doc. 21 corr.1
25 October 1974
Original: Spanish


Findings of “on the spot” Observations in
the Republic of Chile
July 22 – August 2, 1974


F.       The Ritoque Detention Center


          32.          The Government that was installed after September 11, 1973, decided to detain in Dawson Island, south of the Straits of Magellan, at the extreme southern tip of the American hemisphere, a group of political personages—around 30—connected with the previous regime: an ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, an ex-Ambassador of Chile to the United States, Senators, an ex Secretary of the President of the Republic, Popular Unity party leaders, etc.


          These persons were flown to Punta Arenas, handcuffed, and then taken in a ship to their destination.


          33.          Dawson Island is a particularly inhospitable place, lashed by hurricane winds, snow and hail from the South Pole. The temperature is usually many degrees Centigrade below zero. Prisoners told the Commission they were transferred without being permitted to get any clothing in addition to what they had been using as detainees. They also stated that the place where they were lodged lacked the installations that are essential for decently housing anybody in comfortable and sanitary conditions.


          34.          Before the Commission reached Chile, these prisoners were ordered transferred. Only some local prisoners from Punta Arenas, who are more accustomed to the particularly harsh elements of the region, remained. The transferred prisoners were first taken to various military establishments in Santiago, and shortly thereafter to the Ritoque installation, near the Quintero Airbase, on the Pacific coast, north of Valparaiso.


          35.          The Government authorized the Commission to visit the installation and to converse freely with the prisoners. Five of the Commission members present in Chile made the visit on July 27.


          36.          The Commander of the Quintero Base explained the organization of Ritoque Camp.


          He stated that the “detainees camp” (that was the term used by him) was in charge of the air force. There is a superior officer for the entire jurisdictional area of the Quintero zone. He is the Commander of Wing 2. The direct responsibility for the custody and care of the prisoners was assigned to Commander De La Fuente.


          The camp is divided into two parts:


          a)          The administrative section (covering matters relating to correspondence, office work and keeping of records in charge of a civilian; and


          b)          The executive section, in charge of an officer who is appointed in rotation by the army, the carabineros, and the air force, every two weeks.


          The detainees camp was first under the supervision of the air force, receiving its orders from this base, and a number of personnel for the custody and security of the camp. All problems occurring in the camp are resolved by the Commander. No visits are permitted without his authorization. For the Commander to be able to give his authorization, a communication must be sent from Santiago, announcing the name of the visitor and the day and hour of the visit. Prisoners supplies go to the base and are checked there, to ensure that nothing affects the security of the prisoners. Later, if appropriate, the requested item is delivered to them. The base also receives items that prisoners request from outside, such as newspapers and cigarettes, which are distributed through the administrative official.


          Commander Lamas is in charge of what is called the Ritoque Camp. Under him is the Camp Commander, assisted by the counsel, correspondence, and prisoner control sections. There is a health section, consisting of a resident doctor, dentist, and nurse. The Naval Hospital is also available for emergency cases. In the weeks since the prisoners had arrived two of them had been taken to the Naval Hospital: Mr. Osvaldo Puccio who had been given an electrocardiogram, and Mr. Vergara, who was prescribed an exercise program for problems in one hand. Two or three other prisoners had been treated by the nurse. There are also an administrative and a surveillance system. The administrative system is in charge of food, supplies, and transportation.


          The installation had available what little equipment there was in the camp, plus other items sent by SENDET and some from the base itself brought in on loan. There is one vehicle and a station wagon, both new, available for transportation.


          Surveillance is in charge of a lieutenant, a captain, or a sub-lieutenant. At that time, the air force was in charge, and a lieutenant was on duty; later the army or the carabineros would be in charge.


          Prisoners were organized into five sections, corresponding to the barracks in which they were lodged. There are five barracks in the camp, and each barrack houses about nine or ten prisoners. The residents of each barrack have selected a section head, who is their representative, and from amongst all of them they have selected a representative who receives requests, complaints, and petitions.


          The head representative is Hugo Miranda. The section heads are: from Barracks B, Alfredo Joignant; from Barracks C, Pedro Ramírez; from Barracks D, Hugo Miranda, who has already been mentioned; from Barrack E, Orlando Cantuarías; and from Barracks F, Sergio Bitar. Barracks B also lodges Clodomiro Almeyda, Alfredo Joignant, Hernán Soto, Tito Palestro and Carlos Matus; Barracks C houses Daniel Vergara, Benjamín Teplizky, Luis Corvalán, José Cademartori, Fernando Flores, Jaime Concha and Pedro Ramírez; in Barracks D are, Jorge Tapia, Alejandro Jiliberto, Carlos Morales, Hugo Miranda, Osvaldo Puccio (junior) and Aníbal Palma; in Barracks E are, Orlando Letelier, Luis Matte, Miguel Muñoz, Miguel Launer, Julio Stuardo González and Orlando Canturías; and in Barracks F, Maximiliano Marcos, Sergio Bitar, Enrique Kirberg, Duarte Pinto, Andrés Sepúlveda, Luis Vega, Sergio Vuscovic and Leopoldo Zuljevic.


          All of the prisoners are adults, and none of them is held incommunicado. They are allowed visits twice a week. They themselves have requested that visits not take place on weekdays, because most of their families are from Valparaiso or Santiago. Therefore, visiting hours were set at 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.


          With regard to food, we were informed of the menu last week. Monday: stew, lentils, roast apples and tea for lunch; vegetable soup, potato pie, and pears for dinner. Tuesday: cream of tomato soup, chicken with mushrooms, canned pineapple and tea, for lunch; avocado with lettuce, Italian stew, and cucumbers, for dinner. Wednesday: tuna salad, pork stew, beans, and tea, for lunch; beef “a lo pobre”, and hot milk for dinner. Thursday: meatballs, fried fish with salad, bananas and tea, for lunch, etc.


          37.          After these explanations, the Commission went from the Quintero base to the Ritoque detainees camp.


          The place where the prisoners are kept was a public beach facility constructed near some sand dunes barely covered with grass. The place has been surrounded by a high wall with barbed wire and watch towers on all corners, in which guards armed with machine guns could be seen. It was indicated that this installation is very close to the beach.


          Inside the enclosure are five wooden barracks, divided into small rooms with 2 two-deck beds in each, that is to say, with room for four persons. Toilets and showers are in a separate barracks. The roofs and walls of these buildings and of the common dining room, are of thin wooden boards, without insulation. As twilight neared, the building became cold.


          There are a small infirmary, guard houses, troop quarters, etc., all with the same construction. All of the rooms are clean and in meticulous order.


          The enclosure has free spaces, enough for the prisoners to be able to exercise.


          It was pointed out to us that stoves have been provided for the prisoners although the guards do not have any. We could see that stoves were in the dining room, but they were not lighted.


          38.          As the prisoners stated, the Commission's presence meant a relaxation of the strict discipline. The Commission members expressed their desire to share lunch with the prisoners, which was granted. There were two courses served: a kind of broth with a small pieces of boiled meat, a sweet potato, a potato, and a pork chop boiled with garlic. An apple for dessert. The menu was considered exceptional by the prisoners, as well as the fact that they were provided with knives and forks, and not simply spoons. They said this was the first time that had occurred since their detention in September 1973. No liquid was served at the table.


          39.          After lunch, the Commission had ample opportunity to talk with the prisoners. All conversations were tape recorded. The following is a transcript of the recording with the sole elimination of some names at the request of the persons concerned.


          After the Commission Chairman briefly explained the reasons for the visit and the scope of the authority conferred on this OAS Organ, one of the prisoners made a general statement, which is transcribed as follows:


         Prisoner: First of all, I appreciate, Mr. Chairman, the openness with which you have indicated the Commission's authority, because I want to tell you in all frankness that there are undoubtedly few of us who thought the OAS has the necessary structure to be able to attain full observance of human rights in all the member countries. So that I appreciate the frankness with which you, Mr. Chairman, have indicated to us the limitations of your Commission. We understand all of those limitations perfectly, and we have exchanged opinions among ourselves, even with respect to the ultimate meaning that your report might have, because we understand perfectly well the political way this material will be discussed, if it is ever discussed, some day in the Assembly of the Organization of American States. That is the reason for this explanation, and I thank you for the frankness with which you have defined the actions of this Commission. It seems to me that to proceed in an orderly fashion, the first thing is to give an outline of our long detention. You already know that we have been prisoners for ten months. Some of my companions may tell you later of aspects such as interrogations, the tortures to which they have been subjected, and the really brutal way in which we have been treated on many occasions, and finally some will make comments relating to the problem of the observance of human rights, not only as it affects us, but also with respect to human rights in general, at this time in our country.


         Most of us were arrested the same day the coup d'etat occurred, September 11. Many of our comrades here were in La Moneda, others in the Defense Ministry. I believe the Defense Minister went to the Ministry; he was detained in the Ministry. You already know the details of how the bombardment of La Moneda occurred, and how prisoners were taken from there, some to be transferred to regiments and most of them to the Military Academy. One of them, or two (at this time there is one) was taken to a Stadium and treated with unusual violence: he is a 21 year old youth (he became 21 in detention), Oswaldo Puccio, who was accompanied by his father, the Private Secretary of the President of the Republic; and that is why he was in La Moneda. In other cases, companions were brought in, whose names appeared in edicts of the Military Junta. We were transferred on the 14th or 15th—noon of the 15th—of course without communications of any kind, without notifying our families, without taking clothing, appropriate for the weather that we were going to suffer on Dawson Island; and with a really extraordinary, unnecessary violence, we were taken in mini-buses to Cerillos, treated with great violence, and shipped to Dawson Island. We arrived at Punta Arenas. In Punta Arenas, an event occurred during the transfer from Punta Arenas—from the airport of Punta Arenas to the port—which really should be pointed out, because of the consequences that it had further on, and that is the fact that we were transferred in military vehicles, in military trucks, military cars—of course covered—and the rifle of one of the soldiers guarding us went off, ricocheted off the roof, and struck the right hand of Daniel Vergara Bustos, who was given cursory treatment in the fort, without further examination, with a very superficial treatment, and despite that, was taken to the Island with the rest of us. He still has not recovered use of his right hind; and it is still being treated. We were shipped in barges, naturally without receiving anything more than a sandwich for the whole day. We were treated with considerable violence, without being able to speak with each other, without being able to sleep. One of our companions who fell asleep, Aniceto Rodríguez, who is now in Caracas—the Senator—was struck with a rifle butt. An officer hit him with a rifle butt because he had fallen asleep. We reached the Island About 5:00 o'clock in the morning; and I repeat, without adequate clothing.


         There where old people there, like Dr. Edgardo Henríquez, the Rector of the University of Concepción, who was Minister of Education at that time, a man perhaps 65 years of age. There was Julio Pallestro, also a rather old man. We were then taken on foot—we went ashore from the barges onto a beach covered with snow—we had to travel several kilometers on foot. The older people—there were only five of us—were transferred to a car after going about two kilometers. Finally we reached a Navy Engineers Camp, which of course did not have the accommodations needed for a group as large as ours. There were something like 36 of us at that time, or less. We were received that morning by the Naval Officer in charge of the camp, Jorge Felé, who was a lieutenant, no, a commander. Jorge Felé came out and immediately informed us that we were prisoners of war—that was the first notification we had regarding our status. When we were visited by the Minister of Justice in the Military Academy, he told us that he was making the visit on his own account, without instructions from the Junta, and that he wished to intercede in our behalf so that we might leave the country. We were not told at that time what our legal status was then in the view of the Junta. Commander Felé told us for the first time that we had the status of prisoners of war, and in the first two or three months, we were treated with great violence: we had to sleep in small barracks, absolutely unsuitable, without ventilation and above all without the minimum space needed.


         Dr. Aréchaga: May I ask just one question to try to understand better: you were informed that you were detained as prisoners of war? Were some of you arrested in circumstances where you were making use of arms? (There is an interruption, and another prisoner speaks).


         Prisoner: They issued an edict by radio, summoning such and such persons to come forward, and those who were named then reported voluntarily on the same day, the 11th, because they were called in. Under the state of siege nobody could go out into the street. So those who were not arrested in the usual places, the Ministry, La Moneda, or at home, reported voluntarily. Therefore, nobody was caught unawares with weapons.


         Dr. Aréchaga: And those who were caught in La Moneda, for example, a place that was under air attack at that time, didn't any one have a weapon in his hands?


         Prisoner: They were surrendering, most of then went out with a white flag. Also, many of us here are from that sector, and others have disappeared.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Thank you very much.


         Prisoner: We can give you all of those details. The truth is that our legal status at that time was changing, because shortly after we arrived, as I said, they classified us as prisoners of war, and referred to the Geneva Convention regarding how we were to be treated, so that we were then considered as prisoners in concentration camps. Later, we were considered political prisoners. If I remember correctly, by Marine Commander Carrasco. It was only yesterday that we were informed that this camp would be called a military camp. They surely must have told you that. So that we have had different legal classifications.


         Another prisoner speaks: Mr. Chairman, I am one of the few who has had the opportunity to speak with attorneys, because most of the others have not had that opportunity in ten months.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Who are the lawyers?


         Prisoner: I believe that there are two here. We have all had the opportunity to speak with our layers. I asked him expressly what my legal status was, whether he knew what it was, because he had been in contact with the Ritoque authorities. So it seems that, in general, our status has not changed. (Another prisoner interrupts).


         Prisoner: Regarding our legal status, I think it should be added at this time that even in the text of one of the decree laws hidden away there we are, in addition to being prisoners of war, in a kind of hostage status, as the word can be interpreted, because we are detained for what might happen with or without our will both inside the country and abroad. And this status of hostage has clearly been shown in the kind of treatment they have announced to us and have given us. At any rate, we are under the threat even here of mediate punishment in the event of an attack on the camp, whether it be real or fictitious. We have been subjected to attack drills in which the entire procedure centered on the need to eliminate the group at the first sign of attack. And this is true, although our alleged responsibilities of any kind have never been brought out, because even now many of us have never really been interrogated except on property matters, regarding taxes. They even informed us openly in some of the detention centers that the specific mission of the guards was to liquidate us before defending the camp.


         Another prisoner speaks: That's true. In one of the places where I was detained, in the Air Force Academy, I was immediately told that any attack against the Academy would mean that the prisoners would be shot. All the prisoners including myself were told this.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Thank you very much, gentlemen. I thing that we should continue with the statement to keep the record straight.


         Prisoner: Very well, I believe that the excessive, and furthermore unnecessary, violence to which we were subjected as soon as we reached Dawson Island should be stressed here—absolutely inadequate housing, the lack of sanitary services. We were forced to wash ourselves with water we took from a ditch that had passed through the sanitary services in the previous group's camp; there were prisoners here when we arrived; they were prisoners from Magallanes, the Province of Magallanes. You know that that island is south of the Straits of Magellan. Consequently, we had to wash even our cooking utensils in the same water that had previously passed through the latrines of the other camp. With regard to food, it should also be stressed that it was absolutely insufficient, as was verified by the doctors, the two doctors who were imprisoned with us: the former Minister of Public Health, Dr. Jirón, and the personal physician of President Allende, Dr. Patricio Gijón. This was later confirmed by two National Red Cross doctors, who came to visit us after one or two months I believe, more or less. Then, in addition to that, not to go into too many details, it should be pointed out that, as soon as we arrived, we were subjected to forced labor. It need not be pointed out that we were surrounded with barbed wire fences. Consequently, we could not move about, we were confined to a very small yard, and then we were subjected to forced labor, which of course had a number of undesirable effects on our health, I believe, because we did not have even the minimum clothing suitable for the region. The forced labor meant for example that one of the prisoners, Vladimir Arellano, the former Budget Director of the Treasury Department, suffered an accident at work that cost him a paralyzed right arm because of a fracture. During our stay on Dawson Island, we put up at least some 16 to 18 kilometers of telephone poles and wire.


         Dr. Aréchaga: About 200 poles?


         Prisoner: No, many more. One for every 50 meters. The word basically consisted of setting up telephone poles.


         Dr. Aréchaga: What is the peat bog work I've heard about?


         Prisoner: Two of our companions here worked very actively in the peat bogs.


         Another prisoner: It's a project they invented. They didn't know anything about it. The stuff is a kind of mud, a bog, in which a particular type of fern has decomposed. The military maintained—maybe they're right, maybe they have technical information on the subject—that it's good for fertilizer. So we had to work in that mud. Of course those who had boots suffered a little less than those of us who had no boots at that time. They had to get into the mud, pull out the decomposing ferns and pile them in big heaps; but the worst part of the work is that we spent a great deal of time on it and later they made no use of the material whatever, that is, we couldn't even have the satisfaction that the work was of some use. That was the famous peat bog – mud all day long.


         Another prisoner: It might be useful to give a brief description of our work. Basically, there was setting up telephone poles, a work for which we of course had no protection, because workers who do that kind of work of course use special hard hats, gloves, boots, safety belts, etc. Then there was loading trucks with large cobblestones, again, with no kind of safety measure. We cleared the road, dug ditches and trenches, put up wire fences (because livestock is raised on the island), carried sacks of gravel on our shoulders on the run. To make the last part clear, it was forced labor, and they were very violent, particularly because they gave no consideration to any safety aspects. The worst part is, as I said, that a rather serious accident occurred, since Arellano still has not completely recovered the use of his right arm. We were under those conditions about two months, before receiving letters from our families and before receiving any kind of clothing suitable for the region, to protect against strong winds, rain, and snow. And all this with food consisting in the first few months of a very simple lentil soup in the morning and evening, a cup of tea with bread in the morning—we had milk with the tea when assistance arrived from the International Red Cross. As a result of all of this, we lost an average of from 10 to 12 kilos per person and in some cases 20. For example there is the specific case of the Minister of Interior and Defense, José Tohá, who was first transferred to Punta Arenas, returned to the island again, and was transferred to Santiago, where he met the end that you know about. This fundamentally affected his health. We have already spoken of José Tohá, Dr. Edgardo Henríquez, and Julio Palestro.


         Dr. Aréchaga: What was the state of health, as you were able to determine, of José Tohá, when he left Dawson Island the last time?


         Prisoner: Well, of course, he had lost considerable weight, it was really alarming. He was a man perhaps 1 meter 90 tall, or more, about 1 meter 92, and he lost an amount of weight that of course really affected him. There was also the case that has been mentioned here of the former Rector of the University of Concepción, the Minister of Education. In addition to losing weight, he had a very serious heart condition which made it necessary to take him first to Punta Arenas, and then to Santiago. He was then returned to the island in much worse physical condition than when he was taken to Santiago. The same is true of Palestro, and Tohá, and Daniel Vergara, as well as Arellano and Puccio. Arellano was taken to Punta Arenas, and while not fully recovered, was returned to the island. Daniel Vergara's case is exactly the same; he isn't fully recovered. Puccio and Daniel Vergara were in the military hospital, were transferred without having been released and without the knowledge, and against the advice, of the doctors. They were then immediately taken from here to the Valparaiso Naval Hospital.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Where is Dr. Puccio now?


         Prisoner: He is here.


         Another prisoner: He is Puccio's son.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Your father is also here now?


         Prisoner: Yes, he is.


         Prisoner: The forced labor continued; the bad food continued; the system continued. Naturally the weather improved a little when the summer arrived, and we were transferred to a concentration camp made for that purpose, with two or three rows of barbed wire around some barracks, common dining rooms with sentry boxes overlooking them, with guards carrying automatic pistols and machine guns—really extraordinary display of force. We had various commanders at that place, which was first called a camp, or a concentration camp, and then was called a prisoners camp. But among the various commanders and armed forces groups that were in charge of us, perhaps mention should be made of the group in charge of the marines, whose commander was Marine Lieutenant Carrasco. Immediately after that officer arrived, he assembled us in the compound of the camp which contained in addition to ourselves, prisoners sentenced by the Military Court of Magallanes. They were about 300 in all. He assembled us in the central yard to notify us that from that time on, we would be under military discipline and that consequently, we were forced not only to sing the national anthem at 8 o'clock in the morning and at 6 o'clock in the evening—which we still do—we not only have to do military drills, but we are subject to real military discipline—an actual military regime, with corporal punishment, with excessive physical exercises. For example, the forced labor now no longer consists of merely doing the work itself, but those who carried sacks of gravel on their shoulders were forced to go in formation while they carried the sacks and return on the run, with military drills, with military instruction, because they declared that they had instructions from the Junta that we were to receive military instruction. We were forced to sing various military songs—marches; and violence reached its maximum level in that period. There are some cases here, for example, Anibal Palma, the distinguished Jaime Concha, Vega, Lawner—many of us, including myself suffered a great deal. There was the famous machine that was turned by hand to make electric current for a transmitter, which of course when it lasted over a half an hour was torture and a really exhausting thing. They force Anibal Palma to climb a steeper hill than this on the run once, twice, three, four, five times. And after that he was forced to do knee bends. Jaime Concha was forced to run 1,000 meters and then do knee bends. In short there was much punishment. Alejandro Jiliberto, who is also here with us, was locked up for a very minor thing. Then one day, before the marines came, an army colonel whom we had never seen suddenly arrived. He summoned us together in the central yard to tell us that weapons had been found in an inspection that had been made in the camp two days before, and this had been mentioned by the Junta President himself, General Pinochet, who stated in a public speech that preparations were being made for a rebellion on the island and that arms had been found. He even said that a machine gun had been found, and you can understand that nobody came on the island without being previously searched by the military. We had been searched, our baggage had been searched—if I said 50 times I would be underestimating. So that we were assembled in the yard after the search in which they found what they called weapons—some pieces of wire that had been sharpened. The ends of the wire had been sharpened so as to make drawing on some rocks that are found on the island beach. The rocks are very black and very soft so that drawings could be made on them—I don't know whether there are any around here or not. This was only known by all the authorities, but was even encouraged by them. So that Lieutenant Barriga, who was second in command, and Commander Felé, who was later in charge of us attempted to hold a contest among the prisoners on engraving these stones, and it was these items provided by themselves that we prepare in the workshop of the camp's marine engineers, with the knowledge of the officers, the non-commissioned officers, etc. They were classified as weapons that were in our possession to provoke armed rebellion on Dawson Island. Of course, the prisoner who at that time was the delegate for the group of prisoners from Santiago and Valparaiso stepped forward to tell the Colonel that this was absolutely false and capricious. He said that there was a Lieutenant named Santiago present there who could verify that we did our work openly, in broad daylight, and in front of our guards, so that these objects, these primitive tools, could hardly be classified as weapons, particularly against the rather high caliber machine guns that they had in their hands. So that if there were a fight, it would have been rather unequal. From the time we arrived at the Military Academy, until two days ago here, the excessive firing drills in the camps in which we have been has been really incredible, unnecessary, and absurd. I believe that of course the long time we have now been prisoners has in some way influenced our minds. As soon as we arrived at the Military Academy, we had to put up with machine-gun fire around the Academy night after night. This continued first at the Dawson camp, then at the second camp, and now here in this place, which was a prisoner camp and now for the last 24 or 48 hours has become a military camp. It used to be a beach resort. A Lieutenant threatened us that any failure to obey an order might result in shooting. (Interruption by another prisoner). While we were in the first camp, there were also mock firing squads for the prisoners from Magallanes, and I want to add that the situation is becoming more serious than it might appear at first glance, because it is becoming constant. Especially in the last phase, we were subject to constant provocation, particularly by the officers in charge of the troops. In their treatment of us, in the speeches with which they threatened us, there were so many insults that we had no doubt that what they wanted to do was to provoke a reaction from us so that they could carry out their plan.


         Dr. Aréchaga: You said that during the time that you were on Dawson Island, some other prisoners arrived there, transferred from Punta Arenas. Did you have the opportunity to get to know any of those persons? Did you meet up with Ivan Aristides Contreras Martínez? A young 20 year old student. Ivan Aristides Contreras Martínez, who was transferred from Punta Arenas to Dawson Island.


         Prisoner: On what date?


         Dr. Aréchaga: September 18, 1973.


         Prisoner: No, we were separated in different barracks.


         Another prisoner: However we can give you information that might be just as important as that, about people we do know. For example, the Deputy from Magallanes, Carlos González, who—and there are a number of witnesses to this—was not only subjected to brutal and tremendously harsh physical treatment, which left indescribable after-effects, but they even cut a “Z” on his back with a bayonet. I believe he can still show it to you; it will be there for many years.


         Dr. Aréchaga: Thank you.


         Another prisoner: The treatment was as violent as you have been told, and not only physically, but also psychologically, with harassment of all kinds, during all the months that we were there. Perhaps I should go into more detail just to show better the environment in which we were living. When the marine group arrived, we were told of a number of signals, whistles, sirens, etc. to warn us, among other things, of a possible attack from outside, which would be signaled with bugles, while fire, would be signaled by sirens. In the event of attack from outside, we were to stay in our barracks. In case of fire, on the other hand, we were to go outside and fall in in front of the barracks, so that they set up an entire system to deal with emergencies. One night there was an exercise with great commotion by those of them who were leaving the Island. They sounded the bugle simultaneously with the fire siren. This of course confused many of us, because if we went out, the guards were under orders to shoot us, as we had been previously notified. Both the camp Commander and the officers had officially announced that. There was a lot of machine-gun fire, of all calibers, because they had also installed larger caliber weapons. It all lasted for a rather long time, and we were never given any explanation of any kind.


         There was a system to deliver packages, which worked in the beginning, after we were there two months. It worked relatively well, but the system ended up by being absolutely discriminatory in that we did not know what was send to us, but we did know how little we received. It was explained to us later that this was a system to set up a common fund, etc. But the fact is that the packages were not being received, and of course our families had a great deal of difficulty in sending them because they are not receiving the salaries and income that they used to; they are in very difficult economic straits. It should also be pointed out how a large quantity of books was confiscated from us by order of Commander Zamora—Captain Zamora—the last military officer we had. First, all of the books—all of them, absolutely all of them—were taken without any explanation whatever. It is a matter of record that the books had been authorized previously by the SENDET office—by the authorities who were in charge of us. After many difficulties and many petitions, only a few of them were returned to us—very few. To date, most of those books have not been returned to us; some of them were very valuable, language studies, etc. This Captain Zamora—the one who confiscated the books—also confiscated food, radios, and packages sent to us by our families. The packages were constantly rifled by them. The items that were sent to us were so different from those we received: In order to expose this deliberate robbery, our people sent us lists of the items in the packages. We never received the lists, but only an enumeration of the three or four items that were delivered to us. All the others remained for their use and benefit. Similarly, the items sent to us by the Red Cross—such as blankets and powdered milk—were for the exclusive benefit of the guards. We did not receive most of the things that were sent to us.



         Dr. Aréchaga: Did you receive correspondence with any regularity?


         Prisoner: Yes, it was delayed around 60 days, and censored.


         Another prisoner: I personally received a telegram from my lawyer that was totally censored. They left the salutation and the name of my lawyer. I still have the telegram.


         Prisoner: It was all deliberate. Pedro Luis Vega, who has two sons who are fighting in the Israeli army in the Middle East conflict, received a letter from one of them with a paragraph reading: “Dear Poppa, I am sorry to have to tell you about a misfortune that is going to hurt you a great deal”… all the rest was censored. A boy who is in Israel cannot affect in any way the internal factors of international policy, not even the security they seek. But it was a matter of suggestion, of crushing an individual who is in this concentration camp, and leaving him to worry about the fate of his other son. (Text omitted).


         Prisoner: I was detained in the Military Hospital. With authorization of the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Military Hospital, who read my letters, I wrote to my son, who was in Las Melosas, and this is all my son received (he displayed a paper with a number of parts clipped out, leaving only a few fragments). This is a letter of May 30 from someone who had been a prisoner eight to ten months. I knew by that time what I could say and what I could not say. For that reason, I sent the letter to the Major and asked him: “Tell me if this will past.”


         Prisoner: That was how the correspondence system was, with censorship such as you have just heard. It continued that way. And there was the food system—not only the bad quality, and the absolutely insufficient quantity—but in the beginning we were given only a very few minutes to eat, in a tent where the cold was really hard to bear. And then we had to wash up, ourselves, without any facilities of course, with water from that sewage ditch. On one occasion, the lights went out, and of course we were warned that any movement would be punished by a machine gun burst. We always are with soldiers aiming at us, and with soldiers inside the dining room; this continues to this day. I don't know whether they will withdraw them now that you are here. Until today, we had soldiers right here. Also we were absolutely forbidden to speak in the dining room. In the last period, we ate in absolute silence. Of course we lined up before entering the dining room, and lined up to go out, etc. (Text omitted). Some officers were worse than others; some were more vicious than others. For example, one of them who looked like a schizophrenic constantly played with a hand grenade while we were eating. He was always loading his rifle and constantly threatening us, absolutely all the time, during mealtimes, except for the forced labor that we have indicated. Then some of them tried to increase the pressure on some of us, for example, on Luis Corvalán—I don't know if he's around here. Luis Corvalán is the Secretary General of the Communist Party. They piled work on him. Up to the time I'm telling you about, the delegate had the task of assigning work, and naturally, he did it taking age into consideration, rotating people, so that they would be better able to stand up under it. Although Corvalán sometimes was given lighter work, he was taken from it and assigned to heavier work. They watched over him especially, made him run, made him carry heavy sacks, push heavy wheelbarrows, etc., and all on the run. The day before we were to return to the center of the country, quite a bit of rain fell. They kept us working there under the rain, with inadequate clothing, with nothing to protect us from the rain until we were practically soaked through. The transfer was also something that was really contemptible and ill-intended. We were told absolutely nothing that evening, and then we were awakened at 5:00 in the morning, with orders to gather all our things, and were taken on foot from the camp to the airport, which was rather far away. Although the camp had its own trucks, we walked at forced march about 12 kilometers. There were old men, some with very high blood pressure, such as Miguel Muñoz, who has hypertension. There were other like Andrés Sepúlveda, who has heart trouble, Jirón, who had a bleeding ulcer. The 12 kilometers on foot that I described included crossing a ditch that had torn up the road. We had to jump in some cases; it was difficult to get by. Then we had to cross a river, in the icy water, in May, in the middle of the winter, at 3:00 in the morning naked up to the waist. We had to cross the river and go on, and a few minutes later the truck came back, which had carried the … Not all of them, it wasn't for all of them. The big river washed away the road in that season, but of course the truck is able to cross it perfectly well. However, we had to go on foot. Captain Zamora forced us to cross on foot, naked up to the waist. Of course he waited in the truck and returned in the truck. And under what conditions was the flight made? When we arrived in Punta Arenas, we were given a light snack, and then taken into a huge Hercules airplane. They took away our belts, our shoe laces, our pens, our cigarette lighters, our cigarettes—we haven't seen most of those things since—before we were taken to the plane. They tied us with some nylon cord. We were tied there and taken to Santiago. When we landed in Santiago, there was a “show” that is something to remember, because it was almost picturesque. When we arrived in Santiago, the camp was all lit up. Waiting for us there was the Chief of the SENDET office, Colonel Espinoza, with a large detachment of the four branches of the armed forces. There then appeared some individuals who seemed to be male nurses, dressed in white, very correct, carrying what looked like first aid kits, wearing the Red Cross uniform. Then each of us was greeted by the Colonel, who inquired about our health, about our stay in Dawson, etc. We were then very cordially invited by the persons dressed as Red Cross nurses, to step forward. This was done in the most cordial way possible, and then when we reached the lighted area, hoods were placed over us, and we were taken to various vehicles and handcuffed and taken away.



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