The so-named "Caravan of Death" refers to an operation carried out by a group of Army officers in October of 1973 during which were executed at least 72 political prisoners, according to judicial findings. Nevertheless, the prosecuting lawyers say that this number should actually be higher.
General Sergio Arellano Stark, acting as an "official delegate" for the current Chief of the Military Junta and army commander-in-chief Augusto Pinochet, traveled throughout the country with a group of 14 officers with the mission to review the judicial processes of the War Tribunals against prisoners being held in concentration camps and detention centers in the north and south of Chile. This mission was undertaken with the express intention of
"eliminating" opposition to the military dictatorship, many of whom had held important government positions in these regions, or were known members of the political parties in Popular Unity alliance during the government of Socialist president Salvador Allende.
In some cases, the prisoners were arrested upon voluntarily turning themselves in to the authorities in these cities, after having received the order to do so from the military decrees.
The whereabouts of the prisoners, many of whose names appear in the Rettig Commissions list of detained-disappeared, are still unknown.
September 30, 1973: The retinue boards the helicopter "Puma" at the Tobalaba airfield in Santiago and flies south. On board are general Arellano, lieutenant coronel Sergio Arredondo, major Marcelo Moren, coronel Pedro Espinoza, and captains Armando Fernández and Juan Chiminelli. The airship makes stops in the cities of Rancagua, Curicó, Talca, Linares, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt.
October 4: The officers arrive at Cauquenes, where they take four prisoners from Infantry Regiment "Andalien" and transfer them to "El Oriente" Estate to be executed. That same day, the officers travel to Valdivia where 12 prisoners are executed, the majority of whom are members of rural labor unions. According to the declarations of retired general Hector Bravo Muñoz, commander of the IV Army Division of the zone, Arellano probably signed the orders to execute the 12 prisoners.
October 16: The caravan arrives to the city of La Serena. They pull 15 prisoners out of jail and take them to the "Arica" Regiment, where they are executed.
That same night the retinue travels to Copiapó, specifically to "Atacama" Engineering Regiment #1. 13 prisoners are taken from this citys jail and carried in a truck, driven by captain Patricio Díaz, to the sector of Cuesta Cardones to be executed. According to reports given by the military courts and published in the local press, the prisoners "were executed while trying to escape."
October 18: The caravan travels to the "Esmeralda" Regiment in the city of Antofagasta. Early on the next day, they pull a group of 14 prisoners from city jail and other detention centers and take them to a place called Quebrada El Way, where they are executed.
October 19: The retinue arrives finally to Calama, to the Infantry Regiment #15, where a War Tribunal is carried out against prisoners suspected of participating in subversive activities. Afterwards, 26 prisoners are pulled from public jail and taken to the mountains in the sector called Topater. There, they are interrogated and shot. Only 13 of the 26 prisoners bodies have been found.
MILITARY OFFICERS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE MISSION:
1. SERGIO VICTOR ARELLANO STARK: Army General who was named as Gen. Augusto Pinochets "official delegate" to direct the 14 officers in the retinue
2. PEDRO OCTAVIO ESPINOZA BRAVO: Brigadier.
3. SERGIO CARLOS ARRENDONDO GONALEZ: Army Coronel. He was Arellano Starks right-hand man and one of the officers who directly participated in the executions.
4. MARCELO LUIS MANUEL MOREN BRITO: Army Major.
5. ARMANDO FERNÁNDEZ LARIOS: Lieutenant.
6. PATRICIO RAMÓN FELIX DÍAZ ARANEDA: Coronel.
9. CARLOS FORESTIER HAENSGEN: Brigadier general.
10. MARCOS HERRERA ARACENA: Lieutenant coronel.
11. EMILIO ROBERT DE LA MOHOTIERE GONZÁLEZ: Captain, pilot of the helicopter "Puma."
12. ANTONIO PALOMO CONTRERAS: Captain, pilot of the helicopter "Puma."
Testimonies given by the ex-generals and commanders mention the presence of two corporals, but their names are unknown.
NAMES OF PRISONERS EXECUTED DURING THE TOUR OF THE CARAVAN OF DEATH (Incomplete list):
Prepared by Derechos Chile, October 1999.