Manuel Contreras

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Manuel Contreras
Manuel mamo contreras.PNG
Manuel Contreras
Juan Manuel Guillermo Contreras Sepúlveda

(1929-05-04)4 May 1929
Santiago, Chile
Died7 August 2015(2015-08-07) (aged 86)
Santiago, Chile
Cause of death Multiple organ failure [ citation needed ]
Residence-Military Hospital, Providencia (Sep. 1978-Oct. 1979)
-Punta Peuco, Tiltil (Oct. 1995-Jan. 2001)
-House arrest, Peñalolén (Jan. 2001-Jan. 2005)
-Penal Cordillera, Peñalolén (Jan. 2005-Sep. 2013)
-Punta Peuco, Tiltil (Sep. 2013-Aug. 2014)
-Military Hospital, La Reina (Aug. 2014 until his death)
Other namesEl Mamo
Known forHead of secret police
Criminal statusDeceased
Conviction(s) Kidnapping, forced disappearance, assassination, illegal association with criminal intent
Criminal penalty529 years in prison

Juan Manuel Guillermo "Mamo" Contreras Sepúlveda (4 May 1929 – 7 August 2015) was a Chilean Army officer and the former head of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Chile's secret police during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. In 1995, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for the murder in Washington, D.C. of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier, which he served until 2001.

Chilean Army land warfare branch of Chiles military

The Chilean Army is the land arm of the Military of Chile. This 50,000 army is organized into six divisions, a special operations brigade and an air brigade.

Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional

The Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional or DINA was the Chilean secret police in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and has been called Pinochet's Gestapo. The DINA was established in November 1973 as a Chilean Army intelligence unit headed by Colonel Manuel Contreras and vice-director Raúl Iturriaga. It was separated from the army and made an independent administrative unit in June 1974, under the auspices of Decree 521.

The term secret police refers to intelligence, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political opponents and dissidents. Secret police organizations are characteristic of totalitarian regimes. Used to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian regime, secret police often, but not always, operate outside the law and are used to repress dissidents and weaken the political opposition, frequently with violence, and torture.


At the time of his death in August 2015, Contreras was serving 59 unappealable sentences totaling 529 years in prison for kidnapping, forced disappearance and assassination. [1]

Forced disappearance when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization

In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law.

Operation Condor

From 1973 to 1977, Contreras led the agency on an international hunt to track down and kill the political opponents of the Junta, particularly members of the Communist and Socialist parties and the former guerrilla group and political party Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). According to the report "CIA activities in Chile" released on September 19, 2000, the US government policy community approved CIA's contact with Contreras from 1974 to 1977 to accomplish the CIA's mission in Chile in spite of his role in human rights abuses. By 1975 American intelligence reporting had concluded that Contreras was the principal obstacle to a reasonable human rights policy within the Pinochet government, but the CIA was directed to continue its relationship with Contreras, even giving Contreras a one-time payment in 1975. [2] [3] The CIA became concerned with Contreras' role in the assassination of former Salvador Allende cabinet member and ambassador to Washington Orlando Letelier and his American assistant, Ronni Karpen Moffit in Washington, D.C., on 21 September 1976. The CIA was said to have gathered specific, detailed intelligence reporting alleging Contrera's involvement in ordering the Letelier assassination, but the purported material remains classified and has been withheld at the request of the US Department of Justice (CIA, 2000) CIA contacts with Contreras continued until 1977. [3]

Communist Party of Chile communist party

The Communist Party of Chile is a Chilean political party inspired by the thoughts of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. It was founded in 1922, as the continuation of the Socialist Workers Party, and in 1932 it established its youth wing, the Communist Youth of Chile.

Socialist Party of Chile Chilean political party

The Socialist Party of Chile is a political party within the centre-left Nueva Mayoría. Its historic leader was President of Chile Salvador Allende, who was deposed in a coup d'état by General Pinochet in 1973. Twenty-seven years later, Ricardo Lagos Escobar represented the Socialist Party in the 1999 presidential elections. He won 48.0% in the first round of voting and was elected with 51.3% in the second round. In the legislative elections on 16 December 2001, as part of the Coalition of Parties for Democracy, the party won 10 out of 117 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 5 out of 38 elected seats in the Senate. After the 2005 elections, the Party increased its seats to 15 and 8, respectively. In the 2009 elections, it retained 11 Congressional and 5 Senate seats.

Revolutionary Left Movement (Chile) Chile

The Revolutionary Left Movement is a Chilean far-left political organization and former guerrilla organization founded on October 12, 1965. At its height in 1973, the MIR numbered about 10,000 members and associates. The group emerged from various student organizations, mainly from University of Concepción, that had originally been active in the youth organization of the Socialist Party. They established a base of support among the trade unions and shantytowns of Concepción, Santiago, and other cities. Andrés Pascal Allende, a nephew of Salvador Allende, president of Chile from 1970 to 1973, was one of its early leaders. Miguel Enríquez Espinosa was the General Secretary of the party from 1967 until his assassination in 1974 by the DINA.

It cost me four years to pacify this country, and once again I will put it all together...

Me costó cuatro años pacificar este país y otra vez voy a armarlo...

Manuel Contreras, September 10, 2013 [4]

After Orlando Letelier's assassination, tensions between Contreras and Pinochet grew over the course of his tenure, and the DINA was closed down in 1977 and replaced with a new apparatus, the National Informations Center (CNI).

Orlando Letelier Chilean economist and diplomat

Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar was a Chilean economist, politician and diplomat during the presidency of Salvador Allende. A refugee from the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, Letelier accepted several academic positions in Washington, D.C. following his exit from Chile. In 1976, agents of Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), the Pinochet regime's secret police, assassinated Letelier in Washington via the use of a car bomb. These agents had been working in collaboration with members of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, a U.S.-sponsored, anti-Fidel Castro, militant group.

Manuel Contreras, Gerhard Mertins, Sergio Arredondo and an unidentified Brazilian general traveled to Tehran in 1976 to offer a collaboration to the Shah regime to kill Carlos the Jackal. It's not known what actually happened in the meetings. [5]

Gerhard Mertins was a German paratrooper, arms trafficker, Nazi and associate of pedophile cult leader Paul Schäfer. In 1943, he participated in the Gran Sasso raid rescuing Benito Mussolini from prison.

Sergio Arredondo Gonzalez was a Chilean general who participated in the Caravan of Death in 1973 in Chile. He was the second in command to Sergio Arellano Stark who led the Caravan of Death. This death squad went out immediately following a successful coup and are said to be responsible for at least 75 deaths. The people who were executed were primarily non-hostile and already in custody, many were teachers, political organizers, or union leaders. After the Caravan tour of duty, he also was promoted, to the director of the Infantry School. He was later promoted to serve as Chile's military attache to Brazil as well.

Tehran City in Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.7 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 24th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

By 1979, Contreras was retired from the army at the rank of General, a rank he held until his death.

Prison sentences and court investigations

On 13 November 1993, a Chilean court sentenced Contreras to seven years in prison for the Letelier assassination. He was freed on bail following the conviction, but the Supreme Court of Chile confirmed the sentence on 30 March 1995. [6] Contreras rebelled against the sentence, fleeing to the South, and then to a military regiment and later a military hospital. After two months, seeing his support from the army vanish, he resigned and was sent to a military prison, where he completed his sentence on 24 January 2001 and was freed. [7] [8]

Supreme Court of Chile supreme court

The Supreme Court of Chile is the highest court in Chile. It also administrates the lower courts in the nation. It is located in the capital Santiago.

Southern Chile is an informal geographic term for any place south of the capital city, Santiago, or south of Biobío River, the mouth of which is Concepción, about 300 kilometres (200 mi) south of Santiago. Generally cities like Temuco are considered to be located in the south despite being relatively close to the geographical center of Chile. This is mainly because mainland Chile ended in La Frontera until the occupation of Araucanía (1861–1883). Similarly, the Southern Chile wine region is close to the geographic center of the country, encompassing wine-growing areas in the Bío Bío Region and Araucanía Region.

In May 2002, Contreras was convicted as the mastermind of the 1974 abduction and forced disappearance of Socialist Party leader Victor Olea Alegria. He received 15 years in prison on 15 April 2003 for the disappearance of tailor and MIR member Miguel Ángel Sandoval in 1975, although the sentence was reduced on appeal to 12 years. [9] Also in 2003, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 1974 disappearance of journalist Diana Frida Aron Svigilsky. While he was amnestied in 2005, the Supreme Court overturned that decision and confirmed the judgment against Contreras on 30 May 2006. Contreras received another 15-year prison sentence on 18 April 2008 for the disappearance of political dissident Marcelo Salinas Eytel. [8] [10]

Contreras was also convicted by an Argentine court in connection with the assassination of former Chilean army chief Carlos Prats and his wife Sofía Cuthbert in Buenos Aires in 1974. An extradition request by Argentina was denied by Chile, but on 30 June 2008, a Chilean court gave Contreras two life sentences for the assassination of General Prats and his wife, along with a 20-year sentence for conspiracy. [9]

Contreras was subsequently sentenced on 23 September 2008 to seven years in prison in connection with the disappearance of Spanish priest Antonio Llidó Mengual. He was ordered to pay 50 million pesos to compensate for the 1974 abduction of Felix Vargas Fernandez and received another 15 years in prison in a March 2009 sentencing. On 6 July 2012, he received an additional 10 years in prison over the detention and disappearance of ex-militants José Hipólito Jara Castro and Alfonso Domingo Diaz Briones in 1974. In total, his sentences over the years added up to more than 500 years in prison. [9]

In September 2013, under the orders of President Sebastián Piñera, the luxurious Penal Cordillera in eastern Santiago was closed, [11] and Contreras was transferred back to Punta Peuco in Tiltil, north of the capital. [12] [13]

Accusing Pinochet

On 13 May 2005, Contreras submitted to Chile's Supreme Court a 32-page document that claimed to list the whereabouts of about 580 people who disappeared during Pinochet's rule. Human rights groups immediately questioned the information and its source, citing Contreras's years of deception and denials of responsibility for human rights abuses. Many of the details he provided were previously known, and some contradicted the findings of commissions that have investigated the disappearances. In the document he wrote that General Augusto Pinochet personally ordered these repressive measures. [9] [14] During the same May 2005 hearing to the Supreme Court, Contreras directly implicated the CIA and Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier. [15]

Contreras accused Augusto Pinochet of having given the order of the assassination of Orlando Letelier and of Carlos Prats. He also declared to Chilean justice in 2005 that the CNI, successor of DINA, handed out monthly payments between 1978 and 1990 to the persons who had worked with DINA agent Michael Townley in Chile, all members of Patria y Libertad , the far-right movement which had been involved in the Tanquetazo  : Mariana Callejas (Townley's wife), Francisco Oyarzún, Gustavo Etchepare and Eugenio Berríos. [14] [16] Assassinated in 1995, Berríos, who worked as a chemist for the DINA in Colonia Dignidad, also worked with drug traffickers and DEA agents. [17]

Pinochet died at the age of 91 on 10 December 2006, before any court could convict the former dictator of crimes related to his military rule. [18]

Illness and death

During his last years, Contreras underwent dialysis three times a week at Santiago's Military Hospital. On 25 August 2014, he remained hospitalized there due to kidney problems. [19] With his condition worsening, he was eventually transferred to the intensive care unit. [11] He died on 7 August 2015 at the hospital. The exact cause of death was not given by the hospital authorities. [20] The announcement of his death was greeted by a demonstration of several dozen people in front of the hospital, who shouted "murderer!" and toasted his death with champagne. [11] There were also celebrations by hundreds of people at Plaza Italia, a square in downtown Santiago. [21]

Related Research Articles

Operation Condor was a United States–backed campaign of political repression and state terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents, officially and formally implemented in November 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program, nominally intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas, was created to suppress active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments' neoliberal economic policies, which sought to reverse the economic policies of the previous era.

Carlos Prats Chilean politician and general

General Carlos Prats González was a Chilean Army officer and politician. He served as a minister in Salvador Allende's government while Commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army. Immediately after General Augusto Pinochet's September 11, 1973 coup, Prats went into voluntary exile in Argentina. The following year, he and his wife, Sofía Cuthbert, were assassinated in Buenos Aires by a car bomb planted by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional.

Caravan of Death

The Caravan of Death was a Chilean Army death squad that, following the Chilean coup of 1973, flew by helicopters from south to north of Chile between September 30 and October 22, 1973. During this foray, members of the squad ordered or personally carried out the execution of at least 75 individuals held in Army custody in certain garrisons. According to the NGO Memoria y Justicia, the squad killed 97 people: 26 in the South and 71 in the North. Augusto Pinochet was indicted in December 2002 in this case, but he died four years later without having been judged. His trial, however, is ongoing since his and other military personnel and a former military chaplain have also been indicted in this case.

Michael Vernon Townley is a former agent of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional currently living under terms of the US federal witness protection program. An operative of the Chilean secret police, Townley confessed, was convicted, and served 62 months in prison in the United States for the 1976 Washington, D.C., assassination of Orlando Letelier, former Chilean ambassador to the United States. As part of his plea bargain, Townley received immunity from further prosecution; he was not extradited to Argentina to stand trial for the 1974 assassination of Chilean general Carlos Prats and his wife.

Fatherland and Liberty

The Fatherland and Liberty Nationalist Front was a nationalist and authoritarian political and paramilitary group denounced by their opponents as being fascist and a front for Central Intelligence Agency activities in Chile.

The assassination of Orlando Letelier refers to the September 21, 1976, car bombing, in Washington, D.C., of Orlando Letelier, a leading opponent of Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Letelier, who was living in exile in the United States, was killed along with Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who was in the car along with her husband Michael, who worked for Letelier. The assassination was carried out by agents of the Chilean secret police, and was one among many carried out as part of Operation Condor. Declassified U.S. intelligence documents confirm that Pinochet directly ordered the killing.

Enrique Arancibia was a Chilean DINA security service agent who assassinated General Carlos Prats and his wife in 1974. General Prats, who had been commander-in-chief of the armed forces during the administration of Salvador Allende, had strongly criticized Pinochet's 1973 coup which deposed Allende; Prats went into voluntary exile in Argentina.

On October 6, 1975, an assassination attempt in Rome, Italy, was carried out against Bernardo Leighton, a former Chilean Christian Democratic vice-president, then in exile. The assassination attempt seriously injured Bernardo Leighton, and his wife, Anita Fresno, leaving her permanently disabled.

Raúl Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann is a Chilean Army general and a former deputy director of the DINA, the Chilean secret police under the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship. He was in charge of a secret detention center known as La Venda Sexy and La Discothèque — because of the sexual abuse inflicted on blindfolded prisoners as loud music masked their screams. An aide to General Manuel Contreras, head of the DINA, he was in charge of several assassinations carried out as part of Operation Condor. He has been condemned in absentia in Italy for the failed murder of Christian-Democrat Bernardo Leighton, and is wanted both in Spain and in Argentina. In the latter country, he is accused of the assassination of General Carlos Prats.

Osvaldo Romo Mena was an agent of the Chilean Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) from 1973 to 1990, during the rule of Augusto Pinochet. Involved in the forced disappearance of more than a hundred people, including Christians for Socialism and MIR members Diana Aron Svigilsky, Manuel Cortez Joo and Ofelio Lazo. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but several of these sentences were suspended by the Chilean Supreme Court.

Eugenio Berríos Sagredo was a Chilean biochemist who worked for the DINA intelligence agency. Berríos was charged with carrying out Proyecto Andrea in which Pinochet ordered the production of sarin gas, a chemical weapon used by the DINA. Sarin gas leaves no trace and victims' deaths closely mimic heart attacks. Other biochemical weapons produced by Berríos included anthrax and botulism. Berríos also allegedly produced cocaine for Pinochet, who then sold it to Europe and the United States. In the late 1970s, at the height of the Beagle Crisis between Chile and Argentina, Berríos is reported to have worked on a plan to poison the water supply of Buenos Aires. Wanted by the Chilean authorities for involvement in the Letelier case, he escaped to Uruguay in 1991, at the beginning of the Chilean transition to democracy, and what has been identified as his corpse was found in 1995 near Montevideo.

Carmelo Soria was a Spanish-Chilean United Nations diplomat. A member of the CEPAL in the 1970s, he was assassinated by Chile's DINA agents as a part of Operation Condor. Augusto Pinochet was later personally indicted over this case.

Gerardo Huber Olivares was a Chilean Army Colonel and agent of the DINA, Chile's intelligence agency. He was in charge of purchasing weapons abroad for the army. Huber was assassinated shortly before he was due to testify before Magistrate Hernán Correa de la Cerda in a case concerning the illegal export of weapons to the Croatian army. That enterprise involved 370 tons of weapons sold to the Croatian government by Chile on 7 December 1991, when Croatia was under a United Nations embargo arising from the war in Yugoslavia. In January 1992, Magistrate Correa sought testimony from Huber on the deal. However, Huber may well have been silenced to avoid implicating former Chilean President and then-Commander-in-Chief of the Army Augusto Pinochet, who was himself awaiting trial on related charges.

Augusto Pinochet Former dictator of the republic of Chile

Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte was a Chilean general, politician and dictator of Chile between 1973 and 1990 who remained the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until 1998 and was also President of the Government Junta of Chile between 1973 and 1981.

Marcelo Luis Manuel Moren Brito was a Chilean retired Army colonel and former agent of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), the defunct Chilean secret police, during the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. During the rule of President Augusto Pinochet, Moren Brito, who was nicknamed "el Coronta" and "el Ronco," was the chief of operations at DINA, as well as the head of the Villa Grimaldi, DINA's feared detention center in Peñalolén, where thousands of political prisoners were interrogated and tortured. He was a member of a death squad of Chilean Army officers who carried out the 1973, Caravan of Death, in which at least 75 individuals in military custody were executed, including the singer Víctor Jara.

Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko is a Chilean military official involved in the 1973 putsch against president Salvador Allende. He held several high-ranking positions in the Pinochet regime, including in the Chilean intelligence agency, DINA. As such, he was responsible for the interrogation, torture, and disappearance of political prisoners at the detention center, Villa Grimaldi. After Pinochet's demise, Krassnoff was convicted by Chilean courts of Crimes Against Humanity.

Basclay Humberto Zapata Reyes was a Chilean military officer and agent of the secret police of Augusto Pinochet.

Mariana Inés Callejas Honores was a Chilean writer and member of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) who participated in various terrorist attacks, among them the murder of General Carlos Prats and his wife, perpetrated in 1974 in Buenos Aires. Once prosecuted, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison by courts of the first and second instances, a term that would later be reduced to five years.


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  2. "CIA Activities in Chile," CIA declassified documents, Retrieved from National Security Archive on 24 May 2007
  3. 1 2 Marquis, Christopher. "C.I.A. Says Chilean General in '76 Bombing Was Informer," New York Times , 19 September 2000
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  6. Unsettling Accounts (2007) by Leigh A. Payne, pp. 143
  7. Un general chileno se declara en rebeldía contra un fallo que le condena a 5 años, El País , 14 June 2007 (in Spanish)
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  12. "Esta noche los ex militares presos fueron trasladados desde el Penal Cordillera hacia Punta Peuco". El Dínamo . 28 September 2013.
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  15. Las pruebas de la DINA contra posadas carriles Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine ., Cronica Digital , May 23, 2005 (in Spanish)
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  17. El coronel que le pena al ejército Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine ., La Nación , 24 September 2005 (in Spanish)
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  20. "Hospital Militar no divulgó la causa de la muerte de Contreras". La Nación . Chile. 8 August 2015. Archived from the original on 18 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  21. "Cientos de personas se manifiestan en Plaza Italia por muerte de Manuel Contreras". La Tercera. 8 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.