Testimony of a Prisoner of the Dictatorship



Landy Aurelio Grandón León, originario de la provincia de Antofagasta, relata sobre los padecimientos que compartieron miles de chilenos como prisioneros a consecuencia del golpe militar. En las semanas después del golpe, fue detenido en el Estadio Nacional, desde donde fue trasladado al Campo de Prisioneros de Chacabuco y posteriormente a Tres Alamos. Fue acogido como refugiado político en Canada, donde vive hasta la fecha en la ciudad de Edmonton.

On September 24, 1973, around 17:00 hours while at my job with the Carabinero Police Social Insurance Office, a police patrol under the command of an officer who identified himself as Captain Villarroel, arrested me. I was taken to the Third Police Station located at San Pablo and Teatinos Streets in Santiago.

There, Captain Villarroel and his subordinates forced me to stand against a wall, with my arms above my head and my legs wide apart. They yelled insults and abusive language, claiming I was a prisoner. They kept me a long time in that position while police took turns verbally abusing me.

Later, they pushed me into the guardroom, closed the doors, and the captain, assisted by two subordinates, physically and verbally assaulted me with inhuman, degrading and humiliating means. During these attacks, the officer searched and stripped me of my personal identification and possessions. Accusing me of being a dangerous criminal, political activist, extremist and professional agitator, he and his men struck blows over my body, especially on my neck, back and waist. The brutality of the tortures was so intense that I lost control of my urinary system. Captain Villarroel accused me of participating in a plan to assassinate police, as described in the fictitious "Plan Zeta." Next, he forced me to kneel with my hands on the back of my neck. He drew his gun, pointing it to my head and, smiling sadistically, threatened to kill me right on the spot. Instead, he put the gun away, saying that it was better to send me to the National Stadium for the Army to kill me there. Again the police put me against the wall with my arms up and my legs wide apart. After a while, they led me to a police bus. Inside, they forced me to lay face down in the aisle, with my hands on the back of my neck. Police deliberately stepped on my body, and forced me to remain in that position during the trip to the stadium. At the stadium, I was transferred into the custody of Army soldiers who had transformed the stadium into a concentration camp.

In that concentration camp, inhuman, degrading and humiliating treatment continued. Military personnel notified me that I was a prisoner of war and that I had no rights. While they filled forms with my personal data, I was again subjected to physical and verbal abuse. Afterwards, they confined me to one of the corridors under the bleachers where hundreds of people were held, under inhuman conditions. All of us lacked basic necessities such as regular meals, rest and personal hygiene.

On October 10, military personnel took me, with other detainees, to the adjacent cycling stadium for interrogation. In that building, Army personnel inflicted more abusive, degrading and humiliating attacks. Confining prisoners to a tunnel-like corridor and forcing us to face the wall, they ordered us to place blankets over our heads that covered us entirely down to our feet. A soldier, yelling all kinds of insults and defamatory accusations, kicked the prisoners and striking each one with his rifle butt. After that, the military took me out of the corridor. With my body still covered by the blanket, they blindfolded my eyes and led me to another place in the same building for interrogation. The interrogators demanded me to identify myself, describe my alleged political activities, and confess where I had hidden weapons that they falsely accused me of possessing. The torturers also questioned me about my activities on the day of September 11, asking whom I planned to kill and other questions along these lines. During all that time, an individual, standing behind me, subjected me to constant blows and applied electric current to my body. When I fainted and lost my balance, the torturers themselves kept me standing up.

Once the torturers decided to put an end to the interrogation, they ran the bandage from my eyes, without removing the blanket over my head. They forced me to sign some written pages but did not allow me to read them. Later they returned me to the principal enclosure of the stadium.

In early November, the military took me, along with thousands of other citizens under arrest, out of the stadium to board public transportation buses. Accompanied by a huge military deployment, including airplanes and helicopters, the prisoners were transported to the port of Valparaiso, on the Pacific coast. Under the custody of the Chilean Navy, we were forced to board the cargo ship Andalien, a sodium nitrate carrier, where they made us descend to the lowest compartment. Again we endured inhuman, degrading and humiliating treatment, besides threats and psychological coercion. Our care of basic personal necessities was constrained to the limits of the compartment. Navy personnel only allowed us to come up to the upper deck for the two daily meals. While eating the food, we had to stand facing horizon, and never look about ship or the coastline. The prisoner had to eat quickly and immediately return to the compartment below. The ship navigated north for three days until arriving at the port of Antofagasta in the dawn of the third day. In that port and under Army surveillance, we were led to a narrow railway cargo train. The train carried the prisoners to Baquedano, an isolated place located on the highlands east of Antofagasta, where we boarded Army trucks, which took us to Chacabuco concentration camp. This internment compound was built inside a former saltpeter processing plant of the same name in the Atacama Desert.

In the Chacabuco concentration camp, run by the Army, we again were victims of inhuman, degrading and abusive treatment with constant threats and harassment. Immediately after being confined in the electrified, razor wired fenced enclosure, surrounded by tall guards towers and a mined field, camp commander Captain Carlos Minoletti Arriagada, made us line up on an open field. He ordered us to undress, spread our personal belongings on the ground, and wait without moving for him to personally inspect each of us. Displaying his brutal arrogance and scorn of the imprisoned citizens, Captain Minoletti conducted his search with insults, obscene language and slanderous accusations. He struck us with his fists while hurling contemptuous comments. The inspection lasted several hours under the hot desert sun, after which he ordered us to round up and rebuked us again with false accusations, offensive epithets and threats of all sorts. Minoletti, full of conceit and posing as a supreme judge, notified us that we were there " because of the fucking actions you did and the actions you thought about doing." (sic).

The Army and Air Force took turns in camp surveillance and in imposing the arbitrary internment regime. Other officers, who grossly mistreated prisoners, were Captain Santander and Alejandro Ananias. Captain Santander, who boasted of being a Pan-American shooting champion, intimidated prisoners, claiming that when he fires his gun, the bullets hit precisely where he aims. More than once at mealtime, he made us eat under a large deploy of soldiers pointing their guns directly to our head. On other occasions, he abruptly interrupted the meal and ordered us to line up for no reason. One day he rounded us up to blame us of making some political graffiti on the walls.

On International Workers' Day, May 1, 1974, Captain Ananias, in an ostensible show of abuse and arrogance, summoned about thirty prisoners from a list, including me, to perform forced labor. Soldiers forced us to carry iron scrap by hand from one place to another some two hundreds meters away, during the whole morning for no apparent reason.

Air Force combat planes constantly flew over the camp at low altitudes provoking fear and anxiety.

On July 30, 1974 approximately 60 of us were taken out of the camp and transported in military trucks to the Cerro Moreno Air Force Base in Antofagasta. Air Force personnel led the detainees to a transport airplane, and made us sit in complete silence without looking at the other passengers that were already inside the aircraft. The plane landed in Los Cerrillos Airport in Santiago. On the tarmac, the prisoners had to line up with their hands behind their neck, standing still around the plane while the guards proceeded to check each of us. Under threats and shouts of all sorts, the military with their machine guns pointing at the prisoners arbitrarily hit prisoners, before boarding police buses. In the bus, the police inferred the same humiliating and inhuman treatment to the prisoners.

The prisoners were taken to Tres Alamos concentration camp where police again inflicted inhuman treatment. The prisoners were ordered to line up, with our hands up against the buses. In that position, we were searched again. Then, the policemen led the prisoners to an inside room where a Major, using abusive and obscene language, notified them that they were going to be released, adding threats and vicious warnings about our future. He ordered each prisoner photographed and fingerprinted. He also demanded the prisoners to pay in cash for the cost of the photographs and to sign a release form in which the person declared that he had been well treated and that had no complain to file against the police. Any prisoner, who had no money or refused to sign, would remain in detention. Close to midnight, when the curfew began, the prisoners were allowed to leave the concentration camp. The Ministry of Defense's National Executive Secretariat for Detainees issued us certificates signed by Colonel Jorge Espinoza Ulloa, stating that we were released "for failure to verify infringement of Constitutional norms of the Nation."

The saga of personal persecution not only affected me but my family as well, both during the period of my imprisonment and after my release. Twice immediately after the coup, military personnel searched our apartment, destroyed some of our belongings and leaving the place in disarray. The soldiers had no respect or consideration for my wife, who was eight months pregnant, causing her a complicated delivery.

My wife, who had our first child on October 14, 1973, informed me that on two other occasions while I was imprisoned, police went to our residence to interrogate her. Amid the tense and frightening situation they provoked specially on our son, they asked her where I was. They also falsely charged her with holding political meetings at home. At the same time, my family had to endure a fearful daily life, due to constant surveillance of all residents of our apartment building, Tower 18 of the San Borja Housing Complex.

In mid November 1973, my wife sought an interview with the then Vice-president of the Social Insurance Department for the National Police Force, retired General Eduardo Yañez to request my salary payments and inquire about my employment status while I was imprisoned. Yanes treated her arrogantly. My wife was incredulous to hear this official declare that he was going to fire me if I did not show up for work by December. He and the entire Department knew full well that I was imprisoned.

After the Constitutional Government was overthrown, the military appointed new authorities to run the Social Insurance Department. One of their first actions was to launch a political persecution against me. They arbitrarily removed me from my position as Pension Division Manager that I held legitimately since the Honorable Council of Administration appointed me. Orlando Gonzalez, the new Personnel Administrator, notified me of that decision.

After my detention, they suspended my pay. A few months later, the new Personnel Administrator, Ruben Jimenez Santibañez signed a resolution expelling me from the Department on December 31, 1973. After my imprisonment, my wife's salary and assistance from my relatives were our only means of support.

My family and I were also victims of abuse and arrogance of the Civil Investigations Police. On September 11, 1974, when the dictator's adherents celebrated the anniversary of the coup at Bustamente Park, an agent who identified himself with his official badge stormed into our apartment. He informed us that he would remain there for security reasons. He entered our bedroom and lay down on our bed. After several hours he abruptly left.

My health was directly affected. I started suffering continual nightmares of being interned in a concentration camp. I lived under permanent anxiety and insecurity due to the fear of being detained again.
Under the circumstances that I have described above and the pressure from surveillance 24 hours a day by agents by DINA agents who had set up a station inside our apartment building, my wife and I decided to apply to immigrate to Canada. We arrived October 26, 1976 and were given the opportunity to freely make a meaningful life in this country.
I make this affidavit in the city of Edmonton, Province of Alberta, Canada. I declare that all I have written is the truth and nothing but the truth. I take full legal and civil responsibility for I have said here.

( landygrandon@hotmail.com)

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