Prisoner at the Stadium
The text here below is from: “Political biography of
Marcello Ferrada-Noli, one of the founders of MIR”
(Continue from section, Facing firing squad at the Stadium).
Briefly, that morning Vallejos ordered Marcello first to seat early in the morning in the very middle of the field together with two other detainees. The chief of SOCO AGRO in the region of Chillán and a socialist militant, and a very young man (16 years old) who had previously work in a mine and was caught staling explosives and demolition gear. Later, at about 10 AM, approaches Vallejos himself armed with a machine gun and heading an armed squad integrated by four gendarmes, two Carabineros and two civil police men from the former “policía política”.
They escorted the three detainees towards the South Goal of the field and order them to stand right under the goal frame. One of the Carabineros, a sergeant and former “escribiente” of the Prefectura where Marcello’s father was once upon a time a chief officer, said that the prisoners had first to be blindfolded, and said he would fetch some appropriate stuff at the main building. The prisoners and the squad waited. After ten minutes or so comes back the sergeant together with Army Captain Sánchez (officer in command of the military unit at the camp) and a full armed platoon of professional Army soldiers. They interrupted the procedures and a dispute arises between the Sanchez and Vallejos that ended that Marcello was separated from the other two and taken to custody at the military premise of the camp. The same afternoon was Marcello Ferrada-Noli included in a transport of 18 prisoners from Stadium heading to the Naval Base of Talcahuano in a military bus, to be from there transported by boat to Quiriquina Island.
What had happened? The sergeant called Marcello’s father, which called his son Mauricio, which called his old-time comrade at the 1964 course of the Officers Military School, Captain Sánchez, once being a protégé of Mauricio at the bullying-prone officer’s mess at the Escuela Militar.
POW in Quiriquina Island After the Stadium, where he was kept the shortly described above, was Marcello thereafter held prisoner of war at the camp in Quiriquina Island run by the Navy (see photo 1 below). “Prisoner of war” was the denomination officially used by the authorities, which even issued certificates of detention signed by and with the seal of “Chief of the Prisoners Camp – Quiriquina Island, First Lt. Pedro Arrieta Gurruchaga (see Marcello’s certificate ). The political prisoners then arrested believed that the measure was taken in connection to the visit of a delegation of the International Red Cross which took place at the Island. Matching the notion that the detainees were to be considered “war” prisoner, the national newspaper La Tercera published on October 6th 1973 a full front-page photo of some of the arrested at the camp (with Marcello among them), and with the footnote “there (detained at the camp) for they have attacked the Armed Forces with fire weapons” or – referring to the local authorities of the deposed government – “for being the intellectual authors in a plan to exterminate military officers and politicians belonging to Allende’s opposition” [36a]. Days after DINA assassinated in the “Campo de Prisoners de la Isla Quiriquina” – under interrogation- the former Governor of the Region (Intendente) Fernando Alvarez, the one who appeared at the centre of the referred picture in La Tercera [36a]. He was one of the several Marcello’s peer inmates at Quiriquina who died at the camp, including those executed by firing squad such Carrillo, the union leader of the coal workers in Lota-Coronel.
Interrogations in Quiriquina Island
The interrogations to the prisoners were performed as regular twice a week by agents of a nation-wide security organization to be known later as the National Directory of Intelligence DINA. These agents came to the Island from the garrisons at Concepción. In fact the DINA personnel that took part in the interrogations were integrated by officers and petty officers selected from all branches of the Armed Forces. During the interrogations the question for Marcello Ferrada-Noli by the DINA agents remained unchanged: where did he hide the weapons (see Marcello’s poem “El generalísimo” in the section Poems & Novels), and, where was Miguel Enríquez. Marcello was charged later for his responsibilities and taking part in an operative consisting of a weapon transport and smuggling it into Chile (this process against Marcello at the Militar Attorney Authority [Fiscalía Militar] was eventually dropped about six years later, while Marcello was already living in Sweden. Marcello denied the charges until the end). Marcello and friends worked already on the escape plan and had hidden Navy working uniforms which were of very simple design and easy to emulate with help of transformed jeans and civil clothes.
However, thanks to family pressure, the fact that he was publicly recognised as being a prisoner at Quiriquina Island, and the solidarity of his peers at the Camp (which although well aware of Marcello’s stand never said a thing) as well as academic pressure from Mexico, Marcello was released in 1974. However, this was decided only with the clear stipulated condition that Marcello should leave the country and he was also expected to do so immediately (originally to Mexico). Marcello was presented as well a hand written clause on that he should be very careful with what he was going to say abroad [36b]. The “authorization to travel abroad” was signed by General Agustín Toro, the Division general in charge of the military zone in the Region and an old brother in arms with Marcello’s brother Mauricio (both at the Artillery, Mauricio had served as Lt. Field Aid (oficial ayudante) to General Toro years before in the Northern garrison at Arica). General Toro actually signed on the very envelope containing the letter arrived from México University asking for Marcello’s release and also issuing an invitation for him to work there as a professor. Ordinarily, an Army General perhaps would have refused such a petition, but one coincidentally aspect in this case it was also that General Toro had served as Military Attaché at the Chilean Embassy in México just months before.
I made this portrait of Antonio Popa, a felow prisoner,
while we were at Quiriquina Island. The portrait is from December 1974.
He is now a physician living in Singapore
Back to Inferno
Marcello was taken from Quiriquina Island in a sealed empty metal tank on board a Navy tug-boat to the detention centre Cuartel Borgoño. After shortly staying this centre – run by the Marines at main land Talcahuano- Marcello was taken to the head quarters of the III Military Division where his brother Mauricio ultimately picked him up. They went together to their parents’ residence where a flight ticket and a packed suit case were waiting for Marcello. There Marcello reunited also with his new born son José-Miguel and mother, and a relieved brother Mauricio finally could travel with his wife and kids to a long postponed summer vacation in Southern Chile. However, the drama did not end there for Marcello.
As soon as Marcello’s brother Mauricio had left Concepción came two agents and arrested Marcello anew, taking him directly back to the camp at the football stadium in Concepción (the very place where Marcello was detained before Quiriquina). DINA would not comply with General Toro’s gentlemanly gesture towards his brother in arms and once his own attaché officer, namely Marcello’s brother Mauricio. Marcello was transported to the Stadium in a van together with another detainee, Galo Gómez, the university professor and Vice Rector of the University of Concepción. During his night at the Stadium could Marcello share cell with two of his best personal friends, Marco Antonio Enríquez (Miguel eldest brother) and Rodrigo Rojas. Those in the cell were due to be transported the day after to Chacabuco camp (see below).
To complicate things, Marcello’s father was in Santiago to wait for the arrival from Great Britain of daughter Carmen Consuelo. Marcello was taken back to the detention centre at the Foot ball stadium in Concepción, awaiting an imminent flight transport to the Chacabuco Camp, in Northern Chile (approximately two thousand kilometres from Concepción). Only José-Miguel’s young mother was left in Concepción for managing the new critical situation. Eventually she managed to contact Mauricio, who interrupted his holiday to come – at the very last minute- and rescue his brother from boarding the military transport. This time Mauricio came with his own military escort and in addition with Captain Sanchez and his platoon, and carrying the General orders. The Agents at the stadium said to Marcello – and in front of his brother and escort- “we do not release you, you go just because your brother and his Artillery men are taking you with them, but we will come back to you, and you will come back here”.
Officers and gentlemen
But, according to Marcello, not all the Military and Navy personnel acted as DINA agents acted, or as the death squads acted. According to Marcello there are several episodes he witnessed him self and that can tell about the other side of the behaviour of Military and Navy personnel towards the detainees or their families. Marcello said “in very general terms, it was in a way similar to the difference between the SS and the Wermacht, the behaviour of the fanatics at the Gestapo contrasting to the strictly militarily, and at times gentlemanly, behaviour of the professional officers, at least those who respected the Geneva Convention”.
Shortly thereafter Marcello was escorted – this time with his brother on his side until the last minute – 0 to the exile flight from Santiago de Chile. At departure, the grateful Marcello gave his brother Mauricio the Rolex watch he had carried since graduation, a present from his parents.
Marcello did not what the generals prohibited and went thereafter to Rome to participate as crown witness at the Russell Tribunal investigating the violation of human rights in Chile in the aftermath of the Military Coup. Marcello even stayed afterwards as a permanent member of the Russell Tribunal Scientific Committee together with among other five Gabriel García Marquez and Senator Lelio Basso and also participated in the activities of MIR’s cell in Rome. The Committee at Russell Tribunal was chaired by Linda Bimbi, which made afterwards possible for Marcello the contacts with Amnesty International in Sweden. There new duties on behalf of MIR waited for Marcello in Stockholm.
Years after, amid his second exile in Scandinavia, Marcello would pursue General Pinochet’s international trial (photo 2). By observing the originals of the photos below, separated by almost 30 years, I just could guess – thinking in the story related above – time did not much difference to the steadfast message in his eyes.
Helsinki, December 2002.