Friday, November 21, 2014

Tejas Verdes

Memorial to Victims of the Dirty War in Chile  (Museum of Memory and Human Rights)
Tejas Verdes served as a hotel resort for wealthy residents of Santiago until 1973, when dictator Chilean dictators Augusto Pinochet took over the site to use for torture and murder of opponents of his regime. Tejas Verdes, which means "green roofs," is located near the coastal towns of Santo Domingo and San Antonio (about an 1 1/2 hours drive from Santiago).  When the Pinochet regime took over the site, authorities converted music rooms and lounges into torture chambers. Thus, Tejas Verdes became one of more than 1,000 sites used by the dictatorship to torture and murder opponents of the regime. The use of Tejas Verdes  for torture and murder continued until mid-1974.

The Pinochet regime appointed Manuel Contreras to oversee the torture and murder operations at Tejas Verdes. Contreras, who would later rise to become head of the infamous Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), hired several collaborators, including Army Col. Cristian  Labbé, who went on to become mayor of the Santiago suburb of of Providencia.  Labbé's role in Tejas Verdes came to the forefront again this month, when  an appeals court judge indicted him for his alleged involvement in a string of concentration-camp killings, including those at Tejas Verdes. (Read More in the Nov. 14 issue of NotiSur)  The indictment comes just a few months after authorities  discovered of human remains at Tejas Verdes.

Book describes Tejas Verdes
There is plenty of material to document what occurred at Tejas Verdes. The camp was the subject of survivor Hernan Valdes’ 1974 book, Tejas Verdes: Diario de un campo de concentracion en Chile, which was published in Spain and drew much international attention to the Pinochet regime. Much of the pretext of the detention, torture and mass murder was that the detainees, suspected of being communists or otherwise subversive, represented a threat to the state.

The memories of those times are in many ways still fresh for much of Chile, and still very much a part of national politics. Among those affected by the brutality of the concentration camps are Chilean President Michel Bachelet and her mother, Angela Jeria, who were themselves arrested and taken to another camp, called Villa Grimaldi. Bachelet’s father, Alberto Bachelet, was a general who was held captive and tortured to death for opposing the coup that toppled Allende. 

-Jake Sandler

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