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Academy of Air War (AGA)


         This imprisonment and torture compound operated from the end of 1973 to the beginnings of 1975, formally under the Department of Aviation which in practice was closely coordinated with the Intelligence Service of the Air Force (SIFA). The Academy of Air War (AGA), located on Las Condes Avenue in Santiago is the headquarters of the Academy of War of the Air Force since 1972. Beginning on September 11, 1973, it was used to hold political prisoners - a group consisting of civilians, petty officers, and officers of FACH (Chilean Air Force) that would be judged in Prosecution 1-73 against Bachelet and others. This group would remain at the compound several weeks, being moved at the end of the year to the Public Jail of Santiago. This was later converted into the principle detention center for persons kept incommunicado by the SIFA, thus taking the place of the Air Base of Colina. While those held at this last named were moved to the AGA. In charge of SIFA was Commander Edgar Ceballo, seconded by Roberto Fuentes Morrison.

    The detainees were kept in the basement of the AGA, where class rooms and bathrooms had been altered to become cells, while the rooms in the chapel and on the second floor were used as places of interrogation and torture. During 1974, an average of 70 to 80 persons were held there. Most were militants of the communist party and the MIR. All that were held there were tortured. According to testimonies, the sessions utilized equipment from the Brazilian Air Force and included the use of drugs such as pentothal and scopolamine. There were beatings of every kind, electric shocks, humiliations, rape, forcing sharp objects under the fingernails, hanging, and keeping the subject hooded for a long time without sleep or food or water. Each prisoner at the moment of detention was assigned a number and from that time on was referred to only by that number. As an essential part of their being incommunicado, they were kept blindfolded, sitting, with their knees pressing against a wall or standing for long periods. Moreover, they were subjected to other kinds of maltreatment. For example, many had a sign hung on them with handwritten instructions for the guards, such as "no food or water for 48 hours," or "one meal a day," or "stand until advised." Prisoner No. 17 describes how after a bout of torture when he was conducted to the bathroom, he saw a paper stuck to his back that read: "No. 17 - STANDING - NO FOOD - NO WATER - NO TALKING - NO SLEEPING." This was exactly the treatment he received between sessions of interrogation and torture. After the long periods of non-comunication (that could last days or weeks) within the same precincts, the prisoners remained a long time in the cells constructed in the sub-basements of the AGA, some for as long as ten months. In rare cases they were transferred to prison camps or freed. In 1973, General Bachelet was kept and tortured at this compound. José Luis Baeza Cruces, now disappeared, was also there. In this case, Fernando Matthei, then Director of the AGA has been called to testify. In a sworn statement, an eye-witness revealed the direct participation of Matthei in the torture of prisoners at this site: ".....there I was able to verify that Colonel Matthei directed and selected those who were to be tortured and questioned. He, together with a lieutenant nicknamed "the little crazy" beat two prisoners who were standing blindfolded...."

    This compound sits adjacent the hospital of the FACH, where prisoners were taken who had been injured during detention or whose lives were in danger from the torture. These tortures brought about the death in 1974 of Alfonso Carreño Díaz, his body being removed to the adjacent hospital. It would appear that in January 1975, AGA stopped being used for these purposes. Some subjects were moved to the Air Base of Colina; others to secret centers of detention and torture (to Maruri No. 650, and to Apoquindo No.3182), Tres Alamos and Ritoque. Nevertheless, the testimonies of some who were arrested in 1975 assert that the AGA continued at that time being a center of isolation, interrogation and torture.


Eye-witness account:

Testimony of Sergio Lontan Trureo, survivor of the AGA. (on September 11, 1973, he held the rank of Corporal First Class): "....the torturers at the Academia de Guerra Aérea (AGA) were almost all specialists in high altitude still photography, both officers and petty officers. They had belonged to courses that graduated in 1967 and others later. They responded directly to Commander Otaiza, sometimes called the "pata de oso" ("bear foot"). Also to be found among the interrogators were graduates of the course of military instructors from the Escuela De Especialidades (School of Specialties) graduated in 1968 - the year of my own graduation. Previously, in mid-1974, I was also taken to the Academia de Guerra Aérea from the Public Jail. And there, I was able to observe that Colonel Matthei personally directed and selected those who were to be tortured and interrogated. He, together with a lieutenant nicknamed "little crazy" beat two prisoners who were standing blindfolded. "El loquillo" also beat me with the butt of a rifle. From the AGA, I was taken to the "Academia Politécnica" for 24 hours. En route one feared application of the so-called "escape law" (being shot in the back and then abandoned in some forgotten place). From the APA I was again moved to the AGA, and finally back to the Public Jail."


So that never again... (Words of complainants from former political prisoners and ex-members of the FACH; September 14, 2003): It falls to me to speak in the name of those civil prisoners who were confined at the Academy of Air War. I want to say, first, that the Academy was the first secret grounds where prisoners were held incommunicado and isolated from the outside world, from the first days of the coup d'etat. Permanently blindfolded and kept from any communication among ourselves, we were condemned to silence and a severe individual scrutiny, more proper to dangerous criminals. On these grounds were tortured more than a hundred aviators and more than 140 civilians. From here, Alfonso Carreño Días and José Luis Baeza Cruces were made to disappear. Also, the assassination of José Bordaz Paz was implemented. All men and women who were idealists and could not accept the mantel of brutality that had been thrown over the people of Chile. Here, we learned of the aviators who had preceded us and were subjected to the worst torments just for trying to defend the Constitution and the legitimate government. Their own comrades in arms took charge of torturing and humiliating them, breaking the code of ethics of men in arms. The villainy and baseness that can hide in the human soul never ceases to surprise.

And for us, the civilians, neither was there any consideration. The systematic torture of us prisoners, the psychological pressure, the kidnapping of the families to use them as hostages, without respect for age or state of health, are demonstrations of a Fascistic mentality that permeated the officers in charge of this torture center.

The officers of the Academy of Air War: Oteíza, Gamarra, Ceballos Jones, Leigh Guzmán, Campos Poblete, Fuentes Morrison, López López, forever stained the honor of the Chilean Air Force. They used the institution as a shield for committing the most ignominious crimes. Others, such as "Barba" Schneider, Sandra Alarma or Pola Vial, joined them in their criminal mission.

These "brave" officers of the Intelligence Service of the Air Force didn't shrink from keeping a twelve-year-old boy in detention in this facility . If we add to this the sacking of goods from searched properties, we are faced with despicable people unable to vindicate even to themselves the oaths they once took before the flag of Chile. We men and women who were subjected to torture always held our heads high, and we still do. We can face public opinion without fear and with pride for having opposed the imposition of dictatorship in Chile. They, on the other hand, can only hide in the shadows. None of them, beginning with Pinochet, have been able or willing to recognize the facts of what they did. They've always denied them and hidden behind the cowardice that defines their abysmal behavior.

Although they tried to cover up their crimes, the truth was known and today they face their victims across the court room. Their evil deeds formed a boomerang that has come back to judge them. Seeing them today facing their victims is a pathetic spectacle, stammering that it wasn't them, that they don't remember, that they weren't there. How different from the time when they were competing for rank and medals for having fulfilled the missions of terror to which they were entrusted. History has now condemned them; they form part of the gallery of monsters that humanity repudiates. They have garnered a place together with Eichmann, Mengele or Beria. In the mind of Chile, they will be remembered beside Captain San Bruno, the evil Spanish officer, head of the regiment "Los Talavera," that realized a mission identical to theirs but at the service of the king of Spain against the patriots. We, who militated against dictatorship, inhabit a different part of our country's history, a place of dignity headed by president Salvador

Allende, who, today, has been placed in an honored position in the republican history of our country. His patriotic gesture of defending democracy and the dignity of the people has been recognize by the whole of humanity. Only a few, his enemies, dare spit on his grave. But these will have their place in history together with those criminals we have come here to denounce. The Longueiras, the Zaldivars, The Jarpas, are grouped with the

Merinos, The Pinochets, the Leighs. We form part of the most scrutinized contingent of our people who did not and will not accept compromises against the common folk. We feel proud to belong to the great national majority and are, before anything else, fighters for a better society, more humane, more democratic, more egalitarian, centered on the individual and his potentialities. We oppose those models that would put a mass of consumers at the service of a market where it seems there is an exchange of goods and services, but where in reality it is human beings who are exchanged like modern slaves at the service of capitalism. And if we are here today, it is because in this struggle for a true democracy, for a better society, we require that justice be done and that the guilty be punished. They are a menace to democracy. We cannot leave the assassins to pass freely through the streets of Chile. Thanks to certain binding laws that condition the move to complete democracy, a move that has been continuing since 1989, the murderers have enjoyed the greatest impunity.

I wish to offer a heartfelt homage to Alamiro Guzman, who died a few days ago. Companion in the lawsuit against SIFA, who had the courage to confront his torturers face to face, demanding that the State recognize the torture as a planned, institutionalized and massive action.

Finally, I want to say that now is the hour of justice, and I call on everyone to participate in the lawsuit we've filed against those criminals and to continue our fight until we see them condemned to life imprisonment - the only punishment that can alleviate somewhat the suffering of ourselves and our loved ones and the soul of our people.

So that never again can murderers walk freely through the streets"..


Criminals and Accomplices:

General Orlando Gutierrez Bravo; Commanders Sergio Lizasoaín, Edgar Ceballos Jones, Jaime Lavín, Juan Bautista González and Humberto Velásquez Estay; Captains León Duffey, Juan Carlos Sandoval, Jaime Lemus, Florencio Dublé, Contreras y Fullogher (head of the permanent guard); Lieutenants Juan Carlos Sandoval, Luis Campos, Matig y Pérez; Sergeant Hugo "chuncho" Lizana, Corporal Eduardo Cartagena and Second Corporal Gabriel Cortés (who changed his name).


Sources of information: Informe Rettig; Books, "La Represión Política en Chile, los Echos" "Political Repression in Chile, the Facts);" "De Academias y Subterráneos;" "Memoriayjusticia.cl; Archivo Memoriaviva.

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