election of union
leaders, among others. These so called "emergency measures," imposed on
Chile's unions in the first months of the new regime to bring union
activity in line with the ideology of the new state, and which reshaped
labor relations after the coup, became permanent features, some of
which are still in place today, eight years after the end of the
In the first three months after the coup, arrested CUT leaders numbered
more than 200 while 16 trade union leaders were executed. On September
11 and 12, public edicts issued on radio and other media demanded that
the national CUT leaders present themselves to the authorities. Rather
than do so, many sought asylum in embassies or went into hiding. Those
who obeyed the order were likely to be imprisoned and possibly
In the months following the military coup, all leaders of the National
Federation of Miners were arrested and the governing boards of its 13
unions dismissed. The 700 leaders of the National Federation of
Metallurgical Workers were reduced to 420. Only five of the 33 leaders
of the National Textile Workers Federation retained their posts, while
in the powerful National Association of Public Employees, ANEF, only
eight of a total of 21 leaders remained.
An International Labor Organization (ILO) delegation that visited Chile
in late 1974 made the following assessment of the situation affecting
the nation's unions: "many leaders or former leaders of unions have
been killed...either by execution, with or without trial, by the
fugitive law, as a result of torture, or in other circumstances."
In mid-1976, the ILO Council in Geneva petitioned the military regime
to bring its labor legislation and practices in line with international
Union membership had reached an all-time high in 1973 with 32.5 % of
the Chilean work force affiliated to a union. The number of unionized
workers tripled between 1964 and 1972. Indeed, organized labor had
flourished under the UP government of Salvador Allende between 1970 to
1973, and had taken an active role in shaping the political, economic
and social decision-making process.
The military Junta aimed its offensive at breaking down and controlling
this powerful labor union movement, which it said had become "political
in nature, under the influence of foreign tendencies that are at odds
with the national identity.".
Despite the repression, as early as 1975 former union leaders had
reorganized and created informal associations, as in the case of the
public employees union ANEF. Possibly the most important such
initiative was the National Union Coordinator (Coordinadora Nacional
Sindical), publicly unveiled in June 1978. A letter campaign to the
military government initiated by these incipient labor union groups was
joined by many new supporters and spurred the birth of other
organizations. The new labor organizations began showing their renewed
strength with demonstrations in Valparaso and San Antonio, in October
1977, at the El Teniente copper mine in November 1977, Burger Textiles
in December 1977, and others.
In April 1976, police arrested an undetermined number of union leaders,
organized as the "Group of 10", who had demanded that overtime be
voluntary and be paid with a wage 50 % above the normal wage. Several
businessmen accused these union leaders of sabotage and of infringing
upon national security.
The labor groups main demands were the right to organize and to
celebrate International Worker's Day. They also criticized the
government's economic policy and expressed their repudiation of the
deteriorating quality of life under military rule. The
Confederation of Copper Workers (Confederacin de Trabajadores del
Cobre, CTC) backed by political parties, took the lead in convening the
first national protest of May 11, 1983, an event that ushered in a
period of massive public displays of opposition to the regime. Copper
miners responded to the subsequent repression against union leaders and
copper union leaders in particular by holding the first general strike
in the mines in a decade. In early June the National Workers Command
(Comando Nacional de Trabajadores) was created and convened the second
protest. The massive turnout at the second protest made evident the
importance of unions in bringing together a broad spectrum of opponents
to the regime.
A new Central Union of Workers (CUT) was set up in August 1988, and
held its first General Assembly in October 1991, obtaining legal status
in March 1992.
The labor union movement never recovered the vitality it lost in 1973.
In fact, union membership has even declined in the years since Chile's
return to democracy, dropping from 15.4 % of the work force in 1992 to
12.7 % in 1995.
Rural Community (Campesinos)
Agricultural workers (campesinos) and rural leaders were persecuted
immediately after the military coup for their high level of
organization and participation in the UP government's Agrarian Reform
program. Large numbers of farmworkers with no apparent political
involvement or importance were taken to the prison camps during the
early years of the regime.
The military coup brought to a halt the process of restructuring
agricultural landholding patterns, a process that was initiated by
President Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1965 and continued with more vigor
under the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. Over 4 million
hectares had been expropriated from large landholders while rural
organizations, including unions, multiplied. The vitality lost through
years of repression and decree laws has never been fully regained.
In the first months after the coup, most government agricultural
officials in the provinces were arrested, and many subjected to summary
trials in which they were sentenced for having participated in agrarian
reform. Mass executions or disappearances of farm workers took place
near Santiago as in the cases of Paine, Isla de Maipo, Chihuio and
Melipilla, as well as major agricultural centers near Valdivia,
Concepcion, and Osorno, among others.
The mass executions and other abuses produced a "psychosis" among rural
dwellers, who feared they might be the next ones shot, according to
German Rodrguez of the Confederacin Campesina El Surco. The persecution
of rural leaders, Rodrguez says, was intended to serve as an example
and warning to other agrarian reform advocates. For instance, the fear
was such that for days following the execution of 18 campesinos in
Chihuio no one dared approach the body of one of the victims, Andres
Montecinos Silva. Montecinos' body remained in the spot his assassins
left him for 15 days before family members buried him.
It was also fear that kept many witnesses and family members from
testifying before members of the Rettig Commission in 1990. Officials
of the Confederacin Campesina El Surco say the Commission's official
registry of 324 executions or disappearances of agricultural workers
could actually be as high as 3,000.
Persecution of rural leaders went hand in hand with dismantling the
agrarian reform itself. Farmworker unions, as all other unions, were
outlawed in 1976 (although one, the Confederacin Provincias Agrarias
Unidas announced its support for the regime). By mid-1979 some 29 % of
the expropriated land had been directly returned to its original owner
or placed on the auction block. State participation in agricultural
production backed off, allowing agriculture to operate according to the
rules of the market.
Rebirth of Rural Organization
Despite the decree closing rural organizations, clandestine organizing
work continued. Cardenal Raul Silva Henriquez, a personal advocate of
rural organization, created the Vicaria's Rural Department, in defense
of the campesino. The regime's 1980 Labor Plan, permitting limited
union reorganization in most labor sectors, made way for the creation
of several rural confederations such as Confederacin El Surco,
Federacin Nehuen, and Confederacin Union Obrero Campesina. The National
Campesino Commission (Comisin Nacional Campesina), born in 1982,
coordinated the various actions with programs that included training
and union organizing.
Still, according to El Surco's German Rodrguez, for the vast majority
in the Chilean countryside, the persistence of fear "makes it
impossible to even talk about unions."
Only eight % of campesinos today are organized in associations or
cooperatives of any kind.
Persecuted For Being Indigenous
Rural activists and leaders of Mapuche origin were victims of human
rights violations during the 17-year authoritarian regime.
Mapuche communities suffered persecution in the initial stages of the
dictatorship primarily because they were identified, as were
campesinos, with agrarian reform and "subversive" organizations like
the Mapuche rights group AD-MAPU and the Revolutionary Campesino
Movement (MCR), a wing of the MIR. For example, AD-MAPU leader Jose
Santos Millao Palacios was one of hundreds of Chileans banished to
remote areas of the country.
A 1978 report prepared by the United Nations Special Work Group stated:
"On the very day of the coup, land owners, military and police began
persecution of Mapuches who had fought for their lands and had
recovered them." The Popular Unity's agrarian reform program allowed
the Mapuche community, which numbered between 600,000 and 1 million
people in southern Chile, to recover part of the lands they had lost
with the arrival of the Spaniards and the creation of the Chilean
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report accounts for at least
100 Mapuches who were executed or disappeared following arrest by the
Army or other security forces. Amnesty International (AI) says "the
figure is probably higher, as many Mapuches live in isolated areas and
barely speak Spanish... they are still afraid of testifying." A Mapuche
leader AI interviewed in 1991 said he knew of cases of disappearances
not included in the Commission Report, and of other instances in which
fear led relatives to later retract their testimony.
As with other organizations considered enemies of the state, the
Mapuche victims were not all leaders and activists. A report issued by
Inter Church Committee for Human Rights in Latin America following a
visit to Chile in November 1979 stated that Mapuches were
"...persecuted... only for their condition as indigenous people."
What occurred in the small village of Liquie, in southern Chile near
Villarica, a month after the coup illustrates the type of human rights
violations suffered by victims from the Mapuche population. Some 150
kilometers from the city of Valdivia, Liquie is an area in which many
Mapuche families cultivated crops for their own subsistence,
supplementing their income with seasonal work in the forests. Prior to
the military coup, agrarian reform had spurred the community to
organize itself and take greater role in local decision-making.
Training programs were set up and steps taken to improve infrastructure
by building schools and constructing roads.
Soldiers arrived in the area immediately following the coup, and along
with Carabineros police, began mass detentions on September 18. On
October 10, 1973 a military patrol arrested 15 men. Several, such as
the three members of the Tracanao Pincheira family as well as Carlos
Alberto Cayuman Cayuman were members of the Revolutionary Campesino
Movement (MCR) while others were members of the farm worker union.
Others had no political affiliation whatsoever. After futile efforts
to determine the whereabouts of the arrested men, one of the families
pooled money to send a brother to Santiago, believing that all
prisoners were held in the National Stadium. After several fruitless
days outside the Stadium, he returned to Liquie without any news.
It was later learned that all 15 men had been shot on the Villarica
bridge over the Tolten River.
The Church's Reaction
Persecution against members of the Catholic Church began the day of the
coup. An estimated 150 priests, nuns, and other clergy were forced to
leave Chile within the first days after the coup. Some had been
expelled, while others were transferred to other countries by their
congregations, under pressure from military authorities. Throughout the
military regime, the ethical and moral stance taken by some sectors of
the religious community made them, in the eyes of the military rulers,
dangerous allies of the left.
The rupture in the democratic order and the unprecedented degree of
violence compelled some sectors of the religious communities of Chile
to take a stand.
The first to do so was the Methodist Church of Chile, on September 12,
1973, with a letter to the Military Junta repudiating the brutality of
A week after the coup, Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez canceled the grand
inter-religious service traditionally celebrated September 18, in
Santiago's Cathedral to mark Chilean independence day, replacing it
with a simpler ecumenical ceremony at another church. In calling for
"... a light to eternally shine over our soldiers and our civilians...
in the noble, difficult and painful task of correcting our mistakes,"
it is evident that Silva initially believed the military coup to be a
positive thing. But the brutal results of what the generals called the
"pronunciamiento militar" were already troubling the Archbishop and, in
the same homily, he expressed reservations about the "legitimacy" of
the Armed Forces' actions.
Days after the coup, a meeting between religious leaders, including
Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop Helmut Frenz and Silva, led to the
creation, on October 6, of the Comite de Cooperacin por la Paz en
Chile, also known as the Comit Pro-Paz, founded by Catholics,
Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Grand Rabbi of Chile. The
committee's human rights defense work provoked the ire of the military
regime, making true Cardinal Silva's statement that "...they will begin
to call me the red bishop."
The accusation of "Marxist infiltrators in the churches," first charged
by fundamentalist religious leaders, including Catholics, later became
the basis for the regime's decision to disband the Comit. In a letter
dated December 2, 1975, Augusto Pinochet explained to Cardinal Silva
his reason for banning the organization, describing it as " a channel
by which Marxist-Leninists create problems that disturb national
In its two years of life, legal defense work had been the major service
provided by the Comit Pro-Paz, both for those tried in military courts
or war councils and for political prisoners. During those two years,
it handled more than 6,900 cases of political persecution in Santiago
and 1,900 such cases throughout the rest of the country, and more than
6,400 cases of dismissals from jobs for political reasons.
Persecution of the Church
Arrests and expulsions of priests, raids on church buildings, murder
and torture of priest and lay leaders, as well as chapels set afire in
low-income areas became commonplace. On September 27, 1973 Air Force
personnel raided the private house where Archbishop Cardinal Raul Silva
Six priests died at the hands of agents of the regime during the
dictatorship period. On September 14, 1973 Fr. Miguel Woodward was
arrested in Valparaiso and taken aboard the ship "Lebu," where he died
from torture, accused of involvement in "political" activities. Two
other priests - Spaniard Antonio Llido in Santiago and Gerardo Poblete
in Iquique - were also to die as a result of torture in 1974. Spanish
priest Joan Alsina, personnel director of San Juan de Dios Hospital in
Santiago was executed September 19, 1974. These priests, the military
regime said, were "Marxists." Some 50 priests and other clergy were
arrested in the first months following the coup.
Between 1973 and 1985 priests Jose Aldunate and Mariano Puga, founders
in 1983 of the non-violent Sebastian Acevedo Movement Against Torture,
were each arrested more than five times.
The disbanded Comite Pro Paz was replaced by the Vicaria de la
Solidaridad in 1976, a human rights defense organization created by the
Archdiocese. Its defense of human rights, its Radio Chilena, and
assistance to the poor, among other activities, brought persecution
upon church and Vicaria staff. From October 1977 to May 1978 acts of
persecution, such as the following, occurred each month: arrests of
church-sponsored soup kitchens and job banks, abduction and beating of
Radio Chilena journalists, raid of the Concepcion Archdiocese social
action office, and a bomb planted in the home of a Vicaria lawyer.
In August 1976 three Chilean Bishops - monsignors Enrique Alvear,
Fernando Ariztia and Carlos Gonzalez - were among 17 bishops arrested
at the start of a conference of Latin American bishops in Riobamba,
Ecuador. Upon their return to Chile, a large group of civilians, later
identified as DINA agents, attacked them in the airport.
On March 16, 1983, approximately 50 civilians raided a rectory in the
Quinta Normal sector of Santiago, arrested two Irish priests- Brendan
Forde and Desmond MacGuillicudy, took them directly to the airport
where they were placed aboard an airplane bound out of Chile. Two years
later the Archdiocese filed a habeas corpus writ on behalf of another
foreign priest, Fr. Guido Peeters, who was constantly harassed,
followed and threatened by anonymous phone calls and letters, to leave
Under guidance of Bishop Helmut Frenz, the Evangelical Lutheran Church
gained the release of imprisoned Chileans and is credited with having
assisted 5,000 people in leaving the country. As he became an
increasingly vocal opponent of the regime, Frenz came under fire from
conservative members of his own church and was ousted as its leader in
September 1974. Frenz was instrumental in founding, on April 1, 1975,
the Christian Churches Social Assistance Foundation (FASIC), whose
major concern was legal and psychological assistance to victims of
human rights violations, particularly political prisoners and their
families. Associated with the United Nations High Commissioner on
Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Council of Churches Refugee Service,
Fasic's initial concern was obtaining the commutation of imprisonment
On October 3, 1975, while Frenz was in Europe, the military regime
banned him from returning to Chile. Frenz was subsequently appointed
secretary general of the international human rights organization
Amnesty International. A report prepared for the Vicaria of Solidarity
states that the campaign against Frenz "... is the result of
orchestrated efforts from the press and dissident Lutherans."
Like Frenz, Methodist Church Bishop Isaias Gutierrez, also a Fasic
Board member, represented a minority position within his church.
Following publication in January 1984 of a statement condemning
violence, a Methodist Church daycare center in Pealolen was set on
fire, and Gutierrez, who ministered to prisoners and relegados, people
sent to internal exile, was the object of numerous threats.
Defending the Regime
As religious leaders united against the regime and after the first
United Nations resolution in repudiation of human rights violations in
Chile was made public, fundamentalist Pentecostals banded together to
defend the regime. Founded in July 1975, the Council of Pastors
(Consejo de Pastores) became the self-appointed "moral-religious
guarantors of military government legitimacy". The Council's loyalty to
the regime paid off: in 1976 it sought and was accorded "official
recognition as sole representative of the Evangelical Churches of
In a religious service offered on the first anniversary of the coup,
the Evangelical Churches, which later formed the Consejo de Pastores,
declared to Pinochet: "The military pronouncement
... was the response from God to the prayer of all believers who see
Marxism as the highest
expression of the shadowy satanic force."
The Catholic Church also had within its fold authorities who supported
the military rulers. Military Bishop Msgr. Jose Joaquin Matte stated
during a mass held Sept. 9, 1985, in commemoration of the coup: "Twelve
years ago, we prayed the rosary incessantly and Mary produced a miracle
with the second independence of Chile."
"Where were these thousands and thousands of men who throughout the
country have become our killers, our jailers and our torturers? What
did they do? What did they look like? How is it possible that we never
noticed them, that we did not suspect their resentment, or their future
ferocity? Did they live in a world apart?
It is easy to understand now - unfortunately too late - that they lived
among us. That they were fellow citizens, neighbors, sometimes our own
relatives, and, on occasion, even our friends. We would come across
them each day in stores, in public buses, at the movies and never did
we associate them with the terrorist vanguard of the ultra-right, and
if they spoke against the government (UP) or if they sounded their pots
and pans or organized their rallies "to save democracy," we responded
with good-humored insults. Perhaps they are not the same ones who have
fired upon us or beaten us, but the military would not have gone as far
as they did without them. They were the military's masses,.. they
cowardly expressed their ferocity by denouncing their leftist
neighbors, washing the city walls clean of graffiti calling for
revolution, gave away their wedding rings to fund the Junta..
How did we fail to understand that they who appeared so inoffensive an
enemy... comprised an ultra-right front that had a plan of war and
Excerpt from Tejas Verdes: Diario de un Campo de Concentracion by
Hernan Valdes, Coleccion Septiembre, LOM Ediciones - CESOC, 1996.
This page will contain information on the individuals and institutions
that perpetrated the human rights violations under the dictatorship.
This page is still under construction. Please come back
"With the advent of the military regime in our country," says Analisis
journalist, Hugo Rivas, "the set of norms, decrees and laws which until
then regulated our national coexistence, were drastically modified, and
were replaced by an institutional judicial framework based on the
concept "of wartime," which has allowed throughout this period, those
who hold political power, to commit all types of abuses against the
civilian population, without, except in very few cases, the
intervention of the judiciary to stop or limit such injustices.... the
judiciary is one of the most discredited institutions of civilian
"[Student protesters outside Supreme Court, Sept.1983, Photo: H.
Hughes] 1980, Israel Brquez, then president of the Supreme Court...
defined thus the relationship between the Judiciary and the Executive
Branch: "I will leave this place with a feeling of great satisfaction,
we have managed to be understood. Because, this government, especially,
has wanted to understand us. Never before has anybody wanted to do
anything for us, because they wanted us in the palm of their hand in
order to manipulate us, although they never managed to do so."
The magazine, Pluma y Pincel, where I got this quotation from,
responds: "The silence and the moral complicity of the dictatorship,
were, rather, the elements which best characterize these relationships
from the very day of the coup."
"On September 14 1973, the country was in a state of shock. On that
day, Bernardo Leighton, member of the Christian Democrat Party
executive, filed the first protective writ under the military regime."
Leighton knew that Clodomiro Almeyda, Carlos Briones, Jorge Tapia,
Claudio Jimeno, Oscar Weiss, Luis Armando Garfias and Alvaro Morel were
being detained in one of the regiments. When asked by the Supreme
Court, Investigations Police replied no such persons were detained on
their premises. That, the article continues, was enough for the writ to
be rejected. No investigation was carried out...
A remarkable attitude from the Supreme Court. The smoke from the
bombardment of La Moneda was still rising when the then president of
the Supreme Court, Enrique Urrutia Manzano, paid a visit to the heads
of the Armed Forces, by then the de facto rulers of the country... and
expressed his pleasure and that of his colleagues at the Armed Forces
for having saved Chile from Communism....
From that moment onward, the Chilean judicial system, and thus, Chilean
justice, have suffered, as the journalist Hugo Rivas wrote, "a deep
Excerpt from Soy testigo, Dictadura, Tortura, Injusticia by Judge Rene
Garcia Villegas, Ed. Amerinda, 1990.
This page will take a hard look at the role of the Chilean judicial
system's role with regards to the continual human rights violations
during the dictatorship as well as legislation affecting human rights
This page is under construction. Please come back in August 1998.
The Role of the United States
A Hammer And Sickle Stamped On Your Child's Forehead
excerpted from the book: Killing Hope. U.S. Military and CIA
Interventions Since World War II, by William Blum, Common Courage Pr.,
When Salvador Allende, a committed Marxist, came within three percent
of winning the Chilean presidency in 1958, the United States decided
that the next election, in 1964, could not be left in the hands of
providence, or democracy.
Washington took it all very gravely. At the outset of the Kennedy
administration in 1961, an electoral committee was established,
composed of top-level officials from the State Department, the CIA and
the White House. In Santiago, a parallel committee of embassy and CIA
people was set up.
"U.S. government intervention in Chile in 1964 was blatant and almost
obscene," said one intelligence officer strategically placed at the
time. "We were shipping people off right and left, mainly State Dept.
but also CIA, with all sorts of covers." All in all, as many as 100
American operatives were dedicated to the operation.
They began laying the groundwork for the election years ahead, a Senate
investigating committee has disclosed, "by establishing operational
relationships with key political parties and by creating propaganda and
organizational mechanisms capable of influencing key sectors of the
population." Projects were undertaken "to help train and organize
'anti-Communists"' among peasants, slum dwellers, organized labor,
students, the media, etc..
After channeling funds to several non-leftist parties, the electoral
team eventually settled on a man of the center, Eduardo Frei, the
candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, as the one most likely to
block Allende's rise to power. The CIA underwrote more than half the
party's total campaign costs, one of the reasons that the Agency's
overall electoral operation reduced the U.S. Treasury by an estimated
$20 million-much more per voter than that spent by the Johnson and
Goldwater campaigns combined in the same Year in the United States. The
bulk of the expenditures went toward propaganda.
The operation worked. It worked beyond expectations. Frei received 56
percent of the vote to Allende's 39 percent. The CIA regarded "the
anti-Communist scare campaign as the most effective activity
undertaken", noted the Senate committee. This was the tactic directed
toward Chilean women in particular. As things turned out, Allende won
the men's vote by 67,000 over Frei (in Chile men and women vote
separately), but amongst the women Frei came out ahead by 469,000...
testimony, once again, to the remarkable ease with which the minds of
the masses of people can be manipulated, in any and all societies.
What was there about Salvador Allende that warranted all this feverish
activity? What threat did he represent, this man against whom the great
technical and economic resources of the world's most powerful nation
were brought to bear? Allende was a man whose political program, as
described by the Senate committee report, was to "redistribute income
[two percent of the population received 46 percent of the income] and
reshape the Chilean economy, beginning with the nationalization of
major industries, especially the copper companies; greatly expanded
agrarian reform; and expanded relations with socialist and communist
A man committed to such a program could be expected by American policy
makers to lead his country along a path independent of the priorities
of US foreign policy and the multinationals. (As his later term as
president confirmed, he was independent of any other country as well.)
"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist
because of the irresponsibility of its own people."
Thus spoke Henry Kissinger, principal adviser to the President of the
United States on matters of national security. The date was 27 June
1970, a meeting of the National Security Council's 40 Committee, and
the people Kissinger suspected of Imminent Irresponsibility were
Chileans whom he feared might finally elect Salvador Allende as their
The United States did not stand by idly. At this meeting approval was
given to a $300,000 increase in the anti-Allende "spoiling" operation
which was already underway. The CIA trained its disinformation heavy
artillery on the Chilean electorate, firing shells marked: "An Allende
victory means violence and Stalinist repression." Black propaganda was
employed to undermine Allende's coalition and support by sowing dissent
between the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, the main members
of the coalition, and between the Communist Party and the [communist
Nevertheless, on 4 September Allende won a plurality of the votes. On
24 October, the Chilean Congress would meet to choose between him and
the runner-up, Jorge Alessandri of the Conservative National Party. By
tradition, Allende was certain to become president.
The United States had seven weeks to prevent him from taking office. On
15 September, President Nixon met with Kissinger, CIA Director Richard
Helms, and Attorney General John Mitchell. Helms' handwritten notes of
the meeting have become famous: " One in 10 chance perhaps, but save
... not concerned with risks involved ...
$10,000,000 available, more if necessary ... make the economy scream.
Funds were authorized by the 40 Committee to bribe Chilean congressmen
to vote for Alessandri, but this was soon abandoned as infusible, and
under intense pressure from Richard Nixon, American efforts were
concentrated on inducing the Chilean military to stage a coup and then
cancel the congressional vote altogether.' At the same time, Nixon and
Kissinger made it clear to the CIA that an assassination of Allende
would not be unwelcome. One White House options-paper discussed
various ways this could be carried out.
Meanwhile, the Agency was in active consultation with several Chilean
military officers who were receptive to the suggestion of a coup. (The
difficulty in finding such officers was described by the CIA as a
problem in overcoming "the apolitical, constitutional-oriented inertia
of the Chilean military.) They were assured that the United States
would give them full support short of direct military involvement. The
immediate obstacle faced by the officers was the determined opposition
of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Rene Schneider, who insisted
that the constitutional process be followed. He would have to be
In the early morn of 22 October the CIA passed "sterilized" machine
guns and ammunition to some of the conspirators. (Earlier they had
passed tear gas.) That same day Schneider was mortally wounded in an
attempted kidnap (or "kidnap") on his way to work. The CIA station in
Santiago cabled its headquarters that the general had been shot with
the same kind of weapons it had delivered to the military plotters,
although the Agency later claimed to the Senate that the actual
assassins were not the same ones it had passed the weapons to.
The assassination did not avail the conspirators' purpose. It only
served to rally the army around the flag of constitutionalism; and time
was running out. Two days later, Salvador Allende was confirmed by the
Chilean Congress. On 3 November he took office as president.
The stage was set for a clash of two experiments. One was Allende's
"socialist" experiment aimed at lifting Chile from the mire of
underdevelopment and dependency and the poor from deprivation. The
other was, as CIA Director William Colby later put it, a "prototype or
laboratory experiment to test the techniques of heavy financial
investment in an effort to discredit and bring down a government."
Although there were few individual features of this experiment which
were unique for the CIA, in sum total it was perhaps the most
multifarious intervention ever undertaken by the United States. In the
process it brought a new word into the language: destabilization.
"Not a nut or bolt [will] be allowed to reach Chile under Allende",
warned American Ambassador Edward Korry before the confirmation. The
Chilean economy, so extraordinarily dependent upon the United States,
was the country's soft underbelly, easy to pound. Over the next three
years, new US government assistance programs for Chile plummeted almost
to the vanishing point, similarly with loans from the US Export-Import
Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, in which the United
States held what amounted to a veto; and the World Bank made no new
loans at all to Chile during 1971-73. US government financial
assistance or guarantees to American private investment in Chile were
cut back sharply and American businesses were given the word to tighten
the economic noose.
What this boycott translated into were things like the many buses and
taxis out of commission in Chile due to a lack of replacement parts;
and similar difficulties in the copper, steel, electricity and
petroleum industries. American suppliers refused to sell needed parts
despite Chile's offer to pay cash in advance.
Multinational ITT, which didn't need to be told what to do, stated in a
1970 memorandum: "A more realistic hope among those who want to block
Allende is that a swiftly deteriorating economy will touch off a wave
of violence leading to a military coup."
In the midst of the near disappearance of economic aid, and contrary to
its warning, the United States increased its military assistance to
Chile during 1972 and 1973 as well as training Chilean military
personnel in the United States and Panama. The Allende government,
caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, was reluctant to refuse
this "assistance" for fear of antagonizing its military leaders.
Perhaps nothing produced more discontent in the population than the
shortages, the little daily annoyances when one couldn't get a favorite
food, or flour or cooking oil, or toilet paper, bed sheets or soap, or
the one part needed to make the TV set or the car run; or, worst of
all, when a nicotine addict couldn't get a cigarette. Some of the
scarcity resulted from Chile being a society in transition: various
changeovers to state ownership, experiments in workers' control, etc.
But this was minor compared to the effect of the aid squeeze and the
practices of the omnipresent American corporations. Equally telling
were the extended strikes in Chile, which relied heavily on CIA
financial support for their prolongation.
In October 1972, for example, an association of private truck owners
instituted a work-stoppage aimed at disrupting the flow of food and
other important commodities, including in their embargo even newspapers
which supported the government (subtlety was not the order of the day
in this ultra-polarized country). On the heels of this came store
closures, countless petit-bourgeois doing their bit to turn the screws
of public inconvenience- and when they were open, many held back on
certain goods, like cigarettes, to sell them on the black market to
those who could afford the higher prices. Then most private bus
companies stopped running, on top of this, various professional and
white-collar workers, largely unsympathetic to the government, walked
out, with or without CIA help.
Much of this campaign was aimed at wearing down the patience of the
public, convincing them that "socialism can't work in Chile". Yet there
had been worse shortages for most of the people before the Allende
government-shortages of food, housing, health care, and education, for
example. At least half the population had suffered from malnutrition.
Allende, who was a medical doctor, explained his free milk program by
pointing out that "Today in Chile there are over 600,000 children
mentally retarded because they were not adequately nourished during the
first eight months of their lives, because they did not receive the
Financial aid was not the CIA's only input into the strike scene. More
than 100 members of Chilean professional associations and employers'
guilds were graduates of the school run by the American Institute for
Free Labor Development in Front Royal, Virginia-"The Little Anti-Red
Schoolhouse". AIFLD, the ClA's principal Latin America labor
organization, also assisted in the formation of a new professional
association in May 1971: the Confederation of Chilean Professionals.
The labor specialists of AIFLD had more than a decade's experience in
the art of fomenting economic turmoil (or keeping workers quiescent
when the occasion called for it).
CIA propaganda merchants had a field day with the disorder and the
shortages, exacerbating both by instigating panic buying. All the
techniques, the whole of the media saturation, the handy organizations
created for each and every purpose, so efficiently employed in 1964 and
1970, were facilitated by the virtually unlimited license granted the
press: headlines and stories which spread rumors about everything from
nationalizations to bad meat and undrinkable water ... "Economic Chaos!
Chile on Brink of Doom!" in the largest type one could ever expect to
see in a newspaper ... raising the specter of civil war, when not
actually calling for it, literally ... alarmist stories which anywhere
else in the world would have been branded seditious ... the worst of
London's daily tabloids or the National Enquirer of the United States
appear as staid as a journal of dentistry by comparison.
The government contingency plans were presumably obtained by the Agency
through its infiltration of the various parties which made up Allende's
Unidad Popular (UP) coalition. CIA agents in the upper echelons of
Allende's own Socialist Party were "paid to make mistakes in their
jobs" In Washington, burglary was the Agency's tactic of choice for
obtaining documents. Papers were taken from the homes of several
employees of the Chilean Embassy; and the embassy itself, which had
been bugged for some time, was burgled in May 1972 by some of the same
men who the next month staged the Watergate break-in.
In March 1973, the UP won about 44 percent of the vote in congressional
elections compared to some 36 percent in 1970. It was said to be the
largest increase an incumbent party had ever received in Chile after
being in power more than two years. The opposition parties had publicly
expressed their optimism about capturing two-thirds of the
congressional seats and thus being able to impeach Allende. Now they
faced three more years under him, with the prospect of being unable,
despite their best and most underhanded efforts, to prevent his
popularity from increasing even further.
During the spring and summer the destabilization process escalated.
There was a whole series of demonstrations and strikes, with an even
longer one by the truckers. Time magazine reported: "While most of the
country survived on short rations, the truckers seemed unusually well
equipped for a lengthy holdout." A reporter asked a group of truckers
who were camping and dining on "a lavish communal meal of steak,
vegetables, wine and empanadas" where the money for it came from. "From
the CIA," they answered laughing.
There was as well daily sabotage and violence, including assassination.
In June, an abortive attack upon the Presidential Palace was carried
out by the military and Patria y Libertad..
In September the military prevailed. "It is clear," said the Senate
investigating committee, "the CIA received intelligence reports on the
coup planning of the group which carried out the successful September
11 coup throughout the months of July, August, and September 1973."
The American role on that fateful day was one of substance and shadow.
The coup began in the Pacific coast port of Valparaiso with the
dispatch of Chilean naval troops to Santiago, while US Navy ships were
present offshore, ostensibly to participate in joint maneuvers with the
Chilean Navy. The American ships stayed outside of Chilean waters but
renamed on the alert. A US WB-575 plane-an airborne communications
control system-piloted by US Air Force officers, cruised in the Chilean
sky. At the same time, American observation and fighter planes were
landing at the US air base in Mendoza, Argentina, not far from the
Washington knows no heresy in the Third World but independence. In the
case of Salvador Allende independence came clothed in an especially
provocative costume-a Marxist constitutionally elected who continued to
honor the constitution. This would not do. It shook the very
foundation stones upon which the anti-Communist tower is built: the
doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that "communists" can
take power only through force and deception, that they can retain that
power only through terrorizing and brainwashing the population. There
could be only one thing worse than a Marxist in power-an elected
Marxist in power.