Military coup without mercy: How Pinochet turned Chile into a terrorist state
Secret police spread terror
The purpose of the punitive expedition is first and foremost to instill fear – or in Pinochet’s words “to set an example” – both in the people and among Pinochet’s own men. Not everyone in the military sympathizes with the brutal abuses. Many officers try to protest the liquidations, but it is dangerous. If they are lucky, they are fired, but in several cases they themselves are imprisoned, tortured or brutally executed:
“The expedition would break down the will to fight that probably existed in the Chilean people. But it would also instill fear and terror among leaders and prevent military personnel, down to the lowest-ranking officer, from doing something wrong: This can happen to you!”, Oleguer Benaventes Bustos later explains in his testimony.
He was second in command in one of the army’s regiments. However, the punitive expedition is not enough for Pinochet, who sees enemies everywhere. To further control and terrorize the people, Pinochet founded a secret security police, DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional), which has its own experts in, among other things, murder and torture.
The zealous DINA hunts key Allende sympathizers across the country, including deposed Commander-in-Chief Carlos Prats who refused to participate in the military coup. In 1974, he was killed by a car bomb in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In doing so, he at least avoids the protracted abuse that thousands of left-wing sympathizers, students and artists are subjected to in, for example, “Villa Grimaldi”, one of the country’s several hundred torture centers.
Not until 1978 was “Villa Grimaldi” closed. Around 4,500 men and women have been imprisoned in claustrophobically small cells with rape, water torture, electric shocks and brutal violence as part of everyday life. Often the prisoners are forced to watch as their fellow prisoners are beaten, e.g. legs run over by a car.
One of the most barbaric forms of state torture befalls the female prisoners, who are given live, starved rats or spiders stuffed in their abdomens, or forced to be covered by dogs or by male relatives.
In just a few years, Pinochet changed Chilean society beyond recognition. Chile has become a nation of enemies living in constant fear and insecurity.
Neighbors tip each other, family members tip each other, and outside police stations people line up to hand in long lists of suspects.
They hope that they may escape the persecution themselves by showing their good will towards the regime.
Pinochet likes that development. He repeatedly emphasizes the importance of silencing the leftist voices. As he says: “If you have gangrene in an arm, you have to cut it off.”
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