SANTIAGO – On March 22, a judge convicted 11 former army soldiers for the murder of a photographer who was burned alive during protests against Dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1986. Among the condemned are three who received 10-year sentences. The soldiers’ other victim said she had “contradictory feelings” about the convictions.
Judge Mario Carroza convicted 11 former army soldiers for their responsibility in the murder of Rodrigo Andrés Rojas De Negri and the attempted murder of Carmen Gloria Quintana Arancibia, in the so-called Quemados (the burned ones) case:
- Julio Ernesto Castañer González, Iván Humberto Figueroa Canobra, and Nelson Fidel Medina Gálvez were sentenced to 10 years and one day in prison, as perpetrators of the crimes.
- Luis Alberto Zúñiga González, Jorge Osvaldo Astorga Espinoza, Francisco Fernando Vásquez Vergara, Leonardo Antonio Riquelme Alarcón, Walter Ronny Lara Gutiérrez, Juan Ramón González Carrasco, Pedro Patricio Franco Rivas, and Sergio Hernández Ávila, were sentenced to three years and a day of prison, as accomplices. These eight will have the option of probation, as reported by 24 Horas news service.
René Aníbal Muñoz Bruce and Pedro Fernández Dittus, on the other hand, were acquitted for lack of participation and by application of “res judicata,” respectively. (Res judicata applied to Fernández because, as reported by news site BioBioChile, he was previously convicted in 1993 for the crimes and sentenced to 600 days in jail.)
These convictions return to the public eye one of the most “emblematic” crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship.
The crimes occurred July 2, 1986, in Santiago’s Estación Central municipality, when photographer Rodrigo Rojas De Negri, age 19, and Carmen Gloria Quintana, age 18, and others, were heading for a march against the dictatorship.
On their way, the group was stopped by a military patrol. According to website MQLTV, Quintana said that all the soldiers, had camouflaged uniforms and makeup. When the patrol stopped the group, “fear invaded,” and everyone tried to run away.
Rojas and Quintana did not succeed. Both were caught. “Rodrigo was kicked to the ground. They took me, they searched me everywhere, they put me against the wall. They asked me what I was doing, … they reviewed the documents, and they took them from me,” Quintana said.
After this aggression, Fernández, who was leading the military group, sprayed the young people with gasoline, and then set fire to Rojas and Quintana. Quintana survived, but with serious injuries and 62% of her body burned. Rojas was not so lucky. He died of his injuries.
Quintana referred to the judge’s ruling through a letter, stating that she received it “with contradictory feelings,” because, on the one hand, she feels “joy knowing that finally the official truth” is what she and the other witnesses have been saying since the beginning, but, at the same time, “32 years later it is too long, because nothing can repair the damage that my family and I had to face.” Quintana also added that the army soldiers were given short sentences “considering the horror of what they committed: burning two people alive.”
Rojas’s mother, Verónica De Negri, also commented on the convictions in an interview with ADN news. She said, “I value the judge’s work in the sense that he did justice, he made a huge effort.” But she also thinks the sentences are too short. “I do not agree with the sentences, but the ruling is valuable because it is historic, it brings a response to the whole country.”
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Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.