following is a translation of an excerpt from an article by
Sergio Ramírez published January 15, 2002 by the electronic
newsletter of Instituto Cono Sur.
testimony before Judge Juan Guzman (Dec. 26, 1999) former
Army officer Pedro Rodriguez Bustos revealed new evidence
that incriminates military officers in summary executions
in La Serena. That testimony which has been maintained in
the magistrates confidential file, was leaked to the
press in late 2001.
Rodriguez, former member of Pinochets repressive forces,
has important information about crimes committed during the
dictatorship. Rodriguez was assistant to former CNI (successor
to the DINA) agent, Alvaro Corbalán, and collaborated
with Corbalan in the fascist movement Avanzada Nacional.
his sworn testimony, Rodriguez declares that he heard two
companions-in-arms, the officers Guillermo Raby Arancibia
and Julio Lafourcade, discuss how the group of officers that
traveled in the Puma helicopter, shot a group of 15 persons
held in the La Serena jail, on express orders from now retired
general Sergio Arellano Stark. The revelations begin when
the helicopter lands in La Serena in early October 1973, with
Arellano, Pedro Espinoza, Armando Fernandez Larios, Marcelo
Moren Brito, Sergio Arredondo and Mayor Juan Chiminelli aboard.
to Rodriguez, Arellano met with Ariosto Lapostol Orrego, commander
of the Arica Regiment in La Serena, and ordered him to immediately
review the war council proceedings of the persons, who in
his opinion were the heavyweights among the prisoners."
The order was obeyed and the military prosecutor, "a
Carabinero police mayor by the name of Cazanga," turned over
the information to Arellano Stark. Conferring with commander
Lapostol and members of his Caravan, Arellano decided to bring
15 political prisoners in the La Serena jail to the military
recalls: "The prisoners were transferred from the jail to
the parking area for light vehicles and to the intelligence
department. From there, the prisoners were taken to the firing
range, located on the side of the hill."
Arellano Stark convened all regiment officers to this place
together with members of his delegation. While regiment officers
watched, Caravan members "formed a firing squad and executed
the 15 prisoners," Rodriguez states.
Arellano Stark immediately ordered regiment officers (none
of whom participated as executioners) to inspect the prisoners
and give them the coup the grace if still alive," insists
Rodriguez. He names several regiment officers who were forced
to give the coup de grace, including Juan Emilio Cheyre,
who in March 2002 will become the Armys new Commander-in-Chief.
The bodies were taken to La Serena cemetery where they were
buried in a mass grave and covered with lime. The next day,
the Caravan of Death continued its route north."
Crimes Committed in La Serena
also gives information about the murders of Jose Segundo Rodriguez
Torres and Jose Rodriguez Acosta, father and son, executed
on November 1 and 8, respectively in the same Arica Regiment
of La Serena.
Rodriguez Acosta was arrested October 30, 1973 by members
of the regiment Intelligence unit, headed by Captain Fernando
Polanco Gallardo, Sargent Silva and First Lieutenant Fernandez.
Osvaldo Pinchetti hypnotized the son, Jose Rodriguez.
known by the name Doctor Torment, is linked to numerous crimes
in the 1980s including the murder of Juan Alegria Mundaca
(1983), crime committed to cover-up the assassination of labor
leader Tucapel Jimenez. It was in La Serena that Pinchetti
launched his career as hypnotist for repressive forces, having
been recruited by Captain Fernando Polanco. He subsequently
continued his criminal activities in the DINA, and completing
his career in the CNI. At present he is serving a 10-year
prison sentence for the homicide of Alegria Mundaca.)
young man was interrogated and executed in the Arica Regiment.
explanation given was that he attempted to escape during
a transfer to another prison facility and he was shot
when soldiers tried to recapture him. It did not happen
that way because I saw all the prisoners or had to guard
them. I know that all prisoners were taken out blindfolded
and with their hands tied."
indicates that it was impossible for prisoners to attempt
an escape,and concludes his testimony, with the affirmation
that as secretary to the military prosecutor "I can attest
to the fact that the young man that was executed did not have
anything resembling trial."
the tragedy did not end there for the Rodriguez family. When
the father, Jose Rodriguez Acosta, went to the army base to
inquire as to the whereabouts of his son, Army officials imprisoned
him. On November 8, 1973 " in other words the
day after he inquired about his son" - intelligence personnel
ordered his execution, Rodriguez states. Rodriguez affirms
that regiment commander Ariosto Lapostol, Captain Fernando
Polanco Gallardo and the aforementioned subofficers participated
in these summary executions.
also reveals previously unknown details about the murders
of a foreign couple, Argentine citizen Bernardo Lejderman
Konoyoica and Maria del Rosario Avalos Castañeda, a
Mexican. Thus testified Rodriguez before Judge Guzman:
informant came to the intelligence unit of the Arica Regiment
in La Serena, claiming this couple had weapons and explosives
and were about to leave the country. The alleged terrorists
were found in the city of Vicuña. Intelligence
brigade members under Captain Polanco carried out the
raid. The informant indicated where the couple lived.
We learned that no confrontation took place and the couple
was immediately shot. The version provided to the press
was that they committed suicide."
bodies were buried in the same place. The remains of Maria
del Rosario were disinterred in 1974, and the same occurred
with the remains of Lejderman in August 1990. The criminal
responsibility of the regiment commander appears clear, according
events must disturb the conscience of regiment commander
Ariosto Lapostol, as all actions of the intelligence unit
and all orders were issued by him."
Lapostol, has repeatedly denied that officers under his command
formed part of the firing squad that executed 15 persons perpetrated
by the Caravan of Death. Evidence appears to support Lapostols
statement that he did not participate directly in the Caravan
executions, but the veracity of his affirmation that no member
of his regiment gave the coup de grace to prisoners under
orders of Arellano Stark. His denial of the other four murders
denounced by Rodriguez is also very much in doubt. The former
commander of the regiment at La Serena states:
strictly ordered Cheyre [Juan Emilio], a lieutenant at the
time [today, the confirmed successor to the present commander-in-chief
of the Army] that no person, either officer or sub-officer,
lieutenant, sergeant, or soldier would participate in any
way, including any war council, or take orders from general
does confirm, however, that Arellano selected the persons
who were to be shot in La Serena. The Army High Command also
attempts to veer criminal responsibility away from Pinochet
and other military officers responsible for murders. In an
official statement issued in December 2001, Army officials
regret the disclosure of Judge Guzman's confidential file.
The declaration discounts the information about the involvement
of officers still in active service in the illegal executions
of the past and issues a warning:
active duty officers mentioned in the account had no participation,
either directly or indirectly in the events cited. Therefore,
the affirmations have absolutely no basis in truth... the
institution and personnel affected (by these charges) reserve
the right to present legal actions as may be fit, to restore
the honor and prestige of the Army.