Esmeralda Training Ship
Valparaiso, Region V
In the province of Valparaíso, the Navy employed as places of incarceration, interrogation and/or torture the ships "Lebu," "Maipo" and the training ship, "Esmeralda," these three in the harbor of Valparaiso; the Naval Air Base, "El Belloto," the Naval Academy of War, and especially one of its premises, the "Silva Palma Barracks." Records contributed by the Commission Against Torture of the Fifth Region indicate that around 500 political detainees passed through the "Esmeralda," 1000 through the "Maipo" and 4000 through the "Lebu," a ship ceded by the South American Steamship Company. The same reports maintain that around 3000 persons passed through the Valparaíso Stadium, 4000 through the Academy of War and the Silva Palma Barracks. All of these thousands upon thousands were tortured and many were assassinated.
That immediately after the military coup of September 11, 1973, the training ship, "Esmeralda" was utilized by the Chilean Navy as a center of detention and torture in Valparaíso harbor has been incontrovertibly demonstrated by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the OEA (report 24/Oct/74), Amnesty International (report AMR 22/32/80), the United States Senate (resolution 361-16/June/86), and the Report of the (Chilean) National Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (Third Part, Chapter I, Section 2 f.2.). The testimonies that the "Esmeralda" was effectively used as a floating chamber of torture are many and in mutual agreement. Among these the following stand out: those of Chilean lawyer Luis Vega (presently living in Israel), the former employee of the National Institute of Agricultural Development, Claudio Correa (presently residing in England), and university professor and ex-mayor of Valparaíso, Sergio Vuscovic (presently in Chile).
According to the Report of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (Rettig Report), in the case of the training ship "Esmeralda," the investigations initiated by this Commission proved that specialized Navy equipment was installed in the interior for use in interrogating the detainees already on board as well as those brought in from other Navy places of detention. These interrogations, as a general rule, included various forms of maltreatment and torture. The "specialization" of the aforementioned equipment hardly needs further explanation.
The number of those reported detained aboard the "Esmeralda" varies from witness to witness since the detainees were shifted from ship to ship as they were being interrogated. The United States Senate (1986) indicates that it came to 112. According to available evidence, at one time there were as many as 40 women among them. These were subjected to every kind of maltreatment: torture, humiliation, rape. Among the arrested, we should point to the presence of the Chilean-British Catholic priest, Miguel R. Woodward. After a torture session, he was ordered by a Naval Doctor on September 22 1973 to be taken to the Valparaiso Naval Hospital where he died. Although the Catholic Church requested his body, it was never handed over to them but instead was interred in a common grave over which a roadway was later built. The case of Father Woodward is properly accredited in the investigations of Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Spanish National High Court, (Indictment 19/97-J against Augusto Pinochet and others for the crimes of genocide and international terrorism brought about through multiple assassinations, conspiracies to assassinate, kidnappings, torture and disappearances dated 03/11/98, tenth record). The detention of Father Woodward on board the "Esmeralda" was reported for the first time in September, 1973 by the newspaper "La Estrella" of Valparaíso, when all news media, including "La Estrella" were under the strict control and censorship of the military.
Investigations initiated by family members and courts show that: "after passing aboard the "Lebu," Father Woodward was taken to the "Esmeralda" commanded at that time by Captain Jorge Sabugo Silva. On the ship, he was beaten incessantely until his internal organs burst. When he was dying from these beatings, the ship-board doctor called captain Carlos Fanta, then commandant of the cruise ship "Latorre" and highest naval authority in the area now that Admiral José Toribio Merino was in Santiago. He told him that "there is a priest who is in very bad condition and has perhaps an hour to live." Captain Fanta sent his doctor, Kenneth Gleiser (presently Rear Admiral in charge of the Navy's Public Health Services. According to the book, "Blood on the Esmeralda," Gleiser examined Woodward on board the "Esmeralda", although other versions including Informe Rettig claim that he was taken down to the dock. He was carried to the Naval Hospital, expiring on the way. On September 25, he was interred by the Navy in a common grave at the Playa Ancha Cemetery. After his death, the priest's family received a note describing the cause of death as cardiac arrest. "We accepted that," recalls the priest's sister, Patricia Bennets. "But in 1975, we saw an article in an English paper that told of a British priest who died of torture in Chile, and it was then that we learned of the torture. That was much more horrible than the notice of his death because in three years, we had no idea how he actually died."
Certainly, the "Esmeralda" is not only a ship of death and torture as has been so amply shown, but has become a symbol of the most sinister and criminal acts that have ever been implemented in the sister-states of the Latin American "southern cone." Regardless of what the leaders of twisted Chilean politics may say, the annual visits of the "Esmeralda" to different ports of the world will continue to be emblematic of Chile's shameful past as long as the members of the Chilean Navy fail to overcome their moral cowardice, recognize the criminal use to which this ship was put, and beg the pardon of the victims that were martyred on board.
Eye-witness account of Luis Vega (from the books “My Prisons: My personal experience on board the ‘Esmeralda,' Dawson Island, Melinka, Ritoque, Tres Alamos and International Police." ( the book "The Fall of Allende: the anatomy of a coup d'etat," was sent by his daughter, Raquel). "......The torturing of me and my daughters serves only as a witness, and is only a small part of the suffering of the whole populace of Chile. It began for me at 10:20 PM on September 11, 1973 when the same commanders with whom I'd worked until the preceding night, came with an armed force of sixty men to arrest me at the "Caja de la Defensa Nacional," where I lived. It was simple. They searched my home, arrested me, and took me away. Later, the Navy, in order to impede my expulsion from the country, would claim that, "with machine gun in hand" I resisted "the apprehending forces." That version was communicated to the Israeli emabassy who were concerned to find out where I'd been taken, and to any others who tried to investigate the matter.
In the truck now was Leopoldo Zúljevic, career customs officer, retired as superintendent of customs. And the caravan came to a stop at congressman Sepúlveda and Valparaíso's Mayor, Maximiliano Marholz. On the deserted streets you heard shouts and gunfire from soldiers and sailors. It was a city at war. But only the army of occupation had arms. The "enemies" were defenseless. The caravan arrived at the dock where the "Dama Blanca," the training ship "La Esmeralda," now transformed into a prison and torture chamber, were tied up. For us, Operation "Sail" had begun. And within its bounds we would pass from prison to prison under the yoke of cruel torturers.
After the absurd ceremony that I referred to earlier, where we were handed over as "prisoners of war," we were informed that the country was "in a state of war." The dock was covered with thousands of men and women on their knees with their hands up or piled like fire-wood one on top of the other, or face downward with hands behind the head, also leaning against walls with legs spread apart and tip-toe. And all this under the light and shadow of the mercury gas lights. It seemed ghostly, unreal.
A fellow dressed in denim, with basketball shoes, tall, blond, blue eyes, an Arian type, grabbed me by the arm. He took me toward the gunwale and said, "Do you remember me, ass-hole? Stand here and don't look around." It was impossible not to see the Dantesque spectacle that was transpiring on the dock. Suddenly I was struck sharply on the neck and in the kidneys with a rifle butt. I couldn't speak or move or breathe. The fellow looked me in the eyes and repeated, "Ass-hole, remember me now?" And I remembered. I had prosecuted him twice. And the last time based on a search at the safe house of "Patria y Libertad" on "Montealegre del Cerro" street of Cerro Alegre, where he'd been arrested together with Luis Gubler, an "A DOS" contact with that group. With kicks and rifle blows, the Nazi of the AK and others conducted us to the "Camarote de Señores Guardiamarinas" (Marine-Guard Cabin). To one side of the door a sign announced, with black humor: "Reserved solely for members." The "members" now were "prisoners of war." With a kick, I was thrown to the floor. And when I fell on my face, an individual took the opportunity to kick me in the kidneys and send a rifle-butt into my neck. Others ripped my clothes off savagely in the midst of shouts and frightening noises.
It was a sight from hell. The red lights. The torturers dressed in party regalia and wearing black masks. They tied my hands behind my back. Striking me constantly, they conducted me to the showers. They had removed the shower terminals, and the pressurized water came out with tremendous force. It seemed like an existentialist cave. They violently snatched a thick chain I had around my neck that held my pay. To this day I carry the marks left by that. The force of the water actually broke the skin on my head, and water entered my eyes, nose, mouth and ears. You felt you were drowning, exploding, going deaf. They pulled us out and threw us face down on the floor where they proceeded to kick and beat us. We were six men and a woman. We remained the whole night thrown there on the floor, beaten and taken every five minutes to the showers. For some 72 hours we were kept without sleep, eating with our hands tied, like dogs, out of bowls they placed on the floor. They tortured us without end and threw ridiculous charges at us: Our homes were filled with gold, dollars, drugs, food supplies, arms; we were directing guerilla groups, were instructors who had studied guerilla techniques abroad. That night there was only one woman. They had arrested her for supposedly picking up a poster from the floor at a women's gathering (where they were expressing their solidarity with the wives, mothers and daughters of arrested sailors) that was being held at the Association of Port workers. She claimed she hadn't even been there. She wept for her son and husband. And we - we could do nothing for her. On the day of the 12th, there were now 42 men and 72 women packed together. That same night of the 12th an officer ordered a canvas partition be raised between the men and women.
The treatment accorded these women was vile. The guards massaged their breasts, buttocks, thighs. They forced them under the water and shouted hysterically, "All these lazy-assed bitches say they're having their monthly..." For ten days running, I heard the brave protests, the heart-rending shrieks and the wailing of the daughters of friends being tortured. And for days I was comforted by the always serene, noble and feminine presence of Lucía Kirberg. I tried to hold out. I felt, as did all those who were there, that a tremendous responsibility had been laid on me and that I couldn't be weak.
To some extent, I felt partly responsible for having permitted this demented collective horror and sadism, for having been too reserved in not having denounced the torturers when I had a chance. I was terrified to think that our lives were in the hands of this insane sadist we came to call "the Torture Bird.' He was a psychopath who stood guard over us 48 hours straight just for the pleasure of torturing us.
On the morning of the 13th, they took me, blindfolded and naked, to the forecastle, to the officers' chamber. They removed the blindfold and handed me a blanket. There were nine officers from the combined services of "intelligence," plus a short fellow with a big head, blond, heavy set, with large hands. From his questions, deduced that he was in charge of the political police. The treatment I received from these officers, I should say, was absolutely correct and professional. They had in their possession all the material from my office. They asked me to clarify the contents in the indictment. There was no problem. It was a matter of proceedings against Nazis. The short, blond one tried to extract information on the whereabouts of the Cuban student who had disappeared on July 7th, 1973. The president had charged me with finding him. The blond fellow wanted me to say that he was on the hill called "Los Placeres" with some "guerilla priests."
He read me a long list of persons, among whom were my sons, asking me to tell where they were. He accused me of being a member of a secret regional committee of the Communist Party. All this was unconnected to the disciplinary actions and telex copies they had been asking me about.
Suddenly, this same man said, "This one is trying to fool you; he's not going to give you anything. Leave him with me ten minutes and I'll make him talk." He was mistaken; I knew nothing about what he was asking. And he didn't ask about the things I knew. He left the room.
We left and, after a long while, they again blindfolded me and tied my hands. They then placed me against a steel wall, and one fellow said, "All right, mother-fucker, these are the last moments of your life." He walked away and shouted orders to execute me. When he said "aim," I saw on a black and yellow screen all kinds of images from my life. As a little boy with my parents, with my wife, with my children; I saw them as children and me as a young man. And other scenes flicked by in silence. Just thoughts and images. These "simulated executions" were Brazil’s contribution to the techniques of torture.
The following night, one of the guards told me, "Get up; we're going to see the inspectors." They pulled my pants on, blindfolded me, tied my hands and placed a towel on my head. The room I entered was large; I advanced ten steps. A voice told the guards to go. Before that, the individual who spoke untied me and ordered me handcuffed to a steel post. He tied my feet and said, "I know you are practiced in karate, that you were in the military and that you were head of the GAP (Guardias Amigos del Presidente - Friends-of-the-President Guards) in the province. Let's see what kind of condition you're in..." And he immediately struck a sharp blow to my stomach. He stomped on my bare feet, kicked me in the groin and pinched my abdomen and forearms with tongs. I didn't complain. This was the same blond civil servant of the previous night. He must have remembered that I had stared at his hands. I said, "One hand is like another; all hands hit the same." And the interrogation began. The first business: I must inform him of the communist and/or socialist connections of various navy admirals and captains that he named; and of army officers and police. Especially Admirals Daniel Arellano and Raúl Montero. I explained that all those relationships had been within totally professional, administrative bounds, and that I had never had any kind of political relationship with any of them. Infuriated because I knew nothing regarding Admiral Arellano, he said, "Luchito, you're lying; I'm going to apply electric current." How did he plan to do this by himself? He employed a primitive apparatus that he really didn't know how to use. He cut the inside of my mouth and produced two, three electric charges. Soon he said, "I suspect you are an informer for the Old Man. I can see no other reason for your being here. You were his pet. We could say nothing against you; the Old Man always defended you. You always had your way with him. So be careful what you tell of this, that is, if you get out of here." (He was referring to Admiral Merino).
On returning from this session, they beat me and put me under the jet of water. I was trying to relax when another guard arrived. "Get up; we're going to see the prosecuting attorney."
(In Chile there were three Naval prosecuting attorneys, one in each of the three Naval Zones: Punta Arenas, Talcahuano, and Valparaíso. Fifteen more were appointed September 11th, 1973). Again dress, blindfold, towel and bag over head. In the room, they had me sit down. They tied my feet and applied "the telephone" (sharp blows simultaneously to both ears) so that I would not recognize the attorney's voice. And he had them place a security helmet on my head. He addressed me: "Colleague, do you know what this is? It's a helmet like the one our "comrade" President had on that was of no use to him when our soldiers liberated La Moneda" (the presidential palace). Then he had them put a crude vest on me. It was made of thick canvas and had large pockets. He said, "Do you know what this is?" I answered that I didn't. He responded, "How is it possible you don't know when you yourself ordered fifty of them made to be used for the 'kamikazes' of the GAP who were to mix among the troops when they withdrew 18 from the ellipse of Playa Ancha?" I told him that none of that was true. "It's useless to lie; before your chief, Daniel Vergara, died in La Moneda, we found in his strong box the government's plan 'Zeta,' called the Djakarta Plan for Valparaíso, and in it you figure as chief in charge of a GAP of 900 men that the communists and socialists gave over to you. You set out 900 submachine guns, "parake" and 400 kilos of ammonium gel." I interrupted saying that I had never heard anyone talk of a Djakarta Plan, except the one in Indonesia, where the military massacred 300 communists. He must have given a sign because they gave me a blow on the helmet so hard it sank down over my eyes. And they struck me on the back, shoulders, legs and arms. "You lie. Plan 'Zeta' was directed by the Minister of Interior, and the day of the military parade, all across the country, the employees of the Ministry in every province headquarters were to assassinate the officers and troops. Here, while holding a reception with all the trimmings in the Red Room of the Quartermasters' Palace for the Admiralty and high officials, you would go outside and from the door start shooting and assassinate the officers. On the streets, the 'kamikazes' wearing the vests you'd ordered would mix in with the troops, set off an explosive device, and your men would assassinate them with their submachine guns." I answered that he didn't know what he was saying; he was attributing to me an armed power greater than the combined army and navy in the city of Valparaíso. Knowing me as he did, he should know that if I'd had all those men and those armaments at that moment, I would not be where I was now and that this confrontation would have been very different. He signaled for them to strike me again. And added, "Sign this statement; the documents of Daniel Vergara and the receipt for armaments, munitions and dollars incriminate you." I responded, "I'm not signing anything. Those receipts don't exist, and Daniel Vergara never gave me submachine guns or dollars. And I never signed any receipts. All this is crazy; no tribunal in the world would accept such 'proof.'" He motioned again. They freed my feet and removed the helmet and vest, then struck me fiercely and threw me to the floor with my hands tied, where they kicked me. The man ordered that they take me "below." They dragged me out and back to the Marine-Guard Cabin. They stripped me of my clothing and left me a long time under the cold, pressurized water. They removed me, now without blindfold, and a sergeant said, "You know the job; stand on your friend's back and help him." I didn't know what he meant. I looked at the floor. There lay the engineer, Walter Pinto, director of the ENAMI (|National Mining Industry) , naked and half conscious. His back was bleeding and covered with a pack of sea-salt that a Navy thug was grinding into his flesh with the butt of an automatic rifle. They forced me to stand up on his back and, with my feet, further grind the salt in. At a later time, on the Island, Pinto told me he understood that I had been forced to do it and that, anyway, my feet caused him less pain than the rifle butt.
Many hours passed with blows and screams. And again before the prosecuting attorney, "Why don't you sign and avoid everything that's happening to you? I answered, "I've passed the age of innocence; you can kill me, but I'm not going to sign anything." And then, turning on a dime, he changed tactic. He made me a proposition that had, in fact, already been made to me hours or days before right there: "Why don't you collaborate with us? Why not join the patriotic action of the armed forces? You could be appointed district attorney...You'd have greater power than you ever dreamed.” I refused; I said that I was a lawyer, a man of principles, dedicated to what was right and just, and that I wouldn't be able to look my family or friends in the face if I did such a thing. And that, besides, it didn't interest me; it was not my place or my destiny. Then he talked about the activities of other lawyers, men and women of the UP (Popular Unity). I said I knew nothing about them, and that owing to the huge work load we, oddly, never socialized during the entire time were governing.
I was made to come and go to different inspectors for diverse and absurd reasons. Where did this guy live? Where was Emilio Contardo hiding? Who was Hernán Concha and why was he named quartermaster? The 17th I was called again before the same district attorney. He said, "You must sign; I have a copy of the declaration of Daniel Vergara and other lawyers for the Ministry across the country in which they confess that the Interior Ministry directed Plan 'Zeta.' And you organized here all the security work and the GAP." I answered that the work of security had been organized by Admiral Merino (I'm referring to the governing of the UP) with the head of "A DOS," and the only contact I had with the so-called GAP was as companion to the admiral who planned the security measures. He went on, "Not so. And I have a witness who was your lieutenant, and you contracted him for security." The witness was a slightly retarded boy that had been a messenger for the quartermasters. I had gotten him a job as apprentice in a friend's factory that produced industrially safe gloves. The attorney asked the boy if there was any truth in this, and the boy answered that it was all true. The attorney exclaimed, "With this asshole as witness, I'm not going to get anywhere!...' And he let him go. "We have the Vergara documents and they prove that you organized from the Ministry of the Interior a parallel force that would kill off the high and intermediate commands of the armed forces, and that you managed to involve many officers." It was curious that no one spoke of the reports that I had sent to Daniel Vergara that were in the strong box, and that proved that it was the high and intermediate commands that were plotting against the government. Was there a lack of communication between the Navy and the Army?. In any event, from the moment the Nazi struck me, I decided to say nothing, to know nothing, to remember nothing. A total blockage. And no one would change my mind. I cannot accept torture. You could have no dialogue or understanding with these sub-humans. No one can destroy a person who honors his self-respect. I despised them. And I despise them today. I was full of rage, of hate, and these feelings triumphed over my fear and pain. I insisted I would sign nothing. And they returned me to the cabin.
On the 14th of September, 1973, toward evening, the masked torturers of the cabin said to me, "We're going to be good. We know you can't walk because you've got cramps in your legs." They ordered Sergio Vuskovic and me to get up. They helped us, as when they took us to be tortured. They supported us against a thick bar, and we began to slowly flex our legs. At that moment we could hear a barrage of gunfire coming from various parts of the city. One of the guards went out to investigate. In a few minutes he came back shouting, "The communists are attacking the dock trying to rescue these shit-asses. Another said to Sergio and me, "If the communists get to the green gate (the first entrance), we'll shoot you two immediately, before anyone else." The strange thing was that the gunfire was coming from every part of the city. The following day 256 bodies of workers appeared on the road to Santiago "carried there by the communists."
On Saturday the 15th of September, 1973, after midday, they removed us to the merchant ship "Lebu." It was full of prisoners; I could see Senator Benjamin Prado of the Christian Democratic party huddled with some officers; they pointed out who were from his party and had been erroneously arrested. It was the beginning of the Coup. And the DC (Christian Democrats) firmly supported it. They took us to the hold where there was urine and excrement. On the hour, a new order came canceling the previous one. There had been "an error," and we were returned to the "Esmeralda." Again the blond Nazi spied me. He struck me and made me join my companions in misfortune on the human pyres, one prisoner piled on another. It was a painful experience. There is really nothing more painful, suffocating, desperate, than this torture. An officer came looking for us and said to the Nazi, "This is not for these people. Do you want them to escape and be seen?" We were returned to the cabin. The Torture Bird said to us, "Ungrateful bastards, after such tender care, you didn't even say goodbye."
During the night, a hooded figure took me to the bathroom and said, "One of the lawyers talked. He cried and asked to collaborate. He kissed my feet. And I took him up. He said you were Allende's confidant and that the quartermasters were just for decoration, that they knew nothing and had no influence in matters of security. He said, “I'm not in agreement with you, but you have been good to me, and I can't accept all this bullshit." To take me off guard, he struck me twice and said, "I know you aren't going to say anything about this, but I'll do you a favor." The following day I was made to strike the lawyer-secretary. The 16th, they took me before another attorney. And there I realized that the information was correct: the other lawyer had talked. The interrogating attorney imputed to me the security arrangements for Fidel Castro's visit, the security operations of May 5th, 1972. He wanted the names of some socialists and communists in a supposed "security apparatus" and of meetings I'd had with them. I stayed with knowing nothing and that the entire security apparatus was of the police and the Navy, that I'd never heard of those people. He added that I had had contact with Navy people. I said that I had, but when I was about to give the name of the person from "A DOS," a voice peremptorily ordered, "Mr. Vega, don't name him; we know all about this matter." Upon leaving they threw me on the floor and kicked me. And once again they treated me to a simulated execution. It made no impression on me. And that is nothing heroic. It's something strange, and I've talked with psychiatrists about that strange experience.
The 18th (Independence Day), they let us do some exercises and wanted us to tell jokes or sing. I said that I was a "prisoner of war" not a comedian or singer. I didn't sing. Later there was a funny situation: The 15th, after they permitted or rather forced me to hit him, they let the lawyer-secretary go. I don't judge him; he had been more than 22 years in the Navy. He'd undergone an operation on his gall bladder. Every night at 8 o'clock a paramedic wearing a white apron came and brought a glass of water. He just followed the orders: "8 o'clock, Marine-Guard's cabin, laxative, lawyer." That day, at 8 o'clock, one came asking for "the lawyer," and the guards pointed to me. The guy gave me the concoction. I thought it was some kind of psychological treatment based on drugs to make me talk. I said to myself that no drug could make me talk because they never asked me anything I knew. And I couldn't confess to lies or to something I didn't do. But I was at no risk. The fellow had given me three tablespoons of the stuff. At midnight I realized that it wasn't a truth drug at all but a powerful laxative. I asked permission to "go to the garden 'para la mayor'," as they express it in sailor jargon. And this was repeated. The 18th, sergeant Torture Bird said to me, "Luchito, you're no coward, but how come you shit so much?" I said, "Very simple, I'll keep doing it as long as they keep giving me three spoons of laxative." When they looked into it they realized their mistake and suspended the dosage. But the "going up to the garden" had served me. I always went with a guard who took notes, but the facility was so small that he couldn't enter with me. And on the floor were the daily newspapers with articles against us, against the government and against the UP.
The night of the 19th, I was taken to the prosecuting attorney who imputed to me things related to Fidel Castro's visit and those of May 21st, 1972. They made no progress and returned me to the cabin. They only put me under the jet of pressured water. Later on they took me again before the inspector with the large hands. They tied me and beat me against the iron post and had others stomp on my feet with their boots. And they began to ask about Admiral Merino. Was it true that Merino wanted to be quartermaster? How had he acted at meetings of the political committee of the UP and with Admirals Montero, Arellano, Poblete and other colonels and some of the police and army majors. And he insisted on linking Admiral Montero with the communist party. Suddenly, he said to me, "Who is Hernán Concha? We know he was Auditor General of the Army and that he is apolitical. Why did Allende name him? We know that he used to work at the Ministry of Defense with the chief of command and that it was from there that the recommendation came. But we don't know who it was that recommended him to Allende." I responded that I had asked myself the same questions. And that, in any event, he had been a quartermaster like Carlos Soya: serious, responsible and law abiding. I don't know if he was tired, but he ordered me returned to the cabin. And again the collective accusations, bed by bed. A series of absurd questions in this strange and hallucinatory world of the Marine-Guards' Cabin. I witnessed the public torturing of Bartolo Vaccareza, owner of the building where the newspaper "El Popular" operated, where they claimed that a school for communist guerillas was based. I saw Dr. Gilberto Zamorano and heard him groaning.They'd taken him from his bed at the hospital. I saw them humiliate the neurosurgeon Dr. Mario Contreras, president of the International Association of Neurosurgeons. And in the midst of these aliens' absurdities, I saw their sick national pride. They had arrested young Peruvians, Bolivians, Brazilians, Argentineans, Frenchmen, North Americans. And with their commando knives they cut off their hair and tortured them. They were all young, and under torture they screamed. And this awakened the guards' patriotic feelings: "Chileans can take more pain than foreigners." After torturing those young men, they turned to us. The blows were the same, but we were mature men and didn't complain as much. We could bear more pain. And the officers and sailors would say: "You see? Even these shit-faced traitors of the Popular Unity are braver than you." On the 18th, Torture Bird put on a baseball glove. He said, "I'm going to hit you just as hard, but with this glove on it will hurt less and make a louder noise to celebrate Independence Day."
The 20th of September, at around 12:30 AM, they took me to the forecastle. The inspector with the large hands said to me, "I just made a friend of yours shit in his pants....Now it's your turn." And he added, "Don't you smell shit here?" I told him that with all the rags on my head and lack of sleep and nerves, I couldn’t smell a thing. "Son-of-a-bitch you're lucky," he said, "I'm ready to throw up." And he went on, saying, "You've been lying all this time; you've denied knowing about anything you're asked, and you've gotten away with it. But now you're going to talk. I'll start with my hammer-stroke to your shoulders." And he struck with a closed fist. I felt as if my arm had been removed. And he said, "Here is your declaration as chief of the GAP. You either sign it or you stay right here." I said could I ask a question. "You're here to answer questions, not ask them. But go ahead." And I said, "Do you really think that if I'd had 900 armed men at my command, I'd be here now naked and tied up?" "Good question," he replied. And added, "You'd probably have run away on your own..." He said he knew there were arms. I told him that no, they had searched through everything and found nothing. And that they hadn't arrested those who possessed firearms with telescopic sights claiming they were "hunters," "sportsmen." He said, "Sign that you were head of the GAP. You were. Why are you creating these problems? We'll see now after a good dose of electricity if you're so cocky." He had them apply a current to my chest. I doubled over at the steel post, and my head snapped back. At that moment an officer came in and said, "Stop; don't lay a finger on Luchito. He has a different fate in store for him. He'll answer, but not here. I'm taking him." The inspector protested that he had not finished with me. The officer countered, "If he is to talk, let it be of his own volition. Let him tell me why the military put Hernán Concha up to making problems. Where is Guastavino, where is Emilio Contardo who was with him until 6 PM on the 10th. Who are the other secret directors of the PC here, and where is the list of those in the GAP? Where is the Cuban hiding?" I told him that I was out of the PC for many years, that I had been secretary general of the Chilean-Chinese Institute. He interrupted me, "That institute of yours was part of the PC (Communist Party). That of the Chinese is on Pedro Montt street in the heights of the Empire Theater. And you went to China as a spy for the Soviet Union. Well....talk!" After ten minutes, he said to me, "You know what, Luchito? You've got me as tangled as a plate of spaghetti. Get out of here." And they took me back to the cabin. A few minutes later, seven of us were made to shave and wash ourselves and dress properly. And from the "Esmeralda" we were taken on a bus filled with Naval infantrymen. We were seated apart from one another and warned that if we tried to talk or make a gesture or any kind of movement, we'd be shot. We were going toward the center of the city. We passed close by my house, the house that I would never see again. We crossed a city at war, and headed by way of Avenida España to Viña del Mar. Reaching the end of Avenida Libertad, I thought we were going to the School of Telecommunications and that there I'd be recognized and it would all be over for me. But no, we kept on toward Quintero. And on one of the beaches we were lit up by the headlights of military trucks. I thought that we would be killed there and our bodies thrown into the sea. And again I was wrong. At the Quintero Air Base we were handed over to a commander who gave us his name and rank and we introduced ourselves. He said he had sealed orders to send us by plane to a certain place. If we gave him our word that we would take no action against the plane, they'd make it easy for us. We agreed, naturally, and we had a problem-free voyage, even though we had no idea where we were going. We thought we might be relegated to the city of Punta Arenas. In spite of everything we‘d been through, we were very naive....."
Criminals and Accomplices:Commander Jorge Sabugo Silva, Officer Jaime Román Figueroa (in charge of the ship), Captain Carlos Fanta, Lieutenant Rodríguez (Navy Infantry), Lieutenant Luna (Marine Infantry), Sergio Arce (lawyer), Kenneth Gleiser (doctor).
Sources of information: Informe Rettig; books: "Blood on the Esmeralda," "Testimonios de Tortura en Chile," "Mis Prisiones," " La Caída de Allende," Newspapers: La Nación, Piensachile.cl, PrimeraKubea,cl, zonaimapacto.cl, Archivo Memoriaviva.
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