Jose TOHA GONZALEZ
"Jose Toha: Un Quijote de mente, pluma y corazón."
The Army arrested Jose Toha on September 11, 1973 in La Moneda and held him at the Bernardo O'Higgins Escuela Militar. His great friendship with Salvador Allende and his commitment to the popular government brought him that morning to the presidential palace. When asked why he went to a place that was going to be bombed, he answered: "I come to be alongside the president. That is my responsibility."
Jose Toha first went to Dawson Island in 1972, together with other government authorities that transferred the 1,400 km tract of land to the Chilean Navy. A cruel twist of fate brought him back there, this time as a prisoner, with a large group of ministers, deputies, senators and Popular Unity leaders.
In that inhospitable place in the far south of Chile, where the prisoners forged strong bonds of solidarity with each other, Jose Toha and Dr. Edgardo Henríquez were designated by the prisoners as their representatives before the concentration camp’s head officers. On Sunday, September 26, 1973, Jose Toha addressed his fellows in misfortune with a serene and strong voice: "Of all the positions I have taken on in my public life, representing all of you is the most difficult...We need to be perfectly clear about the situation we are going through and conscious that we must impose our own discipline, postpone political discrepancies and establish total unity."
Sergio Bitar, Mining Minister of President Allende, recalls that "Jose Toha gave talks on living language, on the proper use of Spanish and he scolded us all for our poor use of the language in the camp, encouraging us to take advantage of our stay there to enrich our vocabulary, our grammar, our expository capabilities."
Shortly after arriving at Dawson, Jose Toha began to break down. His serious malnutrition forced the military to transfer him to the Punta Arenas hospital. The poor diet caused his health to rapidly deteriorate.
Clodomiro Almeyda, another legendary leader of Chilean socialism, remembers that "Jose Toha wasn't one to repeat easy slogans. He was a profound social analyst and from there stemmed his passion of those days for understanding the roots of fascism and the cause of its unfortunate triumph...It is necessary to remember his political loyalty, spiritual dignity, his physical integrity, which were and are for many compañeros, symbols of the moral values that are harbored in the heart of the Chilean people."
On February 1, 1974, Jose Toha was transferred to the Military Hospital in Santiago in a precarious state of health. He recovered slightly and was able to share a few minutes with his wife and children on his 54th birthday on February 6.
Despite his poor health, the military officers continued harassing him with endless interrogation sessions. His physical state deteriorated, his weight dropped precipitously and he lost his eyesight. He could no longer walk nor take care of himself. The further interrogations in the Air Force’s War Academy only worsened his condition. He died on March 15, 1974 in the Escuela Militar.
The official explanation of his death was "strangulation by hanging."