for Detention, Torture and Extermination
series of cases labeled as "Villa Grimaldi" includes cases
related to torture and detention centers Londres 38, Jose
Domingo Cañas, Venda Sexy as well as Villa Grimaldi.
Two characteristics common to all these cases prompted Judge
Juan Guzman, who investigated the cases until October 14,
2002 when the Supreme Court transferred them to Santiago Appellate
Court Judge Alejandro Solis, join the proceedings. First,
they all involve secret detention and torture centers operated
by the DINA from 1974 to 1976. Second, Villa Grimaldi was
the last place many of the executed and disappeared persons
in these cases were seen alive.
secret detention centers of the dictatorship generally held
prisoners who were never officially acknowledged as in detention.
The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission describes
the system of detention in the clandestine prisons of the
"Some of the persons brought to these facilities
were released after a period of imprisonment and torture.
Others were removed and executed in other locations and with
but a few exceptions, in which the body was recovered, remain
disappeared. A third group of prisoners was transferred to
detention centers where although torture was not practiced,
they were still cut off from the outside world, prohibited
from receiving visitors. Or they were released, or even returned
to the secret detention and torture centers, some of whom
regained their freedom while others were made to disappear."
It is important
to note that these centers were never a secret to the Military
Junta, which paid the water, electricity and all operational
purposes of this article, we will focus on Villa Grimaldi,
center of operations for the Metropolitan Intelligence Brigade
who were brought blindfolded and remained blindfolded throughout
their detention at Villa Grimaldi attempted to orient themselves
geographically by the road of helicopters and airplanes. In
fact, Villa Grimaldi was located in an isolated zone near
the the Tobalaba Airport, where many Army helicopters were
based. A little farther up the road was the Telecommunications
Regiment, Augusto Pinochet's base of operations on the day
of the coup.
location was strategically important for the DINA. In November
1973 the property, a place of intellectual gatherings during
the 1970s, was expropriated by the military, as was the case
of all buildings employed by the DINA. The DINA controlled
the property until late 1976. After 1976 the successor to
the DINA, the CNI inherited the property, which it used for
administrative purposes until 1986. In 1987 the property passed
to the family of the CNI's last director Hugo Salas Wenzel
until expropriated by the State of Chile in 1993. Some months
before the inauguration of the first post-dictatorship democratic
government, in 1989, military personnel bulldozed the buildings
to the ground, in a futile attempt to erase the memory of
the site that served the DINA for the longest time as torture
Grimaldi, also known as Cuartel Terranova, Pedro Espinoza
Bravo was director, with Marcelo Moren Brito second in command.
Under this command came the Caupolican and Puren Brigades,
each subdivided in several units of 20 to 30 agents. The Puren
Brigade, under Army Major Raul Iturriaga Neumann, was the
intelligence structure, with the job of gathering, processing,
infiltrating, and transferring information. The Caupolican
Brigade, initially headed by Moren Brito and later by Miguel
Krassnoff Marchenko and subdivided in the Halcon I and Halcon
II units, was the operative and interrogational structure.
National Stadium and Chile Stadium, Villa Grimaldi had the
greatest concentration of prisoners in the Santiago area.
An estimated 5000 women and men were imprisoned in Villa Grimaldi,
some for a few days, others for weeks or even months. During
January and February of 1975 an average 3 persons were brought
to Villa Grimaldi each day. All were routinely subjected to
torture. From the roster of the disappeared, 142 persons were
last seen alive in detention at Villa Grimaldi, from where
their traces are lost.
its initial period, Villa Grimaldi operatives targeted the
leadership of the MIR.
In those years, from 1974 to 1975, some prisoners were executed
but the majority was transferred to other detention centers,
such as Tres Alamos, and eventually released. Some of the
persons executed during this period were:
Guajardo Zamorano and Sergio Tormen Mendez, both cyclists
and members of the MIR, were arrested July 20, 1974 in their
bicycle shop. Jose
Ramirez Rosales, who replaced Guajardo in his unit of the
MIR, was arrested a week later on July 27, 1974, inhis home
by Osvaldo Romo and Basclay Zapata. The three were seen
in Londres 38 and later in Villa Grimaldi, from where they
were made to disappear.
Muller Silva, member of the MIR and filmmaker with Chile
Films, was arrested together with his co-worker and girlfriend
Carmen Bueno, on November 29, 1974, a day after the premiere
of his first film. Both were taken to Villa Grimaldi, and
were last seen in Cuatro Alamos.
Robotham Bravo, a sociology student, was arrested together
with Claudio Thauby Pacheco, both members of the Socialist
Party , December 31, 1974 on a public street in Santiago.
They were last seen in Villa Grimaldi in January 1975. On
July 11, 1974 in town near Buenos Aires, Argentina two unrecognizable
cadaveres were found, one bearing the falsified identification
card of Jaime Robotham. A mes later, his name appeared among
the names of 119 other Chileans printed in fictitious newspapers
of Argentina and Brazil, as part of the orchestration know
as Operation Colombo.
January 1975 the following persons were arrested and were
last seen alive in Villa Grimaldi: Agustin Martinez Meza,
Patricio Urbina Chamorro, Claudio Contreras Hernandez, Miguel
Angel Sandoval Rodriguez, Julio Fidel Flores Perez, Jose
Patricio del Carmen Leon Galvez, Luis Gregorio Munoz Rodriguez
and Juan Rene Molina Mogollones. All were members of the
MIR and their disappearance resulted after they were taken
to Villa Grimaldi.
1976 Villa Grimaldi focused its repressive apparatus primarily
against the Communist Party.
Practically every person brought to Villa Grimaldi after
1976 was assassinated, leaving few witnesses. Among the
many persons killed during the course of that year were:
persons, all members of the Communist Party Central Committee,
arrested in early May 1976 in what has since come to be
known as Operacion Calle Conferencia, were last seen in
Villa Grimaldi. They include: Mario Zamorano Donoso, Lenin
Diaz Silva, Marcelo Concha Bascunan, Cesar Cerda Cuevas
and CP subsecretary general Vi�ctor D�az Lopez, who was
last seen in the Tower of Villa Grimaldi.
Ugarte Roman, member of the CP Central Committee was arrested
August 9, 1976. Several witnesses saw her in the Tower.
She died as a result of torture, and her body, bearing evidence
of multiple fractures, was later found outside the coastal
village of Los Molles.
July 1976 the repression was directed against CP members
of various editorial and printing professions. Among the
people taken to Villa Grimaldi and who disappeared subsequent
to their detention: Guillermo Martinez Quijon, Oscar Ramos
Garrido, Oscar Ramos Vivanco and Juan Aurelio Villarroel
Zarate. � Vicente Atencio Cortes, former member of Congress
and also member of the PC Central Committee, was arrested
August 11, 1976 and was taken to Villa Grimaldi.
prisoners - living witnesses of the cruelty unleashed in
the Villa Grimaldi country estate - and other persons associated
with the Parque por la Paz project, founded in December
10, 1994, tell this story.
Flores, arrested and imprisoned at Villa Grimaldi in December
1975, is a member of the Parque por la Paz Committee.
Pisagua corresponds to the initial phase in which the dictatorship
was installing itself in the country and employed forms
of mass, wide-scale repression. Hundreds of thousands were
arbitrarily and indiscriminately arrested and imprisoned
in Pisagua, the National Stadium, Chile Stadium, and Chacabuco
Villa Grimaldi corresponds to the next phase when the dictatorship
sought to prevent the resurgence of popular organizations.
The objective was to prevent the younger leaders and party
members from re-organizing. The policy was one of more selective
repression. In Pisagua and the Caravan of Death, members
of the Armed Forces participated with their full ranks,
files and war councils. The Armed Forces openly exhibited
their faces of repressors. How do DINA agents operate from
Villa Grimaldi? They operate with political names and aliases.
At Villa Grimaldi they conceal their identities, in a more
sophisticated repressive policy that includes concealment
of the prisoners and of the bodies of the people they execute.
Santibañez, President of the Parque por la Paz Corporation
until 2003, was one of the architects who designed the Parque
por la Paz.
Atrocities were committed in Pisagua but in Villa Grimaldi
atrocity was the system. It was not that atrocities were
sometimes committed. Torture was the daily system within
that atrocity. The functionaries who participated at Villa
Grimaldi were trained torturers, trained at the School of
the Americas. We have discovered that the method of atrocity
was neither casual nor the result of rage or madness. What
has impressed us most is that they considered it normal
and routine. What they were doing was good and they did
it for the sake of the country.
Facile explanations arise to produce oblivion, to avoid
confronting things. They say, "someone just went too far,"
or "this was the work of madmen." Or it was the consequence
of the climate of convulsion produced by the Popular Unity
government. Therefore, those who produced the convulsion
are to blame. Those are all easy justifications intended
to avoid the truth. The truth is that Villa Grimaldi was
not the result of a few excesses or madness. It was a system.
Rodrigo Del Villar was imprisoned at Villa Grimaldi
four months, beginning in January 1975.
Villa Grimaldi was a place of experimentation. They started
out brutally, and then the guys began to learn how to do
their jobs better. Torture was not sophisticated. There
is nothing sophisticated about making someone stick his
head in a plastic bag. The method was so elementary, that
when the United Nations inspectors came, it was easy to
conceal what was going on there.
The torturers concealed their own identity as well as the
identity of each prisoner. The main thing was that the prisoner
was no longer a person. We were all given numbers - mine
was 83 - and we were always called by those numbers, never
by our names. The intent was to deprive us of our individual
personalities. The aim was to transform you into a substance
that could be easily managed. I think that was part of the
policy behind making people disappear. If you are only a
number, it is easier to make you disappear. It was not an
individual who disappeared; only a number disappeared. Stripping
a person's identity was part of the plan of extermination.
For a collection of narratives by and about former prisoners
of Villa Grimaldi see www.lashistoriasquepodemoscontar.com
than 80 criminal complaints have been filed related to Villa
Grimaldi. Of these, approximately 45 were filed for disappeared
persons, 6 for executed prisoners, and 47 by surviving former
prisoners. Thirteen attorneys represent different cases
related to Villa Grimaldi.
Interview with Hiram Villagra, Exposing
the Crime of Torture
The cases labeled "Villa Grimaldi" are joined because the
detention center by that name in the Penalolen sector of
Santiago was the last place the disappeared and executed
prisoners were seen alive. Two other common denominators
link these cases: 1) Nearly all the plaintiffs were members
of the MIR; and 2) The defendants were all DINA agents,
many of whom operated from Villa Grimaldi. Also, all the
criminal complaints name Augusto Pinochet as defendant.
condition of former Miristas that characterizes most of
the plaintiffs is explained by the fact that the first period
of Villa Grimaldi was aimed against the MIR and many prisoners
survived. However, during the subsequent period of Villa
Grimaldi, directed against the leadership of the Communist
Party, is much more difficult to judicially verify: nearly
all prisoners brought there in those years were killed,
sparing very few witnesses and, consequently, presenting
obstacles to persecution in court.
Nelson Caucoto, attorney in more than 45 cases filed
on behalf of the families of the disappeared, explained
to Memoria y Justicia (Interview December 2002):
procedure for administering cases is not very systematic.
Some persons who disappeared from Villa Grimaldi are included
as part of the case called "Condor." Others are in a case
under the name "Operacion Colombo," even though they also
were at Villa Grimaldi. At one point, the court considered
systematizing all the cases, but this was never done. Ideally
the cases should have been systematized in four or five
chapters, such as Londres 38, Jose Domingo Cañas,
etc - but under a single judge."
The indictments Santiago Appeals Court Judge Juan Guzman
ordered in July 2001 originated from a petition Nelson Caucoto
filed on behalf of 20 victims:
"I realized that the arrest, participation
of the DINA, and the disappearance of these 20 persons had
been proven. It makes no sense to amass information if you
don't begin to squeeze.
"Villa Grimaldi is a vast case with
an enormous amount of information that was dispersed during
more than 20 years in hundreds of cases. Your view of the
facts changes when all the information is brought together.
You can assemble an account of the relation between all
the agents who were there, all the witnesses who were present,
and all the disappeared persons. From that perspective,
I think the facts of the case have been detailed very well.
And the Court has upheld most of the indictments Juan Guzman
Judge Alejandro Solis as special judge, we finally have
judicial proof of what had been impossible to prove in the
past. We now have judicially proven the disappearance of
persons, the imprisonment of these same persons at Villa
Grimaldi, the participation of DINA agents and their respective
identities, as well as the presence of surviving witnesses.
An entire body of information has been gathered that makes
it possible to judicially determine at least that Chileans
in this country were abducted and made to disappear. God
willing, some day we may also be able to discover where
they are, although this is much more difficult. But a defendant
may be convicted without determining the whereabouts of
the person he abducted because it can be proven that the
disappeared person was at Villa Grimaldi, and the crime
stops there. Finding the bodies will have to be a task for
Many cases of persons who disappeared after detention in
Villa Grimaldi were first denounced to the Legal Department
of the Vicariate of Solidarity, where Nelson Caucoto worked
from 1976. Caucoto filed the original habeas corpus writs
and the initial complaints during dictatorship when the
Judicial Branch was inoperative. For a lawyer working in
human rights, the exercise of the law profession in those
years when every habeas corpus writ was denied required
strong personal conviction and foresight. Caucoto describes
always worked with a single-minded procedural perspective.
You ask what motivated me to keep working on these cases.
It was to keep the cases open, waiting for a better moment.
Maybe some people thought that moment would never arrive,
but I always believed that it would."
also The Law Profession
moments in the case
Alejandro Solis issued the first sentences in Chilean judicial
history against the former DINA director and agents for
crimes committed during the dictatorship. The case involves
the arrest and subsequent disappearance on January 7, 1974
of MIR member Miguel Angel Sandoval Rodriguez, from the
clandestine prison Villa Grimaldi. Judge Solis sentenced
Manuel Contreras to 15 years in prison, in the first conviction
of the former DINA chief since the 7-year sentence handed
down against him in 1995 for the assassination of Orlando
four former DINA agents sentenced were as follows:
Marcelo Moren Brito, to 15 years as author of abduction;
Miguel Krassnoff Marchenko, to 10 years as author of abduction;
Fernando Lauriani Maturana to 5 years as accomplice in the
abduction; and former Carabineros official Gerardo Godoy
Garcia to 5 years as accomplice in the abduction and disappearance.
Miguel Angel Sandoval's name appeared among the list of
119 disappeared prisoners in what was known as Operation
Colombo, an orchestration that attempted to create the impression
that they had left Chile and had killed each other in Argentina
human rights advocates in Chile have speculated that the
designated judges would conclude the investigations of the
cases in their charge by applying the amnesty law. However,
in this first case to reach the sentencing phase, Judge
Solis did not apply the amnesty law, which also marks this
as a landmark case. The Supreme Court will decide the final
appeal in the case.
The Villa Grimaldi cases that Juan Guzman had investigated
were transferred to Santiago Court of Appeals Judge Alejandro
Solis Munoz, as part of the redistribution of the many cases
originally assigned to Guzman.
Judge Juan Guzman issued indictments against the same seven
former DINA agents for the disappearance of 23 persons who
were arrested between 1974 and 1975 and were last seen in
The Fifth Chamber of the Santiago Court of Appeals modified
the indictments, maintaining only the crime of abduction,
and citing statutes of limitation for the crimes of illicit
association and the murder of Humberto Menanteau Aceituno.
� Regarding the cases of the other 11 disappeared persons,
the judges decided not to apply res judicata (former adjucation)
even though the amnesty law had been invoked in some of
the cases. Therefore, the investigation of the other cases
Judge Gabriela Perez Paredes initiated a series of cross-examinations
in which persons who were prisoners between 1975 and 1976
confronted former DINA agents. The former prisoners recognized
their captors and described the torture to which they were
subjected. � Osvaldo Romo Mena was the only former DINA
agent who acknowledged participation in some arrests. However,
he denied having tortured prisoners, which he indicated
was the job of Krassnoff, Moren and Zapata. Miguel Krassnoff
denied having served as DINA agent, stating that he only
had a desk job as intelligence analyst. He was also the
only defendant to appeal the indictment.
testimony of more than 70 former prisoners of secret prisons
convinced Judge Juan Guzman that: "... the National Intelligence
Directive, the DINA, maintained various clandestine prisons
in Santiago such as Londres 38, Jose Domingo Cañas,
Venda Sexy, Villa Grimaldi, and Cuatro Alamos. In these
places the prisoners were subjected to illegal physical
abuse - torture - and were maintained in abduction. In some
cases homicides were committed against these prisoners,
and their bodies subsequently disappeared, and to this date
have not been found. "This agency, the DINA, was an intelligence
service of the government. Therefore, it had a great capacity
for centralized action, economic resources and access to
state funds. In practice, it was a secret agency that acted
outside the bounds of the law...." These findings led Judge
Guzman to issue indictments for the crimes of abduction,
first degree murder, and illicit association committed against
11 disappeared persons and one executed political prisoner.
The seven defendants charged with these crimes are: Manuel
Contreras Sepulveda, Miguel Krassnoff Marchenko, Marcelo
Moren Brito, Basclay Zapata Reyes, Osvaldo Romo Mena, Conrado
Pacheco (retired Carabineros police official in charge of
Tres Alamos) and Pedro Alfaro (a lower-ranking Carabineros
to In Focus