On the Death of a Torturer




Osvaldo 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 Santiago.

“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.

Santiago Oyarzo Perez

“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 and endurance.

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.

You 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 corner.

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.

Rampant Impunity
Felipe Portales
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 Lagos.

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 19.992 stipulates:
"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 torture.

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 its institutions.




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