21 November 2005

FORMER SECRET POLICE CHIEF CHARGED WITH DISAPEARENCES

(Nov. 21, 2005) Sixteen former chiefs and agents of DINA, the Pinochet-era secret police, were charged last September by Judge Juan Guzmán in connection with the deaths of 34 of the disappeared (ST, Sept. 6, 2004). The 34 victims named on the indictment were those identified as having been abducted by the regime. Among the accused was Manuel Contreras, the former head of DINA, who is currently serving a 12-year jail term at Santiago’s Cordillera Prison for the 1975 kidnapping of Miguel Ángel Sandoval, a member of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) (ST, Jan. 31, 2005).

Pinochet has been sued twice to assume responsibility for the disappearance of the 119 Chileans: once in September 1999, and, after over five years of stagnancy, in February of this year, when Defense attorney Hernán Quezada filed a lawsuit asking that Pinochet be stripped of his immunity in order to be tried as the intellectual author of the Operation (ST, Sept. 10, 2004).

(Sept. 6, 2004) Nearly 30 years after 119 Chilean leftist activists died in Argentina, 16 former chiefs and agents of DINA, the secret intelligence service of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, have been charged in connection with the deaths of 34 of the disappeared.

Among the accused is Manuel Contreras, the former head of DINA, who is currently serving a life sentence for a number of murders and kidnappings, including the 1976 car-bomb assassination of a former Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Orlando Letelier. The car-bombing was perhaps one of the first foreign-led terrorist killings to occur in the United States. Not only did Letelier lose his life, but also his secretary, U.S. citizen Ronnie Moffit.

The 16 men are charged with the kidnapping of 119 socialists, communists and members of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) in 1975 as part of Operation Colombo, an adjunct to Operation Condor, a network used by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone to exchange intelligence and eliminate dissidents.

The 16 men are charged with the kidnapping of 119 socialists, communists and members of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) in 1975 as part of Operation Colombo, an adjunct to Operation Condor, a network used by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone to exchange intelligence and eliminate dissidents.

Many of MIR’s members fled the country in the wake of the 1973 military coup that ousted the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende and installed Pinochet’s junta.

Operation Colombo was orchestrated by the hitherto little known branch of DINA, the Department of Clandestine Operations.

The 119 victims were kidnapped in Chile and taken to Argentina where they were summarily convicted of treason.

In April 1975, a disfigured body in a Buenos Aires cellar was identified as that of Chilean communist David Silberman. Beside the body was a sheet of paper reading: “Eliminated by MIR.” Later checks, however, showed that the body was not Silberman’s.

On July 12, two further bodies were found in the Argentine capital beside similar inscriptions.

Identity cards found on the bodies identified them as Jaime Robotham Bravo and Luis Guendelman Wisnik, other disappeared leftists. Further investigation found the names on the identity cards to be written erroneously and that the bodies did not match records held in Chile.

It is believed that the abductees were executed three days later. The following day, a mysterious Argentine publication, Lea, in its sole edition, printed the names of 60 people it claimed had been executed by their own comrades in a settling of political scores. On July 17, the so-called ‘list of 119’ victims was completed when a small Brazilian daily, Novo O Día, published the names of 59 Chileans who, according to its sources, had died in clashes with military forces in Argentina.

SOURCES: DIARIO SIETE, LA NACIÓN, LA TERCERA