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Raúl Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann (born 23 January 1938) is a Chilean Army general and a former deputy director of the DINA, the Chilean secret police under the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship. He was in charge of a secret detention center known as La Venda Sexy ("Sexy Blindfold") and La Discothèque — because of the sexual abuse inflicted on blindfolded prisoners as loud music masked their screams.[1] An aide to General Manuel Contreras, head of the DINA, he was in charge of several assassinations carried out as part of Operation Condor. He has been condemned in absentia in Italy for the failed murder of Christian-Democrat Bernardo Leighton,[2] and is wanted both in Spain and in Argentina. In the latter country, he is accused of the assassination of General Carlos Prats.[3]

In June 2007 Iturriaga went into hiding as a result of the 10-year prison sentence handed out to him by judge Alejandro Solís (reduced to five years by the Chilean Supreme Court) for the sequestration of Revolutionary Left Movement member Luis San Martín.[4] He was finally captured in August 2007 in Viña del Mar.[1]

Life and careerEdit

Raúl Iturriaga became instructor in counter-insurgency after following courses with his future chief, Manuel Contreras, in Fort Gulick,[5] an installation of the United States Department of Defense School of the Americas based in the Panama Canal.[6] He joined the DINA in November 1973, less than a month after Pinochet's coup against Salvador Allende. First responsible of the Department of Exterior Affairs of the DINA, he was named head of the Brigada Purén, based in torture center Villa Grimaldi, in December 1975.[5]

He attended again a special military course in Panama in 1976. Iturriaga became vice-director of Intelligence in the DINA in 1977, before also taking care of its Economic Department, in charge of firms owned by the DINA.[citation needed]

Iturriaga was responsible for Operation Colombo, during which political opponents "disappeared" in Argentina while Santiago claimed they had killed themselves as a result of political in-fighting.[5][6] Although officially retired in 1991, association of victims claim that he has maintained links with the DINE, DINA's successor.[6]

Criminal prosecutionEdit

In 1989, before the transition to democracy, Raúl Iturriaga was elevated to the highest grade of General in the Chilean Armed Forces, with his base in Iquique. He officially retired in 1991 as General. The same year, he was interrogated by the Minister Adolfo Bañados concerning the DINA's role in the assassination of Orlando Letelier, Salvador Allende's former minister, in Washington, D.C.[6]

In 1995, Raúl Iturriaga has also been sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment in Italy for the 1975 failed assassination attempt against Christian-Democrat Bernardo Leighton in Rome, in part because of the testimony supplied by Michael Townley.[2]

In 2002, he was indicted for the "disappearance" of Víctor Olea in September 1974.[7]

The following year he was indicted by magistrate Alejandro Solís, along with his former chief Manuel Contreras and General Pedro Espinoza, for the assassination of General Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires on 30 September 1974 in Buenos Aires. He is also claimed by the Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón.[4] The Prats Case, part of Operation Condor, opened up in Chile following an extradition request made by the Argentine magistrate María Servini de Cubría.[citation needed]

The former vice-head of staff of the Chilean Army, General Guillermo Garín, who was also Pinochet's spokesman, has given his support to Iturriaga following his escape on 11 June 2007.[4] Iturriaga had been sentenced to five years for the kidnapping of Luis Dagoberto San Martín, a 21-year-old opponent of Pinochet "disappeared" in a DINA detention centre in 1974. In a June 2007 video broadcast, Iturriaga stated: "I openly rebel before this arbitrary, biased, unconstitutional and anti-judicial conviction."[3]

Head of DINA Manuel Contreras has been the only other General to have contested the Chilean justice during democratic rule. Contreras fled two months from justice, taking refuge in the South and then in a military regiment, before being captured by security forces and detained.[4] On the other hand, various deputies, including Isabel Allende (PS), Antonio Leal (PPD), Tucapel Jiménez (PPD), and also Iván Moreira (UDI), have condemned Iturriaga's flight from justice. Tucapel Jiménez warned about the existence of a "network" of protectors, as did Jaime Naranjo (PS).[8]

On 2 August 2007, Iturriaga was captured in the Pacific coastal city of Viña del Mar.[1][9] Judge Alejandro Solis explained that no investigation would be opened on his evasion, as it is not considered a crime by Chilean law to evade oneself when one is under parole, which Iturriaga was until June 2007.[10][11] He was sent to the Penal Cordillera prison in the Valparaíso Region, located in a military property. Left-wing deputies of the Concertación, such as Carlos Montes (PS) and Denisse Pascal (PS), requested his transfer to the Punta Peuco prison, considered as more tightly guarded and where condemned military personnel would enjoy less freedom of action than in the military prison.[12] Adriana Muñoz compared the Penal Cordillera prison to the "Bermuda Triangle", because from there people disappeared just like if they had been kidnapped by UFOs."[10] Francisco Encina (PS) considered it strange that one of the defenders of Iturriaga, the UDI senator and former head of staff of the Chilean Navy, Jorge Arancibia, was a representative of the Valparaíso Region where Iturriaga has been detained.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Claudia Lagos and Patrick J. McDonneln Pinochet-era general is caught, Los Angeles Times, 3 August 2007
  2. ^ a b "Two Chileans Convicted in 1975 Shooting". Associated Press. 23 June 1995.
  3. ^ a b Claudia Lagos and Patrick J. McDonnell Fugitive ex-general stirs 'dirty war' animosities in Chile, Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2007
  4. ^ a b c d Un general chileno se declara en rebeldía contra un fallo que le condena a 5 años, El País, 14 June 2007
  5. ^ a b c La Gran Mentira – El caso de las "Listas de los 119" (capitulo 7), published by Equipo Nizkor
  6. ^ a b c d Raúl Iturriaga, Memoria Viva
  7. ^ El Mercurio, 9 March 2002, Someten a proceso a Raúl Iturriaga Neumann (quoted by Raúl Iturriaga, Memoria Viva)
  8. ^ Parlamentarios repudian rebeldía de general Iturriaga Neumann, La Nación (Chile), 13 June 2007
  9. ^ Martin, Claire (3 August 2007). "Arrestation d'un ancien général en fuite". RFI. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Raúl Iturriaga Neumann ya está tras las rejas del Penal Cordillera, Radio Cooperativa, 2 August 2007
  11. ^ Claire Martin, Arrestation d’un ancien général en fuite, RFI, 3 August 2007
  12. ^ Diputados concertacionistas pidieron que Punta Peuco sea la única cárcel para militares, La Nación, 30 July 2007