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''Since I learnt of his abduction, I feel completely destroyed. I have got other children, and grandchildren, but Alejandro was the one I needed the most and the one who needed me the most ... I think you have to feel the pain to understand it. I feel the pain of anyone going through the same experience. If I could only do something, give something, sell everything, I would do it for him not to be in this situation ... From the description of his height, he could be the young man that was abducted on 10 September in the centre [of Santiago] ... Every tall boy I see, I think might be him. Often I look at him and wonder - is that him?''(42) (Father of Alejandro Pinochet Arenas shortly after his son's ''disappearance'' in 1987.)

The five men ''disappeared'' following their arrest during the week of 7-10 September 1987. A few days before, army colonel Carlos Carreño had been abducted from his home by members of the Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR), Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front. Members of the state security police, the Central Nacional de Informaciones, CNI, and other members of the security forces began house-to-house searches throughout the metropolitan area of Santiago, during the course of which, the five men, members of the Communist Party with apparent links to the FPMR, were arrested by the CNI.

It was thought at first that the men might be in detention and a recurso de amparo was submitted to the Santiago Appeals Court on behalf of Alejandro Pinochet, José Peña, Gonzalo Fuenzalida and Manuel Sepúlveda on 21 September and for Julio Muñoz on 25 September. Fears grew however when the CNI, investigaciones, (the criminal investigations police) and the carabineros (uniformed police) all denied that the men were in their custody. The military prosecutors (fiscalías militares) and branches of the security forces maintained that none of the men had had arrest warrants issued against them, although it was later disclosed that Julio Muñoz Otárola was in fact wanted by a military prosecutor, in connection with his investigations into an attack on a breadshop in 1986.

On 13 October the then under-secretary of the Interior Alberto Cardemil indicated that, ''the government became aware through the media of the presumed disappearance of these [..] individuals ... and immediately asked the security forces to carry out the corresponding investigations ....this situation should not be too surprising. The communist way of operating is a mixture of the spectacular and publicity with secrecy. This is the way they work and operate therefore it is very probable that this is due to a 'submerging' of this kind''.(43)

On 18 November 1987 the court rejected the recurso de amparo ordering the case to be transferred to the corresponding criminal court. The relatives appealed against the decision but it was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 26 November 1987.

In May 2001, it was announced that members of the CNI had been involved in the abduction and murder of the five men and that members of the same unit had also been responsible for the deaths of 12 members of the FPMR in June 1987 during the so-called Operation Albania and for the deaths of four men in September 1986 during a state of siege that had been imposed after the assassination attempt on General Augusto Pinochet. The bodies of the five men were reportedly thrown into the sea. This information was based on confessions from two former CNI agents, one of whom reportedly participated in the abduction of Alejandro Pinochet Arenas. A witness to the abduction had made a photographic identification in court, identifying Alejandro Pinochet as the man who had been abducted. On the basis of his description, it had been possible to put together a description of another CNI agent involved in the abduction.

Another key piece of information came from an article that appeared in the now defunct magazine "Pluma y Pincel" in May 1989 based on tapes recording radio conversations between members of the security forces on 9 September 1987about the operation to "arrest without witnesses" three people. The identities of the agents involved had been clarified following the progress made in the Operation Albania case. In an interview given shortly after the "disappearance" of his son, the father of José Julián Peña Maltés said,

"I shall not rest until I know what has happened to him. I will not abandon him. I ask anyone who may have seen him or who has some information about his arrest to help us. I ask this as a father".(44)

The case is currently being investigated by the judge of the Third Criminal Court (Tercer Juzgado del Crimen) of Santiago, one of the nine judges appointed by the Supreme Court in June 2001 to investigate exclusively cases of the ''disappeared''.

(42) Desde que supe de su secuestro estoy quebrado total. Tengo otros hijos, y nietos, pero Alejandro era él que más yo necesitaba y él que más me necesitaba a mí ... Creo que hay que sentir el dolor para entenderlo. Siento el dolor de cualquier persona que esté pasando por lo mismo. Si pudiera hacer algo, dar algo, o vender todo, lo haría con tal que él no estuviera en esta situación ... Por la estatura, podría corresponder al joven que fue secuestrado el día 10 en el centro ... En cada joven que veo, me parece verlo a él. Muchas veces miro y me pregunto, será él?"

(43) "Que el gobierno se había enterado a través de los medios de comunicación social del presunto desaparecimiento de esos [...] sujetos ... que inmediatamente se había solicitado a los servicios de orden y seguridad que hiceran las averiguaciones correspondientes ... no debe extrañar mayormente esta situación. La acción comunista mezcla la espectacularidad y la publicidad con la clandestinidad. Ese es su modo de trabajar y actuar, así es que es muy probable que esto se deba a un ‘submergimiento’ de esta naturaleza".

(44) "No descansaré hasta saber lo que pasa con él. No lo abandonaré. Pido a cualquier persona que lo haya visto, o que tenga algún antecedente de su detención, que nos ayude. Lo pido como padre".


Source; Amnesty International – Document: AI Index: AMR 22/014/2001 dated 10 December 2001 – Titled ; CHILE - Testament to suffering and courage: the long quest for justice and truth

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