SANTIAGO – Eight ex-military men who formed part of the notorious “Caravan of Death” during the first months of the dictatorship were convicted for their role in killing 26 people. Two of the convicted members received lifelong sentences. Among their victims was the husband of current Congresswoman Carmen Hertz.
A court in Santiago on Tuesday, May 19, sentenced eight members of the “Caravan of Death,” a death squad responsible for the assassination of some 100 people in the first weeks of the dictatorship. The case focused on the killing of 26 on Oct. 19, 1973 in the town of Calama in northern Chile.
In the court’s unanimous ruling, two squad members, determined to be the main perpetrators, Pedro Espinoza Bravo and Juan Viterbo Chiminelli, received lifelong sentences. The other six received prison sentences varying between 12 and 16 years. A ninth member was acquitted.
Among the squad’s 26 victims was Carlos Berger Guralnik, then husband to current Congresswoman and Communist Party-member Carmen Hertz. In addition to the prison sentences for the squad members, the court also ordered the State to compensate families of the victims with up to USD$75,000.
The Caravan of Death
The Caravan of Death was a Chilean military squad that carried out, or ordered, a series of executions against political opponents. Most of these opponents were members of the democratically-elected party Unidad Popular, which was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup d’etat led by General Augusto Pinochet on Sept. 11, 1973.
Three weeks later, on Sept. 30, the squad began traveling throughout the country, executing political prisoners and burying their corpses in secret. For this reason, the exact number of assassinations is unknown, but, according to NGO Memoria y Justicia, the Caravan of Death killed at least 97 prisoners, 26 in the south and 71 in the north.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.