Revolutionary Left Movement (Chile)
|Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria
Revolutionary Left Movement
|Founded||August 15, 1965|
|Colours||Black, red and white|
The Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) (Spanish Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria) is a Chilean political organization and former far-left guerrilla organization founded on October 12, 1965. At its height in 1973, the MIR numbered some 10,000 members and associates. The group emerged from various student organizations and established a base of support among the trade unions and shantytowns of Santiago. Andrés Pascal Allende, a nephew of Salvador Allende, president of Chile from 1970 to 1973, was one of its early leaders. Miguel Enríquez Espinosa was the General Secretary of the party from 1967 until his assassination in 1974 by the DINA.
Although it distinguished itself with spectacular direct and military actions particularly during the Resistance to the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, MIR manifestly rejected terrorism as a form of political or military struggle  (see below on the assassination of Edmundo Pérez Zujovic by the VOP).
Before the coup
The Sino-Soviet ideological dispute, the Soviet Union's repressive interventions in Czechoslovakia and other Warsaw Pact countries, the presence of the Cuban Revolution in Latin America, and the emergent global student movement inspired in the humanist socialism of the Frankfurt School and the New Left (by the time of the early opposition to the Vietnam War) were main ideological issues that the traditional Chilean left (the Socialist Party and the Communist Party) had to deal with amid their relative political stagnation in the beginning of the 1960s.
Their "reformist" doctrine of a non-revolutionary road to socialism began to be questioned in a country with political dominance of the right-wing and center-right wing parties strongly supporting US policies. The questioning for changes and the opposition against such changes resulted in several small groups or fractions.
The Maoists left the Communist Party and the Socialist Party group of students. A the same time, since World War II, there were some minor Trotskyist formations and minor left-libertarian groups, which also had a discrete ideological influence in the student movement in Santiago and Concepción. The group led by Miguel Enríquez, temporarely allocated in the cell "Espartaco" at the Socialist Party, called itself the "Revolutionary Socialists" fraction. It was formed by Miguel and Marco A. Enríquez, B. Van Schowen, Marcello Ferrada-Noli (a left libertarian and then the leader of the socialist cell "Espartaco" in Concepción), and Jorge Gutiérrez. When this fraction was finally ousted from the Socialist Party (Senator Ampuero) in February 1964, it continued as independent fraction until they merged in the organization VRM. There the young socialists met with Trotskyites and Stalinists, most of them twice their age.
When MIR was founded on 12 October 1965 at the locals of an anarchist union in Santiago, less than 100 participated, and all the above ideological tendencies were represented. Revolutionary socialists (by Miguel Enríquez and B. Van Schowen), former communists (represented by the Maoist Cares), Trotskyists (by Dr. Enrique Sepúlveda and Marco Antonio Enríquez, Miguel Enríquez's brother), left-libertarians or social anarchists (by Marcello Ferrada-Noli), and anarcho-sindicalists (by Clotario Blest). It took some time before the MIR finally could achieve its ultimate identification as a solely Marxist-Leninist political organization. And this was the work of Miguel Enríquez for the two years to come.
The first document approved at MIR foundation congress was the "Tesi Insurreccional", the political-military theses of MIR. The document was written by Miguel Enríquez (Viriato), Marco Antonio Enríquez (Bravo), and Marcello Ferrada-Noli (Atacama), all three from Concepción. Two reasons explain this document and its co-authorship.
One is that the group of young students from Concepción led by Miguel Enríquez was the most numerous. The second being that the group from Concepción had internally some different ideological profiles, which were represented in the document by the co-authors. Several tendencies were represented on the Central Committee, but later, the only line that prevailed was the Marxist-Leninist. Both Maoists (and Stalinists) and Trotskyites abandoned MIR or were ousted by the new Secretariat led by Miguel Enriquez. The few anarchist and left liberal cadres supporting the "tendencia social-humanista" and that remained in the organization, were confined to academic tasks and trusted the ideological polemique with the emergent "Christian Humanism" and old Stalinists.
After the 2nd Congress in 1967, MIR would considered itself not only a revolutionary vanguard party as established in the 1965 foundation congress, but also clearly advocated a Marxist-Leninist model of revolution in which it would lead the working class to a "dictatorship of the proletariat".
In 1969, following the "Osses case", a direct (non-fatal) operation acted by four militants of MIR in Concepción against the right-wing tabloid Noticias de la Tarde, the Christian Democratic Party government used the incident to ban the MIR and begin persecution of its known leaders. The government publicized a national list of 13 young MIR leaders for their capture. Among them, all between 22 and 26 and with links to the University of Concepción, were Doctors Miguel Enríquez and Bautista van Schouwen, Professor Marcello Ferrada-Noli, medical student Luciano Cruz, sociologist Nelson Gutiérrez, lawyer Juan Saavedra Gorriategy, civil engineer Aníbal Matamala, and economist José Goñi (Goñi later became a Minister of Defense and ambassador of Chile in the USA). Some of them were captured after spectacular operatives coordinated by the central headquarters of the Chilean Political Police in Santiago, tortured, and imprisoned in the Cárcel of Concepción and in Santiago.
On 1 May 1969, fifteen armed MIR guerrillas stormed the Bío-Bío radio station of Concepción and transmitted a discourse urging the people to take up arms and overthrow the current government. On 21 May, a group of local MIR sympathizers took to the streets of Concepción and attacked the branches of 'The City Bank' in the city and the offices of the La Patria newspaper.
The banning of MIR by the Christian Democratic government in 1969 drastically changed the organization of MIR, which entered a clandestine political existence with semi autonomous operative-structures that survived even during the first years of the military resistance of MIR against the 1973 Chilean coup. The threat from the MIR was underlined by the discovery at the end of May of a guerrilla training camp in the southern province of Valdivia. Beginning in March 1968, a series of MIR bomb attacks took place in various parts of the country that targeted among others, the U.S. consulate, the Chilean-American Institute in Rancagua, the main office of the Christian Democratic Party, the office of Chile's largest-selling El Mercurio newspaper and the residence of senator Francisco Bulnes of the National Party.
In June 1971, a small group known as the Vanguardia Organizada del Pueblo (VOP), founded among other by two former MIR militants expelled from the Organization in 1969 conducted the abduction and murder of the former Minister of Interior Affairs during the Christian Democratic government, Edmundo Pérez Zujovic. The Minister had been singled out by sectors of the oppositional left and worker-unions as the top government politician supposedly ordering the repressive actions which culminated in the Masacre de Puerto Montt on March 9, 1969. At this massacre, 9 working-class men and woman were killed by police in Southern Chile. Following the assassination of Perez Zijovic, the MIR Political Bureau condemned this action in "categorical" terms in a special issued communiqué.
MIR explicitly condemned terrorism perpetrated against individuals ("atentado personal"). Ideological issues that would help to explain this anti-terrorist posture of MIR have been referred in historical notes by MIR-leaders who survived the epoch.
Although MIR built up an arsenals of light arms, assault automatic weapons, and also mobile mortar-launchers from its own handcrafted manufacturing (the Talleres), MIR supported rather than opposed the presidency of Salvador Allende and his People's Unity coalition. Nationwide unrest and political polarization escalated, as did left-wing and right-wing violence. Before 1973, the organization may have staged few attacks compared to its urban guerrilla peers, but it tried to infiltrate the Chilean Armed Forces in anticipation of a coup d'état against Allende and discussed plans to replace the existing police and military with a militia recruited from the Popular Front's supporters. The MIR commanders, Oscar Garretón and Miguel Enríquez were tasked with infiltrating Chilean Navy personnel. In August 1973, it finally formed the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta (JCR) with other South American revolutionary parties (the Argentine ERP, the Uruguayan Tupamaros and the Bolivian National Liberation Army. However, the JCR never achieved real effectiveness.
The day of the military coup
Fewer than 60 individuals died as a direct result of fighting on 11 September 1973, but the MIR and GAP continued to fight the following day. In all, 46 Allende's praetorian guard (the GAP, Grupo de Amigos Personales, including ex-Chilean Army Special Forces Black Beret Mario Melo) were killed, some of them in combat with the soldiers that took the Moneda. Before the coup, Miguel Enríquez had convinced Allende to form a praetorian guard. Allende's praetorian guard under Cuban-trained commando Ariel Fontana should have had some 300 elite commando-trained GAP fighters defending the palace and nearby buildings in time for the military coup, but the use of brute military force, especially the use of Hawker Hunter bombers, Puma helicopter-gunships and the cordoning of Santiago, may have handicapped many GAP fighters from taking part in the action.
These factors may explain both the vigorous and brutal purges of armed forces personnel suspected of being sympathetic to Allende after Augusto Pinochet's 1973 coup d'état and the Operation Condor campaign of state terrorism staged throughout the Southern Cone.
During Pinochet's dictatorship, the group was responsible for several attacks on government personnel and buildings. In 1976, there had been plans to infiltrate 1,200 Marxist guerrillas from Argentina into Chile in an operation christened Plan Boomerang Rojo (Red Boomerang Plan), but the infiltration failed to materialize because of the co-operation of the Argentine authorities with Chile.
The attempts to establish a guerrilla front
The years 1980-1981 saw the MIR return in strength to the Valdivia province were they sought to establish a guerrilla group in Neltume. The MIR had in September 1970 given basic military training to some 2,000 lumber workers in the Panguipulli Lake area and won over the trust of the general population, some 500 miles south of Santiago. After the Chilean military takeover on 11 September 1973, the Chilean Army deployed the entire 4th Division under Major-General Héctor Bravo in the area of Neltume area after 60-80 local left-wing militants attacked with molotov cocktails the local police station with the aim of capturing the armoury. Between 3 and 4 October 1973 Major-General Bravo ordered the execution of 11 MIR members and sympathizers: José Liendo, Fernando Krauss, René Barrientos, Pedro Barría, Luis Pezo, Santiago García, Víctor Saavedra, Sergio Bravo, Rudemir Saavedra, Enrique Guzmán, Víctor Rudolph, Luis Valenzuela Krauss-Barrientos. On 23 October 1973, 23-year-old Army Corporal Benjamín Alfredo Jaramillo Ruz, who was serving with the 2nd Cazadores Infantry Regiment, became the first fatal casualty of the counterinsurgency operations in the mountainous area of Alquihue in Valdivia after being shot by a guerrilla sniper. In the renewed military offensives in the area under the Pinochet regime between 1980 and 1981, the MIR guerrillas around Lake Panguipulli with the help of local militants and sympathizers halted the initial advance of the Chilean Army. Later, in order to disperse them and subdue the province, the Chilean Army ordered a full Brigade of elite troops in the form of Special Forces and Paratroopers and their accompanying U.S. military advisors. In the various military operations carried out in the cities of Talcahuano, Concepcion, Los Angeles and Valdivia between 23 and 24 August 1984, the military and police forces deployed executed six captured MIR militants and sympathizers.
On 15 July 1980, MIR guerrillas killed 43-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Vergara Campos, head of the Chilean Army Intelligence School, also shooting his driver, 42-year-old Sergeant Mario Espinoza Navarro. On 30 August 1983, MIR guerrillas assassinated 57-year-old Major-General Carol Urzúa Ibáñez, military governor of Santiago and his armed escorts, 30-year-old corporal Carlos Rivero Bequiarelli and 34-year-old Corporal José Domingo Aguayo-Franco. During October and November 1983, the MIR bombed four offices of U.S. affiliated corporations. In June 1988, the MIR bombed four banks in Santiago, causing serious structural damage. According to the Rettig Report, MIR leader Jecar Neghme was assassinated in 1989 by Chilean state agents.
According to MIR commander Andrés Pascal Allende, in all some 1,500-2,000 MIR members were killed or forcefully disappeared under the Chilean military regime. After Chile's return to democracy in 1990, the party was resurrected. It currently participates in the Juntos Podemos Más coalition.
The MIR and the case against Pinochet
Relatives and friends of the MIR members assassinated by the Pinochet regime filed a civil lawsuit before judge Juan Guzmán Tapia against Pinochet. The criminal complaint states that the MIR had been formed in 1965 and that due to ideological and tactical differences did not become part of the Popular Unity government headed by Salvador Allende. Still, the organisation had served as a base of support for Allende and had shown willingness to confront violent sedition directed against the Popular Unity government organized by its US-backed right-wing opponents.
Subsequently, with the September 11, 1973 Chilean coup and the overthrow and death of Allende Chile entered a period of severe military repression in which members of the former democratically elected socialist Allende government and its supporters were deemed enemies of the state. From the onset on September 11, 1973 the MIR became a major focus of death squads and its members began to be subjected to extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.
As a consequence, the MIR initiated a resistance against the military junta's violent repression that accompanied the clandestine publication of the document Qué es el MIR? (What is the MIR?) which proposed a series of resolutions to confront the repression, including political pressure, denunciations and propaganda. On one page (page 37 of the political document), the MIR presented the political question of arms in this resistance.
The lawsuit noted that the armed struggle was not central to the ideology of the MIR and that it had historically been a political organisation whose strategy had principally involved the mobilization of working class people and the poor in an attempt to exert political pressure to effectuate political and social change to advance their political cause.
The lawsuit noted that under the pretext of war serious violations of human rights had been committed in violations of both international and constitutional law. The document noted that the cruellest example was the extermination of the MIR political organization, in which according to the document its members fell victims to the following crimes:
- Homicide (first degree murder)
- Killings in mock confrontations – irrational use of force (sucha as mobilizing 300 security agents to arrest 4 people.)
- False application of the ‘law of flight’ (executing people for escaping after being informally freed.)
- Mass killings (state terrorism)
- Abduction and Forced disappearances (sanctioned by article 141 of the Criminal Code)
- Torture (violation of the Geneva convention)
- Illicit associations (in accordane with Article 292 of the Criminal Code)
- Genocide (in accordance with Article 2 of CPPCG)
- Miguel Enríquez, physician, MIR leader, executed.
- Andrés Pascal Allende, MIR cofounder and leader.
- Luciano Cruz, medical student, cause of death in 1971 remains unresolved.
- Bautista van Schouwen, physician, MIR leader, executed.
- Jorge Müller Silva, cinematographer, forced disappearance.
- Luis Fuentes Labarca, founder of "El Rebelde"
- Jecar Antonio Nehme Cristi,political leader, assassinated.
- Diana Aron Svigilsky, journalist, forced disappearance.
- Cedomil Lausic Glasinovic, agronomist, executed.
- José Appel De La Cruz,medical student, forced disappearance.
- William Beausire, stockbroker, forced disappearance.
- José Gregorio Liendo, leader of MIR group in Neltume, executed by firing squad.
- Gustavo Marín, leader of MIR group in the Mapuche zone (southern Chile), imprisoned then forced into exile.
- Gabriel Salazar, historian, left the movement in 1973.
- Historical dictionary of terrorism, By Sean Anderson & Stephen Sloan, Page 447, Scarecrow Press, 2009
- Marcello Ferrada-Noli, "Nelson Gutierrez. In memoriam. Notas sobre la Historia del MIR". [English Summary]. Stockholm, 2008. The author put forward a rationale for this condemnation, which would to be based in both ideological and strategic factors. The author also quotes a MIR official document of the epoch "El MIR a los Estudiantes, Obreros y Soldados. Declaración Pública of 16-06-1971" in which MIR confirmed anew to have "categorically" condemned assassinations as the one carried out by the VOP (referring to Edmundo Perez Zujovic fall): "Hemos sido categóricos en condenar las acciones de la VOP, pues éstos han utilizado el atentado personal como método, hoy en Chile"] (Pages 14-15) .
- Pedro Naranjo (2004). "Biografía de Miguel Enríquez". CEME. Page 10 and Note 10 
- Pedro Alfonso Valdés Navarro (2008) "Elementos teóricos en la formación y desarrollo del MIR durante el periodo 1965-1970". Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile. Tesis de grado. Pages 1-121 
- Diario "El Mercurio", Santiago de Chile, "A Través de la Historia Terrorista del Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR)", 25 August 1973.
- Determinants of gross human rights violations by state and state-sponsored actors in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, 1960-1990, By Wolfgang S. Heinz & Hugo Frühling, Page 423, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1999
- The overthrow of Allende and the politics of Chile, 1964-1976, By Paul E. Sigmund, Page 99, University of Pittsburgh Pre, 1977
- The overthrow of Allende and the politics of Chile, 1964-1976, By Paul E. Sigmund, pp. 69-70, University of Pittsburgh Pre, 1977
- Marcello Ferrada-Noli, "Nelson Gutierrez. In memoriam. Notas sobre la Historia del MIR". [English Summary]. Stockholm, 2008. Pages 14-15 
- La Iglesia del silencio en Chile: un tema de meditación para los católicos latinoamericanos, Page 460, Sociedad Colombiana de Defensa de la Tradición, Familia y Propiedad, 1976
- Associated Press January 11, 2006
- El MIR y Allende, Publicado en la edición especial Nº 665 de Punto Final, en homenaje al centenario de Salvador Allende, 26 de junio, 2008
- The Nixon Administration and the Death of Allende's Chile: A Case of Assisted Suicide, Jonathan Haslam, page 64, Verso Press 2005
- Newsweek, Volume 82, Issues 10-18, Page 43, 1973
- Battling for hearts and minds: memory struggles in Pinochet's Chile, 1973-1988, By Steve J. Stern, Page 53, Duke University Press, 2006
- Latin American digest, Volumes 6-8, Page 28, Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1971
- NELTUME EN LA MEMORIA, Diario La Nación, Chile, Sunday 20 April, 2003
- Chilean resistance courier, Issue 7, Page 23, Resistance Publications, 1977
- Determinants of gross human rights violations by state and state-sponsored actors in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, 1960-1990, By Wolfgang S. Heinz & Hugo Frühling, Page 545, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1999
- Neghme Cristi Jecar Antonio, Memoria Viva (Spanish)
- Los Allende: con ardiente paciencia por un mundo mejor. By Günther Wessel, Page 155, Editorial TEBAR, 2004
- Querella Víctimas Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria MIR Chile. Derechos-Nizkor, 2 September 2002 (retrieved 09 July 2009).
- Querella Víctimas MIR Chile - Fundamentación Jurídica (Antijuridicidad). Derechos-Nizkor, 2 September 2002 (retrieved 09 July 2009).
- website dedicated to Jecar Nehgme Cristi, MIR leader assassinated 4 September 1989
- El Mercurio de Calama. p. 46. 17 June. Retrieved June 18.