Adolfo Silva Gonzalez
( In charge of the Dept. for Cinema and T.V. at the Office for Information & Broadcasting, Presidency of Chile's Republic. Arrested on the 11th September 1973 at the Palacio de la Moneda. This testimony was written and sent to the Third Session of the International Commission and the Chile's Military Junta Crimes)
Dear Members of the International Commission and the Chile's Military Junta's Crimes Research Board - Mexico City, 1975.
At 18,30h we were taken to the Military School and locked up in rooms that were under surveillance. Detainees from different parts of Santiago kept arriving at the School, amongst them Ministers, UP's Party Leaders, Vice-Secretaries, Senators, etc.
On Saturday 15th September we were transferred to El Bosque's Air Base. There we were registered again; they also stole our watches and lighters. If someone dared to complain, they were brutally beaten up. Later, we boarded a plane and were taken to Punta Arenas. One of the officers on that plane was Brazilian. We arrived to Punta Arenas around 20h. They tied our hands and covered our heads with hoods, and all the time we were beaten up and sworn at. They then locked us up in groups of 6 to 8 people, inside the guards' control towers, with one of the guards inside with us. We were warned that the slightest movement from our side would mean they would shoot us death. We were exhausted. We hadn't eaten or drunk for two days, however we kept calm and with a sense of dignity that exasperated the guards. One of them pressed his weapon's trigger involuntarily; the bullet started to ricochet and finally injured my colleague Daniel Vergara. Once we arrived to the Military Port an emergency cure was performed on him.
Before we got into the boat that was going to take us to Dawson Island, they made groups of 8 and made us go up and down the stairs of the boat, cruelly taking pictures of us from all angles. The boat trip lasted the whole night, and we arrived at the island at about 5.30am. It was still dark and it had been snowing. We were asked to disembark in the darkness; the only lights around were those of the Army's trucks. The whole thing went on in the middle of shouting, orders, and threats of being shot at if we tried to escape. But escape where? we wondered. We were starving, exhausted, freezing, and in the middle of an unknown area. We were all wearing thin clothes, and the temperature was -4 degrees(C). We had to walk 4 kms. from the point where we disembarked to the concentration camp; we had to walk in the snow, through muddy fields and under heavy storms. This was another stupid and pointless way to wear us out, part of their ruthless plan to destroy us physically and psychologically too.
Once inside the concentration camp, we were taken before the Commander, who told us we were prisoners of war (?) and that any escape attempt, any insubordination, or not following orders from any of "Chile's glorious army's soldiers", would result in immediate execution.
Later, we were taken to a hut, a precarious construction made of wood and metal. There was a small heater of approximately 40cms high by 3cms wide. The hut itself couldn't accommodate more than people, however, 36 of us were forced to live there, in the worst conditions that a human being can endure.
Every day we had to wake up at 6.30am. Our breakfast consisted of a small cup of coffee and a bread roll. Lunch was the same cup with lentils and some bread. We had dinner at 19,30, lentils and bread again. We had to survive like that for 8 months. The water we had to use to do our laundry, wash up our cups and drink, was that from a stream which was used by the soldiers as a latrine. It was common to see their excrements pass by the stream when we were doing the washing up, or bathing ourselves. All that was done with the premeditated intention of humiliating us, as well as putting in danger our health.
We were constantly searched to see whether we were hiding weapons (?) In those searches were violently dealt with, insulted and humiliated. Many times we were punished for no reason, especially by young officers who, doing that, tried to show up in front of their superiors, so that their 'professional zeal' was recognised and praised, so that they could go up the ladder. Common punishments were doing 20-30 push-ups with our hands on the floor; staying still and standing up for three hours,on tiptoes; running a mile with a sand bag on our bags; or sleeping overnight on the floor, just with our coat as a way of cover.
All of this, with the permanent threat from the soldiers to shoot us death.
There was also forced labour we had to undertake, such as repairing roads, cutting forests down, laying up phone lines in the rocky soil of the island, and carrying extremely heavy loads on our shoulders. All this was undertaken under heavy rain or snow. Also, to the officers wives' relief, the soldiers ordered the latrines and garbage bins to be cleaned once a week by detainees. Those of us in charge of that task couldn’t eat anything on the day, it was so disgusting that we vomited everything.
Generally speaking, all of the detainees suffered a weight loss of about 20 kilos each. Personally, I lost 24 kilos in 8 months.
In the island, there was another camp, where the detainees from Punta Arenas lived. There were approximately 130 of them, and amongst them there were the condemned, those who had been condemned by the Military Tribunals. In that islands there were 52 of them. All other detainees were subject to summary or preventive detention, according to the laws introduced by the dictatorship. All in all, there were 160 men arrested in the island, counting us 36.
It would be convenient to ask from international bodies to visually verify whether the island was completely evacuated or not. Our group was the first one to get out on the 8th May 1974, but the rest of detainees remained there.
Every week, groups of 6-8 detainees were taken on the boat to Punta Arenas, to be interrogated. Interrogation sessions were held at the basement of Pudeto's Regiments, which had been specifically fitted out to this purpose. Some prisoners were set free, very few of them. In the 8 months I spent there, only 10 of them were allowed to leave. Most of those attending those sessions came back in the worst physical state, broken both physically and psychologically; broken ribs, wounds all over their bodies, teeth or cavities broken or brutally extracted. From others, we never heard again. The number of men who went missing is over 20.
What they did on those interrogation sessions is the following: detainees were locked in a dirty cell, without any hygiene, so we had to use the floor as a toilet. Many of us suffered from chronic diarrhea, caused by the awful conditions of the cell and the food we were given. We were taken out one by one. They took off my clothes, tied my hands and was blindfolded. This was done by an officer, who was usually with 2 or 3 soldiers who joked, insulted and hit me. In the army there were many individuals who took part in those sessions who were sexually deviant, or homosexual. Otherwise I cannot explain the pleasure they found in practices such as pulling the detainee's testicles or penis, while clearly enjoying the pain caused to the prisoners. After that, officers entered the room in groups of three, claiming to belong to the Marines, the aerial forces, army, etc. They told the prisoner to confess, otherwise they would get him to confess using other means.
In my case, they wanted to know what I was doing in La Moneda on the 11th, and what was my position in relation with the party's presidency, and in relation with the so-called plan Z. When I told them that I was just a professional and that I only worked at the front of the Presidency's Cinema and T.V. Department, they started to threaten me with death, hitting me with the butts of their weapons and kicking me. The same happened to me four times. In one occasion, they applied electrical current to my genitalia, anus and spine. Another time, they hit me with their weapons on my face, so badly that my teeth came out, and they broke my jaw. I suppose this is an effective way to get people to confess. In my case, and since I had not done anything, I kept denying everything. Once I lost consciousness as a result of the torture. But the methods they used were so inhumane and cruel that it was difficult to resist, because even when the prisoners lost consciousness, they soon brought them back and the whole process of questioning and torture started again. This is how many of our colleagues died, others confessed things that did never happen or that they didn't do.
It is a shame for Chile, and for mankind too, that this is what the Chilean Army calls justice.
Besides of the hardships, tortures and humiliations we had to endure, all our valuables were systematically stolen; our watches, lighters, books that we received, it was all stolen from us. However, the worst example of their quality as humans is revealed in the fact that the officers fought between themselves to get any small thing out relatives might send us from Santiago. It was a proper mafia, organised by a Captain from the Service of Military Intelligence (SIM), whose objective was to inspect all parcels that were sent to us on the excuse that there were no weapons or subversive literature. They also organised a warehouse where they sold what our relatives sent us to Punta Arenas. I will explain my case so that you can get an idea of what was happening there. My partner and relatives sent me a weekly parcel. In total, they sent me 32 parcels, of which I only received 4. On top of that, they stole a suitcase from me, full of winter clothes sent to alleviate the freezing temperatures of the island.My case is not unique, it can be found along the country in the experiences of tens of thousands of men who are still imprisoned. And day to day, amidst this indescribable and barbaric climate, more people continue to be arrested, tortured and murdered
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