Caravan of Death Victims Identified in Chile


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On September 11, 1973, Socialist leader of Chile Salvador Allende was overthrown by military forces under the command of Augusto Pinochet. Following this successful coup, Pinochet would seat himself atop Chile's government and would remain as dictator of Chile for the next 17 years.

During that time, 40,018 people were subject to human rights violations, and another 3,065 people were killed. One group responsible for 97 of those deaths was called the "Caravan of Death." This group, led by General Sergio Arellano Stark, scoured the length of Chile from September 30, 1973 to October 22, 1973, looking for any and all political "extremist" and opponents of Pinochet.

The mission of the "Caravan of Death" was to enforce "uniform criteria in the administration of justice to prisoners". This task was assigned following rumors that some provincial leaders in Chile were not treating political prisoners as harshly as Pinochet would have liked.

In order to carry out their mission, the members of the "Caravan of Death" flew a Puma helicopter from the northern portion of Chile all the way south, dropping grenades and raining machine gun fire down upon those considered invaluable to the revolution's cause.

On Friday, 6 victims of the violent actions committed by the "Caravan of Death" were identified by forensics experts in Chile.

The bodies were found in a mass, unmarked grave near San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. According to forensic experts, all 6 of the victims were killed by gunfire. The most famous victim was journalist Carlos Berger, the husband of a human rights lawyer. Berger is known for refusing to shut down radio transmissions on the day of the coup. Other victims included a Socialist leader, a government official, and a chauffeur.

In December of last year, a Chilean judge sentenced 8 members of the "Caravan of Death" to anywhere from 3 to 15 years behind bars for their role in killing political opponents following Allende's coup. This sentencing came 5 years after General Arellano was sentenced to 6 years in prison for his part in the killings. Arellano was unable to serve his time due to being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Image via Wikimedia Commons