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Quiriquina Island
Region VIII

Quiriquina Island is located at the entrance to the bay of Concepción, eleven kilometers north of Talcahuano. It was used as a torture and concentration camp for political prisoners from Concepción and the Bio-Bio region. This camp was active from September 11, 1973 to April 1975. According to the testimonies of survivors and the Red Cross, it is estimated that over 1000 individuals passed through it, including the likes of Pedro Hidalgo (Minister of Agriculture with the Popular Unity), Fernando Álvarez Castillo (Intendant of Concepción), Santiago Bell (Intendant of Ñuble), the Mayor of Lota, Danilo González and the mining union bosses, Isidoro Castillo, Bernabé Cabrera, Vladimir Araneda - as well as may political, professional, and social leaders of the region. According to the International Red Cross, at the beginning of October, 1973, there were 552 detainees, including 33 women and 19 foreigners: 8 Brazilians, 4 Uruguayans, 2 Venezuelans, 1 Panamanian, and 1 Pole.

The men were confined to the gymnasium of the training school for new recruits, some 80 x 160 feet, surrounded by barbed wire and watched over by armed guards located on three watchtowers. The women, among them Mireya García (presently secretary of the Association of Families of Disappeared Prisoners), were kept in a room some 50 x 100 feet, located in a pavilion of the same school. A third group that included both men and women were kept incommunicado in an indeterminate location on the island. Toward the end of 1973, reconstruction of the old Fort Rondizzoni was begun with the idea of converting it into a prison for political detainees. Located within the same island, Fort Rondizzoni had previously been used as a disciplinary center for Naval personnel who had committed military crimes. In December 1973 a large group of prisoners were transferred to other centers of detention. In March 1974 the remaining political prisoners, around 200, were transferred to Fort Rondizzoni. The prisoners on Quiriquina Island suffered daily humiliation, hunger, cold, torture and death. It was from here that the mayor of Lota, Danilo González and mining union leader Isidoro Castillo, Bernabé Cabrera, and Vladimir Araneda were taken, later to be assassinated by order of the Military Junta after a supposed war council and by direct order of Admiral Jorge Paredes Wetzer. While Fernando Álvarez Castillo (Intendant of Concepción), was tortured to death by personnel of the Armed Forces.

Records presented to the Valech Commision showed that the women prisoners were interrogated naked. During these proceedings they were subjected to every kind of aggressive abuse. In some cases this kind of humiliation was committed in the presence of family members. All the prisoners, both men and women, declared that while they were kept in that place they were subjected to forced positions, applications of electricity, and were submerged, bound, in the ocean at the island's north docks. In the middle of the night, naked and exposed to the elements, they were made to do extensive physical exercises. Some tortures took place on the firing range of the "Escuela de Grumetes" (Training School for Recruits). Fort Rondizzoni was under the control of the Naval Infantry Corp and functioned from September 1973 to 1975. According to received testimony, the largest numbers of prisoners were registered in 1974. In the first trimester of 1975, the prisoner camp ceased operations and the prisoners were transferred to the Concepción Jail or to "Tres Álamos." In the last months of 1973 and the first of 1974, according to testimony, the prisoners were forced to reconstruct the space then named Fort Rondizzoni. This was an extensive pavilion that consisted of dormitories, dining rooms, bathrooms and an infirmary - for use by guards.

Some political prisoners related that on occasion they were conducted, with a blanket over the head, to an underground dungeon, below sea level, dark, dank and small. From here they were taken to interrogations and torture. These prisoners declared that they suffered: beatings, application of electricity, deprivation of food andwater, threats. Some were kept naked to the elements during the night.

Eye Witness Accounts:

A Naval recruit from that time who prefers to remain anonymous, but who witnessed the facts, has declared: "...the training school for recruits located on Quiriquina Island was converted into a detention and torture center."  "....on the very day of the 11th of September, 1973, at approximately two o'clock in the afternoon, the first boatload of prisoners, around 200, arrived. By the end of November '73 there were around 1,200 prisoners, among them maybe 40 women. In that place, the Governor of Concepción (Fernando Álvarez Castillo), was tortured to death with applications of electricity. His body was removed to Concepción, and the newspapers stated that he had died in one of the police precincts of Concepción...." "Systematic torture was applied to professors of the University of Concepción, to executives of the "Usina de Huachipato." "Prisoners were brought in from Tomé, now that the Navy was in charge of this locality and of Talcahuano. I witnessed at least three executions, young men whose bodies were then thrown into the ocean. In November of '73, with a group of around 100 prisoners, construction was begun on a jail between the ravines that ran to the 'Península de Tumbes'...."  "It was my job to take down the personal data of the prisoners..., later I was integrated into the armed guards that watched over them. It was an experience I'll never forget. I was twenty years old and profoundly touched by all the pain I saw. I had the opportunity to deliver correspondence to the home of a doctor who lived in the center of Concepción. Later, I learned he had been exiled to Italy."

One of the survivors of this camp also decllares: "I was sent to the Naval Base of Talcahuano and kept incommunicado in the Francisco Acosta stadium for several days. Later I was transferred to Quiriquina Island where I remained for three months. I was kept incommunicado most of that time. I was accused of possession of arms, of organizing combat groups, of intent to blow up bridges - all of it invented. I was subjected to torture (application of electricity, beatings, simulated execution with eyes blindfolded). Among the group of torturers on the island was Antonio Leal"

Political prisoner arrested in September, 1973. "...they stripped our clothes off and put us in a cage, the same kind they use to transport circus lions - with the difference that we were surrounded by barbed wire. We were on exhibition..."

 

Criminals and Accomplices:

Rear Admiral Jorge Paredes Wetzer (Commandant of the 2nd Naval Zone); Frigate Captain Eduardo Young (assistant principal of the "Escuela de Grumetes"); Captain Kohler (Navy); Aníbal Aravena Miranda (Principal of the "Escuela de Grumetes" Quiriquina).

 Sources: Informe Rettig; International Red Cross; Book: "Te Recordamos, Quiriquina," (We Remember You, Quiriquina), "Prisión en Chile;" Informe Valech; Archives of Memoriaviva.com

 
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