Priest of the People
Antonio Llido Mengual was born April 29, 1936 in Valencia,
Spain. When the Republican government transferred from Madrid
to Valencia, Valencia came under severe attack by Franco,
forcing the fall of the democratic government. Llido grew
up and was ordained a priest in 1963 under the authoritarian
regime of Franco that killed 23 priests in the Basque country
alone. His working class family instilled democratic values
in him, and his social commitment was already evident as a
young parish priest in the villages of Balones and Quatretondeta,
a poor community sustained by subsistence agriculture.
Antonio Llido arrived in Chile in 1969, sent by the Episcopal
Commission for Missions and Cooperation between Churches.
His work as a priest was conducted in Quillota, Valparaiso
Diocese, and a poor farm working community much like the villages
he left behind in Spain.
Fr. Jesus Rodriguez arrived in Chile in 1965 also from Spain,
and was parish priest in the poblacion of La Victoria from
1993 until his retirement in 2002. Rodriguez, one of seven
plaintiffs who filed the Antonio Llido case, during a conversation
with Memoria y Justicia on June 19, 2003, recalled:
"From the moment he arrived in Chile, the poverty,
misery, and the anguish of the poor the deeply affected him.
Such was the situation he observed throughout the Valparaiso
area. He lived very modestly, eating what the poor ate, living
from his earnings as a French teacher. During the harvest
season, He joined the humble farm workers working with them,
and worked as an unskilled laborer."
"Chile was highly politicized in those years.
Working classes had a great yearning for justice. And with
reason, because many social abuses existed. Antonio Llido's
life was closely tied to groups of the poorest workers. Within
that world of working people, various political groups advocated
changes for a new society. He associated with many of them
and had good relations with these groups that had such a strong
yearning for justice."
abysmal conditions of Quillota farm workers deeply affected
the new Spanish priest, forming a base for a strong social
and political commitment. Antonio Llido belonged to "The 80,"
a group of Chilean and foreign priests, who participated in
the organization Cristianos por el Socialismo, that supported
presidential candidacy of Salvador Allende.
In a letter he wrote to a friend on March 9, 1971, Llido described
his vocation (from the book Antonio Llido: Epistolario de
in a distant, ephemeral God, solver of problems by house call,
has also been left behind. Increasingly I come to understand
my religion and priesthood as a commitment to the society
in which I live. A commitment to men and women who struggle
for a new social order where slavery has no place, that prepares
people to fully realize themselves, in which injustice and
exploitation cease to be our daily bread. I understand Jesus
Christ as very related to this matter. I understand Jesus
Christ as each one of my brothers and sisters. I understand
that in uniting with them in this struggle, perhaps I will
be capable of overcoming the small and large personal needs
that are only relevant because they impede me from fully giving
myself to this task."
Arrest and Search for the Missing Priest
Father Rodriguez again takes up the story:
"After the military coup, he was advised to
return to his native land. He responded that he would not
leave. In the hour of such hardship, he would not abandon
the modest people with whom he had lived. He wished to share
their lot. Still, shortly after the coup he was forced to
leave the area because the military were looking for him,
to kill him just as they looked for so many people. All of
us who lived in Chile in those years bear witness of that
fact. He went to Santiago, where he continued helping people
who were fleeing. He fled with those who were fleeing. Even
though he himself was in danger, he continued helping others
who were persecuted. Once more, he was counseled to leave
Chile, and once more he chose to stay and run the same fate
shared by the poor and persecuted."
the military coup, the military regime's security forces looked
for him in Quillota, forcing him to leave the area. Llido
was hidden first in Valparaiso, and then in Santiago, where
he was arrested.
last letter his family received, dated September 1974 and
signed with the alias "Teresa Vazquez," indicated that Llido
was aware of the risks he faced:
"I do not wish to be melodramatic, but at some
point I have to say it. If something bad should happen to
me, I want you to know that my commitment to what I am doing
has been freely contracted, with the joy of knowing that this
is precisely what I should be doing at this moment. Fear is
constantly present in each one of us, because none of us are
movie heroes. But we refuse to accept that fear must condition
our actions and prevent us from doing what with a cool head
and fervent heart we understand should be done."
October 1, 1974 Antonio Llido was arrested in downtown Santiago.
Jesus Rodriguez attempted to intervene for many people after
the coup. He was also very concerned about the situation of
Antonio Llido. Accompanied by another Catalan priest, several
times he visited Valparaiso Bishop Emilio Tagle who had good
relations with the military.
"In March 1975, I remember he told us: "I have
just spoken to a Minister of State who says Llido is under
arrest but he is well." We visited him again during the month
of May, and once more he told us, "I have spoken to a very
high official. He tells me that this situation will be resolved
well." We doubted everything he told us, but never did we
tell him, 'You are very na•ve.' In June we visited him again,
and this time, he was indeed disturbed. He got up, nervously
pacing his office, and said, 'Now, I can't understand it.
A n important Minister of State has just told me that this
young priest was being transferred to another place of detention,
and en route, he escaped.' He was very nervous. On our previous
visits, he thought what they were telling him was true. But
this time, he could not believe it."
truth that the anonymous high official of State concealed
from Bishop Tagle was that DINA agents had taken Antonio Llido
to the interrogation and torture center at 1315 Jose Domingo
Cañas Street in Santiago, known as Ollague Barracks.
During the second week of October, he was transferred to cell
13 at Cuatro Alamos, a detention center where prisoners were
held incommunicado. He remained there until October 24, when
he and other prisoners were taken to an unknown location.
Since that day, the Spanish priest Antonio Llido became one
of hundreds of persons forcibly disappeared in Chile.
who like Llido, were prisoners at Jose Domingo Cañas
have testified in court that the priest was severely tortured.
We highlight the testimonies of Julio Laks Feller and his
wife Rosalia Martinez Cereceda, who shared a prison cell with
of Julio Laks Feller and Rosalia Martinez Cereceda
Julio Laks testified
before the Spanish consulate on November 27, 1977. [ Laks
recognized that "the conditions of detention made it
difficult to measure the lapse of time," accounting for
the discrepancy in dates.] His testimony forms part of the
criminal complaint, as cited below:
26 and 30 of the same year  Fr. Antonio Llido Mengual
was placed in our cell. Over the course of two or three days,
Fr. Llido was taken from the cell many times for interrogation.
Each time he returned in worse physical condition. After three
days he moved with great difficulty due to the pain inflicted
in torture. His shirt was stained in blood and he apparently
had internal hemorrhages and torn muscles. On one occasion
a doctor who worked for the DINA examined his vital signs
and recommended immediate hospitalization. In response to
the doctor's urgent recommendation, the official whose last
name was Morel [Marcelo Moren Brito] responded that this was
impossible, as the interrogations had not finished. The doctor
insisted in vain, expressing his sense of powerlessness and
"Despite his physical state and the abuse inflicted by DINA
agents, who grossly mocked his condition as priest, he found
strength to console his cellmates, sharing his crusts of bread
or fruit peels to help us survive."
Concerning her detention with Antonio Llido, Rosalia Martinez
Cereceda stated in her own sworn testimony of December 19,
"There I also met the Spanish priest Antonio
Llido. He was accused of having hidden and protected people
of the MIR who were persecuted. Antonio Llido never denied
this, saying that he could not lie to them. The guards would
laugh at him, and commented that when Antonio Llido was being
tortured he was asked to name people, and he would say that
he could not give them the names. 'And why not?' the guards
asked. 'Because of my principles,' Antonio replied in his
Spanish accent, which the guards imitated."
In the second week of October 1974, Julio Laks was transferred
to Cuatro Alamos. A few days later, from the window of his
cell, he saw Antonio Llido arrive and placed in the adjoining
cell (number 13): "His state of health was somewhat better,
but he suffered great pain, as Icould note from his gestures."
Julio Laks never saw him again.
one's not a priest; he's a Marxist ."
On November 13, 1974 General
Augusto Pinochet granted a rare interview to an interfaith
group of clergy, members of the Pro Paz Committee founded
in the weeks following the coup to aid people in detention.
Monsignor Fernando Ariztia, Lutheran Bishop Helmuth Frenz,
the Jesuit priest Fernando Salas and Rabbi Angel Kreiman had
requested the interview to express their concern for 11 persons
who had disappeared after detention. General Pinochet received
the ecumenical delegation in his office in the Diego Portales
building, and to the surprise of his visitors, he received
them alone, without the presence of any assistant.
The clergy were especially concerned
about the situation of David Silberman, CODELCO director who
had been abducted from the Penitenciary in Santiago, and the
case of Fr. Antonio Llido who they knew had been arrested
by the DINA and was held in the Jose Domingo Cañas
detention and torture center.
Helmut Frenz, today Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
of Germany, testified on June 30, 2003 before Judge Jorge
Zepeda regarding the interview with Pinochet. Frenz recalled:
wondered how the General would justify or evade the crude
problem we would pose. That is, whether he would diminish
it or simply deny that it was taking place.
We wanted the General to know that we knew what had happened
to these people because we thought it would help the victims."
They handed Pinochet a photograph of Llido and a list of people
whose whereabouts had been lost after arrest.Glancing in silence
through the list, the General pointed to one name and told
"That one is not a priest; he's
a Marxist. Marxists have to be tortured to make them sing."
These words, spoken in reference
to Fr. Antonio Llido, striking for their unusual candor, reveal
that General Pinochet had knowledge of the Spanish priest's
arrest. The statement constitutes admission - possibly the
only one - of the Military Junta's practice of forced disappearance
and use of torture, as well as the specific case of Father
Helmuth Frenz's testimony before
Judge Zepeda describes as follows:
"We were surprised that Pinochet responded
immediately and so frankly. He very well could have given
us an indirect reply, indicating, for example, that he would
inform other military of the matter. Upon concluding our meeting,
the General told us something that I recall nearly word for
word because it was so extraordinary. This is what he told
us: 'As clergy you can give yourselves the luxury of being
merciful. But I am in charge of this country which is infected
with the bacteria of Communism. I cannot give myself that
luxury because to cure that bacteria you have to torture sometimes.'
Llido's renowned priestly compassion and the tremendous brutality
to which he was subjected by the DINA motivated numerous acts
of concern from international officials and organizations.
- The Spanish Foreign Relations
Ministry repeatedly requested that military authorities
inform it of the whereabouts and situation of Fr. Llido.
The Vatican filed several international writs
- On October 30, 1979 the Spanish
Senate convened a special session to analyze the situation
that affected Father Llido and called for urgent diplomatic
- The Belgium Embassy, the
United Nations High Commission, Amnesty International, and
the International Red Cross also intervened on behalf of
Llido, demanding a response from the military regime.
None of these diplomatic
efforts, however, were able to penetrate the blind raised
by those responsible for the arrest, murder, and disappearance
of Antonio Llido to conceal their crimes.
On October 10,
2000 attorneys Fabiola Letelier and Adil Brkovic filed a criminal
complaint for first degree abduction and torture. The lawsuit
was brought in representation of nine Catholic priests: Mariano
Puga, Jose Aldunate, Roberto Bolton, Jesus Rodriguez, Oscar
Jimenez, Vicente Morales, Modesto Nuñez, Miguel Jorda,
and Sergio Torres. Like Llido, several of the plaintiffs are
worker-priests and, like Llido, all of them are known for
their strong defense of justice.
Founded on article 141 of the Penal Code, first degree abduction
is a permanent crime not subject to amnesty or statutes of
limitation. The plaintiffs charge two counts of torture, as
a crime under article 150 of the Criminal Code, and as a violation
of international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions and
the Convention against Genocide ratified by Chile. The Court
of Appeals of Santiago accepted the complaint and joined it
to the complaint filed earlier by lawyer Hector Salazar on
behalf Josefa Llido Mengual, the priest's sister.
Witnesses have testified in Chilean consulates of Germany,
France, Spain and Algeria, in addition to the witnessed in
Chile who testified before Judge Zepeda. In Chile indictments
are based on probable cause.
On May 15, 2003 Judge Jorge Luis Zepeda indicted and ordered
preventive custody for the following individuals who comprised
the DINA's line of commando for the crime of aggravated abduction:
Former DINA director Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, and operative
agents Miguel Krassnoff Martchencko, Osvaldo Romo Mena, Fernando
Laureani Maturana and Basclay Zapata Reyes.
The following defendants were also indicted for the crime
of aggravated abduction:
Ciro Amerto Torre Saez, Carabineros Police official who at
the time of the priest's arrest and abduction was chief of
the DINA's detention center at Jose Domingo Cañas 1315
Marcelo Moren Brito, retired Army official who belonged to
the DINA and directed torture at Jose Domingo Cañas
Orlando Manzo Duran, prison guard official in charge of DINA's
Cuatro Alamos detention center
Francisco Maximiliano Ferrer Lima, member of the Brigada Caupolican,
that operated from Villa Grimaldi.
The Antonio Llido case played a vital role in the arrest of
Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998, in connection with the
extradition request of Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon. The
trial in Spain against Pinochet was based on the cases of
seven Spanish citizens, including Llido, murdered or disappeared
during Chile's military dictatorship.
Key Moments in the Case
November 11, 2003
Judge Zepeda declared the investigation closed, and stated:
the basis of the facts gathered and the statements [of the
defendants], there is sufficient grounds to believe that they
participated as authors of the crime of aggravated abduction
against the person of priest Antonio Llido Mengual."
May 15, 2003
Judge Jorge Luis Zepeda issued indictments for aggravated
abduction against Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, Marcelo Moren
Brito, Miguel Krassnoff Martchencko, Osvaldo Romo Mena, Francisco
Ferrer Lima, Fernando Laureani Maturana, Orlando Manzo Duran,
Ciro Torre Saez and Basclay Zapata Reyes.
As part of the redistribution of cases investigated by Judge
Guzman, the Antonio Llido case was transferred to Judge Jorge
Luis Zepeda, magistrate dedicated exclusively to the human
rights cases assigned to him.
October 10, 2000
On behalf of nine priests, attorneys Fabiola Letelier and
Adil Brkovic filed a complaint for aggravated abduction and
torture with Prosecuting Judge Juan Guzman Tapia.
Judge Sergio Brunner of the Fourteenth Criminal Court of Santiago
ordered temporary dismissal for lack of evidence.
January 14, 1992
Attorney Hector Salazar filed the first criminal complaint
for torment and aggravated abduction in the Fourteenth Criminal
Court of Santiago on behalf of the priest's sister Josefa