the Military Junta had been implanted in Santiago, Augusto
Pinochet turned his attention to his commanders outside the
capital. In the provincial towns where civil and military
officials knew each other and had closer working relations,
not all commanders exercised the same iron fist known and
feared in Santiago. To ensure that the softer provincial commanders
complied with his hard-line policies, Pinochet gave General
Sergio Arellano Stark, Brigader General and commander of the
Santiago Combat Group, the special mission of establishing
"uniform criteria for the administration of justice and
to expedite legal trials" of the political prisoners."
Pinochet appointed him "Official Delegate of the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army and President of the Government Junta," granting
Arellano authority to act in his name.
by a commission of ten Army officers, Arellano traversed
the country south and then north from September 30 to October
22 of 1973. The flight of the Puma helicopter of the Armys
Aviation Command with the delegation aboard left a trail of
26 persons dead in the south and 71 in the cities of northern
Chile, a chilling tour well deserving of its commonly known
name of "Caravan of Death."
1999, Arellano explained to Judge Juan Guzman the purpose
of the mission entrusted to him:
fundamental concern was that all the accused have an adequate
defense. And also that no officer abuse the power of that
moment, so as to maintain the good image of the Armed Forces
among the civil population."
the stated humanitarian purpose of Arellanos mission,
the facts speak to a different and sinister purpose. With
no concern for a guise of legality, as in the case of some
War Councils, prisoners were taken out and shot under the
cover of night, most of the executions attributed to "attempts
lieutenant colonel Marcos Herrera Aracena, who spoke with
Arellano when the posse arrived October 18, 1973 in Antofagasta
where he was military prosecutor for the Army 1st
Division testified in this regard to Judge Guzman:
Arellano informed me that what Pinochet wanted was to bring
an end to the remaining legal processes... In other words,
finish with them once and for all."
Benaventes Bustos, the second in command at the Talca Regiment
when Arellano inaugurated his sinister tour there on September
30, 1973, tells of other unstated objectives of the delegation
(cited in the book "La Misión era Matar."):
seems to me that one of the reasons for the mission was
to set a drastic precedent in order to terrorize the presumed
willingness of the Chilean people to fight back. But without
a doubt, it was also intended to instill fear and terror
among the commanders. To prevent any military personnel,
down to lowest ranking officers, from taking a false step:
this could happen to you!"
attorney Hugo Gutiérrez explains (cited in Prologue
of "La misión era matar"):
had a need to correct low sentences imposed on prisoners
of war whose sentences had already been handed down. He
also needed to sanction military leaders responsible for
issuing those lenient convictions, to establish the clear
understanding among all members of the Armed Forces that
the nation was at war."
Sergio Arellano Starks delegation established the framework
for the dictatorships foundation by implanting terror
in the population and the complete obedience of military officers.
In addition to the series of summary executions of prisoners,
the following military officers were punished for their "soft"
treatment of prisoners:
In Talca lieutenant colonel Efrain Jaña Giron, constitutionalist
officer, in charge of Mountain Regiment N 16 was removed
on September 30, 1973 for "failure to fulfill military
duties" and replaced by the second in command at that
regiment, Olagier Benavente Bustos. He spent two years in
prison in Santiago.
Army Mayor Fernando Reveco Valenzuela presided over the
first War Councils of Calama, until late September 1973.
On October 2 he was relieved of his position as tribunal
president for handing down sentences considered overly lenient
by the high command. Reveco was taken to Santiago where
he too was found guilty of "failure to fulfill military
duties." He was tortured at the Air Force War Academy
in Tacna and imprisoned for 15 months.
of the Guilty
was chosen to form part of the commission and who appointed
the participants have been controversial questions. However,
criteria for selection become more evident upon examining
the characteristics common to this elite group. All members
of the Arellanos mission had proven themselves in military
action after the coup, most were members of the Santiago Combat
Group under Arellano, and most were known to be cold-blooded
military men. In the years following the bloody campaign of
the Caravan of Death, the silence they all maintained regarding
these events also proved them to be men trustworthy and loyal
to their maximum leader Augusto Pinochet.
the exception of the Puma helicopter pilots, all members of
the brigade participated in the tour of duty in southern Chile
as well as the northern route, and personally participated
in the slaying of the prisoners. The members of the group,
in addition to two Infantrymen, were the following Army officers:
Sergio Arellano Stark, Brigade General and commander of
the Santiago Combat Group. Pinochet promoted him General
of the Army II Division on December 1, 1973.
Lieutenant Colonel Sergio Arredondo Gonzalez, Arellanos
Chief of Staff of the Santiago-Central Combat Group. After
the Caravan tour of duty, he also was promoted, to the director
of the Infantry School.
Mayor Pedro Espinoza Bravo, at that time of the Army intelligence
department, became DINA secret police operations chief.
He served less than six years in prison (from June 1995
to January 2001) for his role as intellectual author of
the assassination of former Foreign Relations Minister Orlando
Marcelo Moren Brito became commander of Villa Grimaldi,
the notorious torture and concentration camp, where many
disappeared persons were last seen alive.
Lieutenant Armando Fernandez Larios, of the San Bernardo
Infantry School became a DINA operative who served time
in U.S. prison for his role in the assassination of Orlando
Letelier and is linked to other assassination attempts outside
Chilean borders. He was convicted in the United States to
27 months in prison.
Chiminelli Fullerton, mission logistics coordinator, was
promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He worked in
the DINAs foreign operations department.
Mayor Carlos Lopez Tapia, executioner, became Director of
the Metropolitan Division Intelligence, which operated from
Antonio Palomo Contreras, helicopter pilot during the swing
through the south, was signaled in the year 2000 as one
of the personnel who piloted helicopters from which political
prisoners were hurled into the sea.
Emilio de la Mahotiere Gonzalez was copilot in the southern
leg of the Caravan and pilot during the tour through northern
Luis Felipe Polanco was copilot and executioner in northern
Reveals Details of the Caravan of Deaths Stop in La
On October 18, 1973 Arellano arrived in Antofagasta. While
he was spending the night at the home of General Joaquin Lagos,
commander of the Army 1st Division and zone chief
in State of Siege, his group was in the process of killing
fourteen prisoners. Disregarding hierarchy and operating behind
the back of Lagos who was his superior officer, Arellano set
in motion the massacre planned for Antofagasta with collaboration
from the local Military Intelligence Service and several officers
subordinate to Lagos. At the time of the events not only was
Lagos commander Army 1st Division but was also designated
Governor of the province after the coup. Upon request of Arellano,
Colonel Adrian Ortiz Gutmann, an officer under Lagos, made
available two trucks for taking out the prisoners that night.
persons were executed in Lagos jurisdiction: 16 in Copiapo
on October 17, in Antofagasta 14 were executed on October
19 and 26 were machine gunned in Calama in the early hours
of October 19. The military men exercised particular brutality,
often slicing prisoners with machetes before shooting them.
When asked why he did not return the bodies to the corresponding
families for burial, General Lagos explained that he was too
"ashamed" for relatives to discover how Army officers
had barbarously slaughtered the 14 men. (See List
of Persons Executed by the Caravan of Death)
until the morning of October 19, after Arellano had taken
his leave, did Joaquin Lagos learn what had happened that
night. Some 28 years later, recalling that moment on national
television, Lagos remarked:
felt hurt, powerless and angry ... that a criminal action
of this nature that had been committed in my jurisdictional
zone and behind my back."
same day he requested a meeting with Pinochet who had stopped
momentarily in Antofagasta on his way north, and asked him
to accept his resignation. Lagos remembers that after he denounced
the executions, the commander-in-chief picked up the telephone
to call Arellano in Iquique. When he failed to locate him,
Pinochet left the following message
" Tell general Arellano not to do anything more.
is believed that Lagos denunciation brought a halt to
the spiral of murders.
November 1, 1973 Pinochet returned to Lagos the report he
had prepared about what had happened in his zone, ordering
him to omit all reference to what Sergio Arellano Stark had
done as his Official Delegate. In 1999, retired general Joaquin
Lagos acknowledged that he had been compelled to alter the
report. He also revealed that he had taken the precaution
of keeping the original document rejected by Pinochet. More
than 27 years later, thanks to the foresight of Lagos, the
two documents could be compared. Lagos indicated that on the
bottom of the page listing the persons executed, Pinochet
ordered him to erase the phrase "under orders of the
Delegate of the Commander-in-chief" and place his own
signature. In that way, Lagos could be held responsible for
the crimes committed in his jurisdictional zone.
called to testify before Judge Juan Guzman, both Pinochet
(January 23, 2001) and Arellano (1999) affirmed that responsibility
for the killings lay with the regiment directors, an implicit
reference to retired general Joaquin Lagos. Despite their
maneuvers to evade their responsibility, on June 1999 Guzman
indicted Caravan of Death members including their Arellano
and in 2000, accused Pinochet as abettor of the crimes.
Juan Bustos, Carmen Hertz, Hugo Gutierrez, Eduardo Contreras,
Alfonso Insunza, Hiram Villagra
Military Juntas Decree Law N. 5 created a new interpretation
of article 418 of the Military Justice Code, in which state
of siege became synonymous with state of internal war.
Contreras, a plaintiff attorney in the case, explains this
was intended to: "...justify the war councils and avoid
fair trials in civil courts. The intent was to give themselves
license to kill. What the Junta did not realize was that in
doing so, it was already laying the groundwork for its future
condemnation in court."
By invoking the War Statutes, as of September 11, 1973, Chiles
Military Justice Code came into effect, but also the Geneva
Conventions, which prohibit summary executions of war prisoners.
Since the Supreme Courts 1998 recognition of the preeminence
of the Geneva Conventions, not a single crime has been subjected
to the amnesty law. This was one of the factors that made
possible the achievements gains in the Caravan of Death case.
and Obstacles to Justice)
moments in the case
January 22, 1998
The first criminal complaint was filed against Augusto Pinochet
for the crimes committed by the military delegation headed
by Sergio Arellano Stark. The family of lawyer Hector Mario
Silva, executed Antofagasta, filed the complaint on October
The Association of Relatives of Executed Political Prisoners
of filed the second complaint in connection with the Caravan
of Death Calama for the abduction and murder of 26 persons
in Calama October 19, 1973.
The Santiago Court of Appeals indicted five members of the
Caravan of Death - Sergio Arellano Stark, Marcelo Moren
Brito, Pedro Espinoza Bravo, and Sergio Arredondo Gonzalez-
for the abduction and homicide of 19 persons.
August 8, 2000
The full Supreme Court, in a vote of 16 in favor and 4 opposed,
confirmed the removal of congressional immunity from Augusto
Pinochet, due to probable cause of his involvement as author,
accomplice or abettor in the Caravan of Death.
December 1, 2000
Judge Juan Guzman indicted Augusto Pinochet as coauthor
of the crimes of aggravated abduction and first degree murder
committed by the Caravan of Death in La Serena, Copiapo,
Calama and Antofagasta. The ruling included 18 executed
prisoners whose remains had not been found and 57 whose
remains were located, identified and given to their families.
The Sixth Chamber of the Court of Appeals ordered the temporary
and partial dismissal of lifetime Senator Pinochet, despite
his refusal to be submitted to fingerprinting. The ruling
leaves Pinochet out of Judge Guzmans investigation
of the homicides and abductions with which he was charged
in the Caravan of Death. The Appellate court founded its
decision on the new Code of Criminal Procedures which exempts
an accused from sentencing on account of dementia or madness.
Plaintiff attorneys filed a Motion to Vacate as, the Code
of Criminal Procedures was not yet in effect at the time
the court ruled. A final say on this motion as well as a
subsequent Motion of Inapplicability is still pending from
the Supreme Court.
from Dr. Luis Fornazzari, and Consideraciones
Biblicas y Juridicas
The Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court dictated definitive
dismissal of Augusto Pinochet. In a 4-1 vote
the judges found that conditions of dementia incapacitate
Pinochet, rendering him unfit to stand trial. The judgment
was the high court's reply to the motions to dismiss on
grounds of errors of law filed by the plaintiffs after the
Court of Appeals ruling of July 9, 2001, temporarily dismissing
procedure against Pinochet on account of dementia or madness.
The Supreme Court's ruling cites medical expert exams as
proof that Pinochet suffers from mild to moderate dementia.
The ruling ventures beyond the medical expert report, however,
in affirming that Pinochet's mental condition is incurable.
On account of his alleged mental problems Pinochet is not
in condition to exercise due process rights and stand trial,
the judgment states.
In hearings held May 16 and 22, 2002 plaintiff attorneys
Eduardo Contreras and Juan Pavin argued that the application
of the new Code of Criminal Procedure was contrary to law,
as this new Judicial Reform is not yet in force in the Santiago
Metropolitan Region. This had constituted the basis for
the motions to dismiss. They also argued that the medical
expert reports fail to confirm Pinochet is either demented
or insane, for which reason they sought that the ruling
be repealed and new medical exams conducted. Defense attorney
Pablo Rodriguez again argued that Pinochet is innocent of
the crimes charged against him. He sustained that the Appeal
Court ruling is founded on a modern and current interpretation
of procedural regulations, for which reason the decision
should be upheld.
first sentence in the Caravana of death case, the Supreme
Court convicted retired general Sergio Arellano Stark to
6 years in prison for the executions of Socialist Party
members Teofilo Arce Tolosa, Jose Sepúlveda Baeza,
Leopoldo Gonzalez Norambuena and Segundo Sandoval Gómez,
on Octobre 2, 1973 in the area of San Javier.
Arellano Stark and his military convoy arrived at the Linares
Artillary School where he ordered colonel Gabriel del Rio
to execute the four detainees. When the colonel refused,
Arellano then ordered military prosecutor Carlos Romero
Muñoz to carry out the executions.
Supreme Court sentenced Carlos Romero Muñoz also
to 6 years in prison, and sentenced Mario Cazenave Pontanilla,
Jose Parada Muñoz and Julio Barrios Espinace to four
years on parole. It also ruled that the Chilean Treasury
must pay family members 80 million pesos in damages.
Judges Hugo Dolmestch, Jaime Rodriguez, Carlos Kunsemuller
and attorney Juan Carlos Carcamo voted to sentence Arellano,
while judge Ruben Ballesteros voted to invoke statutes of
(See Cordero Report)
Gutierrez, prosecuting attorney offers his appraisal of the
of Interview conducted by Memoria y Justicia February 21,
2002. For full text see Interview
with Hugo Gutierrez)
temporary dismissal a judicial solution to a political problem?I
believe the temporary dismissal of the Pinochet indictment
is a negotiated way out. What happened in the Pinochet trial
is the consequence of the kind of political transition we
have in Chile. Our country has the degree of justice that
the political transition permits us to have. We advanced all
we could in the Pinochet case, but we have reached a limit.
have been good, although our expectations were much higher.
Common sense said that we would not be able to get very far
in bringing Pinochet to justice. Pinochet accepted the most
indignant way out of all: he ended up as a criminal madman.
He failed to weigh this in historic terms. Certainly, it favors
him in the immediate future, but in the long term it will
hurt him tremendously.
never argued that Pinochet was innocent of charges.That's
right. His defense argued he was affected by certain physical
and mental conditions that impeded him from facing trial.
In the beginning, both in the immunity hearings as well as
the criminal trial, but principally in the immunity hearings,
the defense always argued that Pinochet was not in condition
to physically face a trial. Later, we noted a change in the
defense strategy. They looked for a solution tailor-made to
fit Pinochet and that turned out to be temporary dismissal
for madness and dementia. Pinochet was the sole beneficiary
of that solution. The indictments stand for the other defendants
and it is quite possible that all of them will be convicted.
Contreras: Caravan of Muerte is not a government concession
decision to deprive Pinochet of immunity and the developments
in the Caravan of Death case were not concessions from the
government. They were the result of years of struggle by human
rights defenders, victims, family members of victims and human
rights organizations. The strength of the case prevailed despite
the lack of judicial independence. It was a surprise for the
establishment. I do not believe the achievements of the case
were negotiated previously, but that the force of the facts
clearly pointed to the criminal responsibility of Pinochet.
implications of the cases investigated by Guzman
decisions showed that those weak signs that had begun to appear
in isolated cases against lower ranking military men could
be applied directly to Pinochet and all the crimes committed
by the dictatorship. Because the complaints against Pinochet
are for all the human rights violations committed by the dictatorship.
That the crimes are separated in different court files and
labeled Caravana, Calle Conferencia, Pisagua and Villa Grimaldi
does not mean these are the only cases.... These are really
one single legal action with the dictatorship as defendant.
The contribution of Guzmans investigations is that they
test to what extent these new but isolated criteria related
to Geneva Conventions, amnesty law, and statutes of limitations,
which have been applied in cases against lower military officers,
are applicable in confronting the number one guilty party.
And the results have been positive.
learn more about these subjects, we recommend the following
Misión era Matar: El Juicio a la Caravana Pinochet-Arellano,"
Jorge Escalante Hidalgo, LOM Ediciones, 2000.
a la Vista ," Patricia Verdugo, LOM Ediciones, 2001
to In Focus