Victor Diaz, assistant secretary general of the Communist
Party underground, was last seen alive in 1976 in Villa
Grimaldi. Some 31 years later, on May 12, 2007, on the same
premises, today transformed into Peace Park, more than 200
people gathered to honor his memory and example of courage.
Below we offer the translated transcription and excerpts
of the words spoken on that occasion by writer Jose
Miguel Varas, Communist Party Vice President Jorge
Insunza, attorney Eduardo
Contreras and Viviana Diaz,
vice president of the Association of Families of the Disappeared.
During many years the last known whereabouts of Victor Diaz
was The Tower, a tall wooden structure, originally a water
tower, adapted by the DINA in Villa Grimaldi that forced
prisoners to remain crouched in small wooden structures
that they had to enter crawling. However, since December
2006, when a former DINA collaborator confessed to Judge
Victor Montiglio, who investigated the Calle Conferencia
Case, it has come to light that sadistic DINA torturers
continued to torment prisoners taken from Villa Grimaldi,
only a couple of kilometers away, at 8630 Simon Bolivar
Street, until calculatingly killing them.
Varas, National Literature Award 2006
Many years ago, with no exaggeration, some 56 or 57 to be
exact, I chatted one night with that famous newspaper seller
known as "The Babe" (El Guagua) because he was
just a notch over a meter tall and, paradoxically, the most
outstanding leader of the Newspaper Sellers Sport Federation.
In all likelihood no one here ever knew him or even heard
of him. As a radio station worker and later journalist,
I was in the habit of stopping late at night at his kiosk
on the corner of Alameda and Ahumada, downtown Santiago,
always brightly lit, next to the entrance to the Ramis Clar
That was a meeting spot for Santiago night owls because
it was open past midnight. The main attraction, aside from
the afternoon newspaper, some clandestine Communist Party
(CP) leaflet, was lively conversation with The Babe, always
up on the latest political news, and he could also offer
cogent reflection on literature, philosophy, history and
other subjects. His solemn full name, which few people knew,
was Zorobabel Gonzalez, an oversized name for this pint-sized
man. He was openly and proudly Communist, which earned him
a quota of run-ins during the repressive years of President
Babe enjoyed lecturing about Communist Party history and
its worker leaders. His tales mixed historic fact with a
certain dose of legend or folklore. One night, in 1949 or
50 he told me about The Core Rock. His version of the story
involved a kind of indestructible nucleus, located in the
Heart of the Party. He explained it like this.
"It is what can never, ever be broken. It is so tough
that the teeth of the bourgeoisie and police crack on it.
You will not find the Core Rock in the bylaws. It is formed
by comrades harder than steel, the most tenacious, those
the Party can always count on. Always, no matter what and
for whatever, without questioning, without asking a thing,
and they are always there when the going gets hot."
And his small hands clenched shut around an imaginary rock.
Why bring up The Babe and his famous Core Rock today? Why
mention it now as we gather to remember Victor Diaz and,
once again, demand justice, upon learning the horrendous
details of how he was murdered and how so many other Communist
Party leaders were killed during that dark year of 1976?
In my opinion, Victor was one of those steely comrades the
Babe always talked about.
His schooling ended at third grade. His father was a miner
and his mother a washerwoman. Victor was the fourth of five
children. He began working while still a child to help put
food on the family table. When just a little boy, he began
helping his mother, delivering washed clothes to her customers.
At an age when other children do homework and play, he sold
newspapers along the streets of Tocopilla, in northern Chile.
At 18 years of age he entered the mouth of the La Despreciada
copper mine and began working as a miner, just like his
In April 1940 he entered the Communist Party. A likely influence
was his friend Victor Contreras, a stevedore who became
mayor of Tocopilla, and later Minister of Land and Colonization
during the brief period of Communist participation in government
before President Gabriel Gonzalez performed a political
somersault and began persecuting his allies. In 1948 Victor
had barely been married a month to Selenisa Caro, his lifelong
companion, when he was arrested and banished to Pisagua,
in what has been called "times of infamy," years
of anti Communist repression. From Pisagua he was taken
to Cosapilla, a village so miniscule that I have never been
able to find it on a map. From there he was sent to Putre,
a community 4000 meters above sea level whose Aymaran inhabitants,
eked out a living through subsistence agriculture and raising
llamas. Then he was taken to Copiapo, where he escaped and
ended up in Santiago, where, reunited with Selenisa and
the children, he carried out tasks as an underground and
active Communist member.
Around 1950 or 1951, Victor began working at the Horizonte
Press, on Lira Street in Santiago. The giant press that
printed the El Siglo had been dismantled in 1948 when repression
made circulation of the newspaper too risky. Machine parts
were numbered and hidden in various places, according to
precise instructions from the Czech engineer Alejandro Freiberg,
a CP Chile member. To assemble the enormous machine again
was a feat of technical mastery.
Diaz participated in this highly demanding and complex endeavor.
I do not know when or how he learned the printing trade.
Mostly likely, the old timers taught him and he shared lunch
or a pint with them after work at the corner bar at Lira
and Santa Victoria streets. The press machine parts were
transferred from their respective hiding places to the warehouse
on Lira Street and reassembled in absolute secrecy. Police
never had a clue what was going on. The reappearance of
the Communist newspaper El Siglo in August 1952, with President
Gonzalez Videla still in power, took the government completely
I first met Victor Diaz in 1954 or 1955. I was a journalist
for El Siglo and he worked the presses. We became fast friends.
He lived a block away from the press and would invite me
to join him for tea with bread and avocado, in his house
on Tocornal Street. There I met his wife Selenisa and his
then little daughter Viviana.
Victor, "El Chino" Diaz , as they called him,
was a burly man with oriental-looking eyes, like many people
of northern Chile. A man of few words, he had a deep voice,
thin moustache, an easy smile and a refined, polite manner.
A voracious reader, he would sit down at the dining table
to read after lunch, which was the only place in the small
house he could do that. His daughter Viviana describes him
as a methodical reader, jotting down notes in the margin
of the page, underlining sentences or paragraphs, sometimes
taking notes in a notebook. He deeply felt the need to strive
and constantly study in order to understand the world, history
and social class situation better and live up to the demands
and challenges that the Party and life in general posed.
When one of his daughters did poorly on a test and was kept
back a grade, he spoke to her seriously but not harshly,
in his convincing, somewhat ponderous style, "You must
concentrate more. You must make better use of time. We will
find you someone to help you study. I want you to finish
school and have a profession, that I could not have."
He wanted to better himself but never lose his class-consciousness.
He frequently talked about the importance of working with
dignity, no matter how lowly the job. "Work never dishonors
anyone," he would say. And also, "One should never
forget his origins."
He was a friend of Pablo Neruda and painter Delia del Carril,
commonly known as Hormiguita. Victor joined them at some
of their refuges during that clandestine year, 1948, before
the poet left Chile crossing the Andes on horseback. It
was a true friendship between comrades, much like the friendships
Neruda and Hormiga enjoyed with other working class Communist
leaders, Elias Lafertte, Galo Gonzalez, Julieta Campusano,
Andres Escobar, and Humberto Abarca. The poet sincerely
believed that it was he who learned most from conversations
with those illustrious proletarians.
In her marvelous book, Hormiga pinta caballos, the
writer Virginia Vidal transcribes parts of a long interview
with Victor Diaz, in which he speaks about his relationship
with Neruda and Delia del Carril during the period underground.
"It was then that I learned to understand and respect
intellectuals," says Victor. "Pablo and Hormiguita
couldnŐt stand to be shut indoors, so we would go out for
a walk in the afternoons. I would accompany them because
danger did not temper their desire to be outside in contact
with nature, and relish a breath of freedom. Then we would
share a cup of tea and conversation. Pablo loved to hear
stories about my childhood. I was a boy during the big economic
crisis with the joblessness and hunger of the 1930s."
When in August 1971, the Central Committee elected him assistant
secretary general of the Communist Party, Neruda, at the
time Chilean ambassador in Paris, sent him a card and a
bottle of exquisite French cognac as congratulations. Victor
held onto that bottle of cognac as if were holy water, and
made it last a long, long time. Perhaps until the days of
the coup and the systematic massacre and, once again, clandestine
existence, when without hesitation he accepted the highest
leadership position of the Communist Party after the arrest
of secretary general Luis Corvalan.
Arrested in May 1976, he fell into the hands of the Lautaro
Brigade, specialized unit in charge of personal security
for DINA chief Manuel Contreras and the physical elimination
of Communist leaders. He was taken to Villa Grimaldi, later
to Casa de Piedra, in Cajon del Maipo, which was the house
of Dario Sainte Marie, the former owner of the Clarin newspaper.
Finally, he was brought to 6830 Simon Bolivar Street (the
street number was later changed). At this center for systematic
extermination, the final stop of a brutal itinerary, sadistic
and highly technological torturers who comprised the Lautaro,
Puren and other brigades of the DINA subjected Diaz to suffering
day after day, week after week, during more than eight months.
They did the same to other Communist leaders arrested that
dark year of 1976: Mario Zamorano, Jaime Donato, Uldrico
Donaire, Edras Pinto, Jorge Mu–oz, Fernando Ortiz, Horacio
Cepeda, Lincoyan Berrios, Reinalda del Carmen Pereira.
The inquest headed by judge Victor Montiglio learned that
one of the heads of the DINA Lautaro Brigade, Army major
Juan Morales Salgado issued the following special orders
for carrying out these murders, "make them suffer."
That is how they annihilated the leaders of an historic
organization of the Chilean people. That is how they killed
Victor Diaz, whose noble figure we have gathered to remember
this morning in Villa Grimaldi, where so much pain was unleashed.
Jorge Insunza, Communist Party
Certainly we are gathered here to repudiate those who killed
Victor, but we also have come here to celebrate his life.
That proletarian nucleus life, is what convokes us today.
Possibly the hardest blow Pinochet dealt us was the loss
of that Core Rock, as Jose Miguel described it. In defense
of that life, so many people, who you would never imagine,
dared to take great risk during the first period underground.
Victor was confined to a room because the difficulties in
reorganizing the Party were immense. Together with Mario
Zamorano, we transferred him to a house. Do you know who
got us that house? The actress, Ana Gonzalez. The house
belonged to an architect who died recently. During a time
I lived there and willingly gave it up for Victor in the
firm belief that we had to protect the clandestine leadership
of the Party. This was after the arrest of Don Lucho (Luis
Corvalan), and was crucial for what came afterwards. I was
at Calle Conferencia many times with Victor, Mario, Donaire,
Most important today is to understand that the way we honor
those who sacrificed their lives is by building a broad,
powerful movement capable of ending this savage capitalism.
Restoring a strong worker movement, we must also open new
perspectives that will perpetuate the great values they
embodied, symbolized in Salvador Allende. It must be a movement
capable of incorporating new perspectives, as we have been
taught. Action must be designed in keeping with the reality
of the contemporary moment we live in. That means every
moment is a new moment, a new opportunity, for rebuilding
all over again. That is how we will honor those like Victor
Diaz who gave their lives.
In early 1974 Miguel Enriquez had died fighting. In 1975
the Socialist Party clandestine leadership headed by Carlos
Lorca fell. In 1976, the Organization of American States
was to hold its annual assembly in Chile, at the insistence
of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger with the intention
of legitimizing Pinochet. Officials thought the Communist
Party would resort to force to commit crimes while the Assembly
was being held. Therefore, in December 1975 the dictatorship
conceived of a plan to target the Communist Party, by forming
units of the DINA such as the Puren and Lautaro brigades,
with the explicit mission to wipe out the underground Communist
Party leadership. The Calle Conferencia ambush took place
in the first days of May 1976 and then Victor Diaz fell
on a May 12 like this one on Bello Horizonte Street.
Then there was silence, and for years no one knew what had
happened to them.
Gladys Marin filed the first criminal complaint against
Augusto Pinochet for Calle Conferencia Case, opening the
way for hundreds more cases. With more than 300 cases in
his charge Judge Guzman progressed as much as he humanly
could, but was not able to progress significantly in more
than a dozen and barely began to scratch the surface of
Calle Conferencia case. However, in recent months the patient
work of judge Victor Montiglio, as well as the notable work
of the Fifth Division of Detectives (Departamento quinto),
the special unit that investigates human rights violations,
some of those young men are with us this morning, tremendous
strides have been made in understanding this tragedy.
Today we know practically everything. We know about hiscourage.
We know how Victor confronted Pinochet personally at Casa
de Piedra, Cajon de Maipu and told him, "Your task
is impossible to achieve, General. Your endeavor to destroy
the Communist Party is impossible because it is like wanting
to destroy the whole people." The serenity with which
Victor faced everything is an admirable example for generations
to come. We know about the cruelty they used to kill him.
We know they asphixiated him and injected him, and that
they burned his hands and face to prevent identification.
These details became known late last year (2006) when a
simple peasant from southern Chile, whose name we will never
reveal, broke the silence, troubled by his conscience. He
was not a military man and therefore was not bound by any
allegiance to the Chilean military. He had been forced to
participate in dirty work and he confessed. Approximately
70 military officers have been indicted in relation to Calle
Conferencia case since December 2006. Of those 70, some
50 are in jail and 48 hours ago the Court of Appeals ordered
the jailing of another one of those murderers, defended
by lawyers who have no scruples and try to justify the alleged
innocence of their clients.
And yesterday, the judge issued another subpoena, for the
indictment of Hernan Luis Sovino Miranda also in Calle Conferencia.
And there will be more indictments and more defendants in
jail. It seems the courts are following the good road this
But does the outcome only depend upon the lawyers? Does
it only depend on the efforts of the families of Calle Conferencia
victims? This is a task incumbent upon the entire Chilean
society. Unfortunately, the culture of death has not ended
in our country. Until the Armed Forces and police become
democratic, the change will remain superficial. We have
only to recall the recent death of Rodrigo Cisternas in
Arauco. This is a task for congresspeople, priests, and
each one of you. All Chileans must rise, take each other
by the hand and demand the full truth, demand justice so
that "Never Again" may truly become a reality.
Beneath this tent at Villa Grimaldi is the best of Chilean
society. We have here democratic congresspeople, priests
and lawyers who took great risks in the days immediately
after the coup to fight to defend human rights. There are
also artists who have a social commitment, journalists,
and a great number of women, lawyers, professionals, community
leaders, human rights workers, and political leaders.
I close my remarks to you with the certainty that justice
is posible, and that it is posible to know all that remains
to be known about the crimes. And it is equally possible
to convict the perperators of these crimes.
Diaz, Vice President Association of Relatives of the Disappeared
On this day we wanted to be with all of you who have shared
these 31 years of searching with us. We have shared painful
days and happy days. These years would have been much more
difficult without your support. Our father, a self taught
man, who only had a few years of schooling, taught us valuable
lessons that enabled us to reach many places. He always
fought for a more just society and for that we are proud
We so appreciate the work of the lawyers. For us it just
as important to know what happened to the disappeared as
to see justice in our country. That is how we can contribute
to ensure individual rights never again are endangered because
of a personŐs views and beliefs. It is so important to repeal
the amnesty decree. It is true that judges are not applying
amnesty as frequently as in the past, but circumstances
could change and judges may again invoke amnesty to close
human rights cases. It is shameful that a self pardon decree
law remains in effect in our country 17 years after the
beginning of the democratic transition.
I wish to conclude by remembering our mother who died 10
years ago, without learning the sad truth. She always hoped
to scatter his ashes in the sea off Antofagasta where they
got married. Today I really believe it is best that she
is not alive to hear the terrible details we hear in the
court day after day. Although it is painful, we need to
learn the truth. It is good for all us, and we will continue
ahead until justice is won for each one of the victims of
the military dictatorship. No more Chilean families should
ever experience what we have gone through.
to "Reclaiming Memory"