RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A well-known international sale and auction of products website offers clothing that exalts one of the most atrocious crimes of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, that occurred during his military dictatorship: the so-called “death flights”.
This was one of the most terrible formulas used by the repressive agencies of the military dictatorship in Chile. According to the reports provided by subsequent investigations such as Valech and Rettig, which provided data on the crimes against humanity committed during the regime, dropping bodies from aircraft into the sea was a recurring practice.
In fact, there are countless accounts of the disappearance of men and women, of whom there is no trace to this day.
In recent hours, the case was made public by the Argentine journalist Uki Goñi, who also attached different photographs of the products published on the sale and purchase website.
For around 20 dollars, and with free delivery to any part of the world in some cases, the garments, coming from the United States, can be purchased on eBay under the search term “Pinochet Helicopter” or “Pinochet Tour’s”, expressions commonly used by the dictator’s supporters to refer to this method of extermination.
This was a systematic method of extermination used in the 1970s in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, which consisted of dropping political detainees from a plane or helicopter of the Armed Forces into the sea to murder them and eliminate all evidence.
In Argentina, this practice is recorded as having occurred since 1976, during Jorge Rafael Videla’s military dictatorship. In Chile, the cruel practice was encouraged since the beginning of Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1973.
In Chile in 2018, these facts were accredited through the testimony of a retired military NCO, who witnessed Army helicopters model “Puma” carrying out these crimes.
According to the testimony of Juan Guillermo Orellana Bustamante, a retired Army non-commissioned officer, “the people were tied hand and foot”, usually blindfolded. Also, the detainees had “a piece of iron tied to their feet”, the purpose of which was to cause the body to sink into the sea.
In Chile, this criminal practice, known as “death flights, ” was difficult to prove by the court system due to the victims’ lack of recognition. It was known, witnesses testified, but there were no names of victims: witnesses were not able to identify the people dropped into the sea, something that changed in 2018, the year in which for the first time the courts prosecuted the military for dropping people alive into the sea.
In May 2018, Judge Jaime Arancibia Pinto issued an indictment against the genocidal, former Brigadier of the Chilean Army Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko and the military personnel Richter Nuche Sepúlveda, Emilio de la Mahotiere, and Carlos Mardones Díaz, for illicit association and qualified kidnapping of three disappeared detainees.
Ceferino Santis Quijada, 31 years old and a militant of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR); Luis Norambuena Fernandois, 30 years old and a militant of the Socialist Party; and Gustavo Farías Vargas, 23 years old and a militant of the MIR, were the recognized victims whose bodies were lost in the waters.
These T-shirts have printed phrases such as “Pinochet did nothing wrong”, or “Let’s make the communists fear rotary-wing aircraft again”. These captions are accompanied by designs of helicopters and human figures being thrown from the aircraft.
It only takes a quick search through the sale and purchase portal to detect approximately 15 such products and others related to white supremacism. Most of these items originate in the United States.
It is not the first time
In Chile, the existence of these products has been denounced on different Internet websites since 2017. During that year, it was discovered that another website was selling these garments, and after this fact was published in international media, the platform removed the items.
On the other hand, in Chile, these products have caused national scandals that have affected politicians’ and presidential candidates’ careers. Such was the case of José Antonio Kast, leader of the Chilean extreme right and current presidential candidate for the Republican Party, who faced public opinion for supporting one of these T-shirts.
It all started in April 2018, when Internet users denounced the existence of a photograph between Kast and a follower, who was wearing a T-shirt with the legend “Pinochet’s Helicopter Tours”, along with the design of a human figure being thrown from a helicopter.
In response to the complaint, Kast declared that on occasion, “I took hundreds of photos, and I did not notice the image on the T-shirt”. He added that “it is a cruel, inhuman and unacceptable mockery, which I absolutely condemn”.
However, the relationship between Kast and the disappeared detainees has always been tense. In April 2018, Deputy Ignacio Urrutia pointed to the victims of political imprisonment and torture as “terrorists”.
Faced with the controversy, Kast defended the parliamentarian and indicated that “beyond the forms, Deputy Urrutia says a great truth: there are organizations, leaders and parliamentarians who have been profiting for years with human rights in Chile”.