The lawyers of former Chilean military officials never responded to an in absentia ruling by Rome’s appellate court. In 2019, the court sentenced three officials to life for the murder of Italian citizens in Chile. The victims were killed in the context of the Operation Condor repression campaign.
Italy’s Justice Minister has signed an extradition petition related to three retired Chilean military members who are convicted for the disappearance of two Italians in 1973, shortly after the coup d’état.
Rafel Ahumada Valderrama, Orlando Moreno Vásquez, and Manuel Vásquez Chauan, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in absentia by the appellate court in Rome in July 2019.
Their lawyers never reacted to the sentence, which is why Italy is requesting extradition.
One victim, Juan José Montiglio, was studying biology and joined GAP, Salvador Allende’s personal guard, created by the Socialist Party in 1970. After the bombing of government palace La Moneda in 1973, he was taken to Santiago’s outskirts and forced to dig his own grave. The convicted soldiers threw a grenade on his body after they shot him to make sure he remains unrecognizable.
But parts of his remains were identified 44 years later.
Omar Venturelli was the other victim. He was suspended from priesthood when the Church found out he was leading Mapuche resistance actions.
In October 1973 he was disappeared. Later, it emerged he fell victim to the Caravan of Death, a death squad created by the junta to travel the country and kill opposition members. But of the 97 victims, some did not have political affiliations.
Venturelli’s daughter, María Paz, told news agency EFE that thanks to sweeping social change in Chile, “something could finally happen” and that hopefully the convicted will have to serve their sentences.
Latin American right-wing dictatorships fully implemented Operation Condor in 1975 but it had existed loosely from 1970. With the alliance, dictatorships wanted to find dissidents that had fled to other countries. Its motor was Chile, with Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay having been other influential members.
The alliance’s actions to eradicate dissent were driven by the paranoia of fighting a global Marxist conspiracy. The operation wound slowly down after the assassination of Orlando Letelier in 1976. Letelier was a former high-profile member of the Allende administration who fled to the US.
He was well connected in Washington but killed by a car bomb planted by Chile’s secret service DINA near the White House. US officials let their Chilean allies know that this incident came dangerously close to a red line and Augusto Pinochet sacrificed his close relations with DINA head Manuel Contreras to save the relationship with Washington.
Documents found in Paraguay in 1992 detail the murder of 50,000 dissidents, 30,000 forced disappearances, and 400,000 incarcerations as result of Operation Condor.
Javiera is from Santiago de Chile, she is studying journalism at Universidad de Chile, since 2017 and doing her internship at Chile Today.