by Pascale Bonnefoy M. (Lea artículo original en español aquí))
The morgues of Santiago, Antofagasta, Quillota and Valdivia received the bodies of 150 people during the first three months of the Chilean military dictatorship in 1973. Based on the manner of their deaths, they could be possible political executions who have not been classified as victims of human rights violations.
Of these, 84 bodies were designated “NN”, that is, unidentified, making it impossible for their cases to be presented before the three commissions for the qualification of victims of human rights violations that have issued official reports on the matter since 1991.
This information from the Servicio Médico Legal (SML) makes it possible to cross-check the circumstances of their deaths – for example, the date, time and place of death – with the data on detainees-disappeared available in these reports.
Methodology & findings
In the 150 “potential” cases compiled by ArchivosChile, the data provided by the SML on those who died between September and December 1973, allows us to match the circumstances and nature of their deaths. By cross-referencing the information, the data suggests that these are likely victims of political repression, as they follow the same pattern as the qualified victims. The characteristics considered include the cause and place of death, the military jurisdiction over their cases, and the place from which the body was taken to the morgue (“origin”).
ArchivosChile has published the list of 150 cases (see the complete list here) with the corresponding data from the SML. The column “Causa Potencial Caso DH” indicates the different categories that characterize these deaths as potentially politically executed: “FM” refers to the jurisdiction of the Military Prosecutor’s Office; “DAF” refers to shooting as the cause of death; “Herida” indicates the nature of the mortal wound; and “Lugar” refers to the place of death or the origin.
All of these 150 people died from gunshot wounds or “explosions”, as stated in their autopsy reports. For example, Francisco Contreras Morales, from Quillota, died from a “grenade in the mouth”, according to the records of the SML of that city, while Mario Uribe Sanchez, whose body was referred by the Second Military Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago, died due to a “cephalo-cervical-thoracic attrition by firearm explosion”, as described by the forensic doctor Humberto Rhea, referring to gunshot wounds in the head and chest.
In many cases, the gunshot wounds described in the autopsy reports indicate certain executions: shots to the head or thorax, or bodies riddled with gunshot wounds in multiple parts of the body. Julio Rojas Leal, for example, was found at kilometer 18 of the General San Martin Highway with bullet wounds in his face, chest, abdomen and extremities, according to the autopsy report. He was murdered on October 11, 1973.
In 14 cases the autopsy reports indicate homicide.
In addition to being shot to death, 117 of these 150 people were referred by military prosecutors, which means that the military justice system assumed jurisdiction over their cases for an eventual criminal investigation that was never initiated, as happened in 90 percent of the confirmed human rights cases.
Another 22 of the 150 people appear in the SML records as having been referred by criminal courts, as was still done in cases of common violent deaths, but the nature of their cause of death also hints that they may have been political executions. All but two of them died from gunshot wounds to the head or thorax or both, or from “multiple gunshot wounds,” their autopsy reports concluded. In one case from Antofagasta, the court that referred the body was not noted.
In more than 80 cases, three, and sometimes four, factors were combined that would indicate a high degree of probability that they were victims of human rights violations. The most repeated combination of characteristics (“FM+DAF+Place”)–in 72 of the 150 deceased–all of which indicate probable military action. Only in one case is there a single characteristic–the type of wound. But it is doubtful that the explosion of a grenade in the mouth of Francisco Contreras Morales, from Quillota, was accidental.
Place of death often indicates a political execution
In some situations, the site where the body was found or the place where the person died is added to this table; on many occasions these were sites commonly used for political executions.
According to this background, among the potential political victims in Santiago, 17 were killed in the Mapocho River; another four on bridges over the river; 14 in canals in the Metropolitan Region; five on Avenida Departamental and Macul; three in the Metropolitan Cemetery; two in the San Bernardo Infantry School; two on the General San Martin Highway and two in Cerro Chena.
There were also people killed by bullet wounds in the Guardia Vieja Regiment, such as Nelson Cañas Alegría; in “war arsenals”, such as Domingo Alfaro Norambuena; and in the School of Specialties, such as Mario Jara Gómez.
The place of origin, that is, the place from which the body was taken to the morgue, also sheds light on the possible condition of political execution. In 32 cases, the origin was “Military Prosecutor’s Office” and in another 11, “Prosecutor’s Office”. Also noted were places of origin such as “Air Force” and “Tacna Regiment”.
Regarding José Manuel Salas and Eduardo Cubillas Portillas, both from Antofagasta, the origin noted in the morgue of that city was the “Jefatura de Zona en Estado de Sitio”, in the case of Salas, and in the case of Cubillas, the “Batallón Telecomunicaciones Nº 1”. This offers a strong indication that their deaths were not common crimes.
And there is an even more obvious case: that of Luis Curivil Pranamil, whose morgue data were collected by the National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation (CNRR) to qualify as a victim of human rights violations another person with a striking similarity in name: Luis Curivil Tranamil, killed by unknown persons before the military coup.
- READ MORE: The strange case of the two Luis Curivil
 ArchivosChile was only able to obtain data from 14 cities in the country, in addition to Santiago, according to the availability of regional files at the Forensic Medical Service.
 One was noted in the morgue admission book as “bones”, although it was determined that he had died on September 14, 1973 and arrived at the morgue only two weeks later.
 In the case of 43 of these NNs, the Civil Registry noted on their fingerprint records that the prints were unclassifiable due to lack of epidermis, or did not come with prints, making it impossible to identify them. In six other cases, the morgue informed the morgue that the prints were not on file, i.e., the person to be identified was not registered with the Civil Registry Service.
 The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Rettig Report, 1991), the National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation (1996) and the Advisory Commission for the Qualification of Disappeared Detainees, Political Executed and Victims of Political Imprisonment and Torture (2011).
- Investigation Overview: The Bureaucracy of Death – Executions in Chile 1973
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (I): Bodies at dawn
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (II): “Cursory autopsies”
- Inside the Instituto Médico Legal (III): From the morgue to the cemetery
- Political Executions: 150 new cases?
- Crossed identities and bodies without names at the Registro Civil
- The black hole of the military prosecutors’ offices
- Military Courts: Execute first, judge second
- Wartime Tribunals: Absolute authority
- The silence of the cemetery
- The strange case of the two Luis Curivils
- Victor Jara and Littré Quiroga
- Bodies floating in the Mapocho River
- Allende suicide: Forensic reports July 19, 2011