‘I murdered 18 people for the Pinochet regime’

A former conscript in the Chilean army has been charged with murder after confessing on a live radio phone-in to participating in the deaths of 18 opponents of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Guillermo Reyes Rammsy, 62, was arrested late last week and charged over the 1973 murders of Freddy Taberna Gallegos and German Palomino Lamas, members of Chile’s Socialist Party.

The extraordinary confession began last Wednesday afternoon when a man called in to Chile’s most famous talk show Chacotero Sentimental (Loving Betrayal) and told host Roberto Artiagoitía that he was considering suicide.

After briefly describing a frustrated romance, the caller went on to describe his involvement in a string of human rights crimes. He said that, as a conscript, he had participated in 18 executions, following Pinochet’s military coup against the government of president Salvador Allende.

“The first time [I killed someone] I cried, but the lieutenant was saying: ‘Good soldier, good soldier, brave soldier’,” he said. “The second time I liked it. I enjoyed it.”

Over the next 20 minutes, the caller described a string of human rights abuses he had witnessed during his time in the army. “I participated in 18 executions … We shot them in the head and then blew up the bodies with dynamite. There was nothing left, not even their shadow,” he said.

Although the caller did not give his name – or identify his victims – he was tracked down by police and charged last Friday for the deaths of Taberna and Palomina.

Both men were arrested by security forces after the 1973 coup and held as political prisoners in prison camps. Taberna and Palomina were tried by military councils of war and executed in October and November 1973, respectively. Their bodies were never found.

During his conversation with Artiagoitía, Reyes described how he was indoctrinated during his military training. “They sent me to Santiago where I learned about extreme violence and I figure about the evil one could become,” he said.

Reyes said that he was forced to kill because army commanders executed conscripts for not following orders. “I was obliged. The same military would have killed me,” he said.

In the course of the 20-minute exchange Artiagoitía repeatedly challenged Reyes over his claim that he was merely following orders. “What about your responsibilities as a human?” he asked.

“If we found them with a gun, we liquidated them. Pow, pow, pow,” Reyes replied. “Five shots and they were gone. They were not white doves – you had to survive.”

Reyes’s arrest was cheered by human rights groups who have long fought for a better understanding of how the Chilean army killed, then destroyed the bodies of the victims.

An estimated 3 000 people were killed by the military and security forces and 1 000 bodies have yet to be found. Reyes’s arrest offers investigators fresh leads into finding the hidden bodies. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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