Romo Mena, former DINA operative who came to symbolize the
merciless cruelty of the military dictatorship, died July
4, 2007 of cardiac arrest in the Penitentiary Hospital of
What you cannot say about me is that I was ever a scoundrel,
you can not say that. You can say that I tortured, okay, that
much is true and it was a good thing. But you can not say
I was a scoundrel. You can say, right, that I fulfilled a
phase and carried it out very well. My conscience is clean.
I think I would do it all again."
Osvaldo Romo (Romo Confesiones de
un Torturador by Nancy Guzman)
Unfortunately this torturer is not one of a kind
in our national history, as many would have us believe. He
was not a monster, nor was he a loose cannon who disregarded
superior officers to satisfy his repulsive desires. Romo,
as hundreds of other agents of the State of Chile who carried
out its policy of terror, was a cog in a structure created
for the objective of terminating, through torture, murder
and disappearance, a century of social movements that sought
to change the inoperable social structure."
Nancy Guzman in her book Romo
Confesiones de UN Torturador
Association of Relatives of the Disappeared
Santiago, July 7, 2007
Osvaldo Romo Mena, the torturer who never questioned his miserable
condition, died in the Penitentiary, convicted for some of
his crimes but carrying with him to the grave the only valuable
thing he had to offer in his detestable life: knowledge of
the whereabouts of disappeared people as well as the identities
of others like him for whom torture gave perverse meaning
to their lives.
Like any other psychopath, while in prison, he declared that
he would not hesitate to torture again, but with greater cruelty
next time, perfecting techniques for making his victims disappear
That was Osvaldo Romo, who together with Miguel Krassnoff
Marchenko and his agents, had the mission to kidnap and annihilate
with the cruelty that corresponds a executioner.
More than 250 men and women were murdered and forcibly disappeared
through the participation of Osvaldo Romo.
In 1975 the DINA transferred him to Brazil where he lived
under a false name, simulating such a normalcy that it is
hard to understand how he was not noticed during 20 years.
Romo died indicted for 90 counts of torture and forced disappearance.
He died as he deserved to die, alone and despised, just as
he despised the lives of hundreds of Chileans.
Romo did not cooperate with the courts. He never felt sorry
for what he did and he never questioned himself. He lived
the life of a torturer and died upholding that condition.
The only regrettable thing is that time did not suffice to
convict him for every crime perpetuated with the barbarism
of all the Osvaldo Romos who acted in name of the country.
The others must urgently be punished.
There is little machine inside us that activates each
time of these cretins die; it is memory of repulsion.
I could not sleep last night. The day before Juan Rojas sent
me a note that said Guaton Romo had died. It did not make
happy, maybe that same indifference I felt so many times,
since I became another person. When you know you are in a
different dimension after a rain of broken glass, when every
mirror looks back at you from the ground.
When you know that a very thin, fragile thread makes the difference
between life and death, and you recognize that as something
that can happen to you at any given moment, in a place where
your life is worth less than a tiny grain of gravel on the
ground, at the entrance to Villa Grimaldi.
I was in Dante's
hell there; a real hell where everything was surrealistic
and madness. Yes, everything there was madness. There were
no more limits, nothing could be fathomed. It was the diabolic
creation of suffering with careful monitoring of one's weakness
The most lonely loneliness kept me company there, when they
left me in that cage where I barely fit. There I began to
know myself from the inside. Inside me there were wide expanses
where I would go so as not to hear the screams coming from
the torture chamber. I preferred to listen to the children
in some place, over there, on the other side of the wall.
have no idea child, what goes on here! You don't know what
lies just a short distance from your school, while you wait
for the school bell!
They kill people here. Please keep playing, boy.
Go home, child.
Continue being a child, and keep laughing so that even today
as an old man I can still hear you. You are the sound of life,
unlike the horror that surrounds me here. Go home to your
mother, who waits for you.
There was a point inside me through which I could transit
to freedom, my freedom, that they never took from me. They
might reduce my body to shit and the pain became an immense
tongue that did not fit in my mouth.
I spent many new years when they put electric current to my
eyes, and I saw strident colored lights, while they laughed
their vulgar language from their stinking bodies. When you
are no longer capable of moving because your body does not
obey you and you have to be dragged, but nothing hurts anymore.
It was as if all of a sudden neurons are cut and you don't
have a body. As if you were only a head, which they held,
dragging you like a limp sack, detached from the body but
still alive. You were only thirst in an immense desert of
your body and your mental mirages.
You are a man who is reduced to a thing.
That is how I met you, Guaton Romo. You came looking for me
just as I was entering my house. You were with men who had
metal faces, machine guns in hand. My social work studies
were the only weapon I had.
In the car, they covered my eyes with tape. From then on,
I only heard questions, and felt the first blows on my face.
But at that point I only wanted to figure out what streets
we were on, expecting to receive a shot in the head at any
But it was not that easy. I had to experience your hell and
when we got there, I was blindfolded. A kick was my welcome.
Then came what one is able to tell and what many have already
told. But over time, you realize that although people want
to listen, they simply can never fully fathom the horror.
So then I continue alone with my backpack of memories.
You would come get me at night, although it was always night
for me. It was that silence that hardly ever present in that
place that made me think it was nighttime on the other side
of the blindfold.
Lets practice karate, kid, you would tell me. I don't know
where you took me but it seemed like a large hall.
After practicing every karate chop and my mouth feeling like
a bulk, and my eyes closed, you said, "Okay,kid, tell
us a joke." I laughed that time. I laughed and laughed
as if a madman, as much as my twisted mouth allowed. It was
all such a joke.
How could I not have laughed at the joke that you wanted to
shoot me but in the end I was not shot.
July 11, 2007
The death in prison of the most cruel torturer of dictatorship
should remind us that the crimes of torture systematically
practiced by the Pinochet regime remain unpunished. Thus far,
not a single conviction has been handed down for the thousands
of cases of torture accredited by the Valech Commission.
Not even Romo was convicted for torture. He was imprisoned
only for the forced disappearance of people.
The most prevalent crime against humanity practiced so extensively
from 1973 to 1990, according to the Rettig and Valech Reports,
thus far has not received a single conviction from the courts.
This disgraceful fact results primarily from the measures
in favor of impunity promoted and approved by the executive
and legislative branches during the government of Ricardo
It is true that the judiciary decisively contributed to impunity
in regards to torture under the dictatorship. It is also true
that after the arrest of Pinochet in London, the courts have
sought to make historic amends, by applying justice for those
crimes. In the early years of this decade leaders of the Concertacion
called for justice in cases of torture.
But in 2001 the then Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza,
responded to several accusations of the barbarous crime of
torture, as follows:
"I am concerned that everyone in this country wants to
denounce it, because it would be highly negative. Do we want
to go looking for 5000 or 20,000 perpetrators? Must we bring
every single individual who hit somebody to court? (La
Nacion, Feb. 15, 2001).
Senator Jose Antonio Viera Gallo suggested that "if all
the cases for torture are brought to the courts it will produce
a tremendous and unsustainable judicial backlog because there
are thousands such cases." He added, "it would be
truly counterproductive to open a judicial debate about torture
in Chile today." (El Mercurio, Feb. 14, 2001).
In keeping with the spirit of these statements, the government
of Ricardo Lagos inserted within the a bill to provide reparations
based on the Valech Report, a clause that virtually assures
impunity for torture. Congress approved it with scant debate
within 48 hours in December 2004.
The clause establishes a moral, administrative and judicial
impunity regarding denunciations of the crimes of torture
documented by the Valech Commission. Thus, article 15 of Law
"The documents, testimonies and information victims provided
to the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture
shall be secret. The secret set forth in the previous sentence
shall be maintained during a period of 50 years. While the
secret is in force, no individual, group of individuals, official
or magistrate shall have access to the items indicated in
the first sentence of this article."
Enforcement of this allegedly legal stipulation has already
resulted in blocking access of judges to denunciations of
This condition is so aberrant that its legal perversity is
only surpassed, in the annals of Chile, by the self proclaimed
amnesty decree of 1978. Maintaining this condition not only
will result in impunity for torture during dictatorship; it
will also represents a moral indictment of our country and
to Networks of Complicity