Carmen Gloria Quintana

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Carmen Gloria Quintana (1987)

Carmen Gloria Quintana Arancibia (born c. 1968) is a Chilean woman who suffered severe burns in an incident where she and other young people were detained by an army patrol during a street demonstration against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.[1] She survived, and thereafter became a symbol of hope for democracy in Chile to many, receiving an embrace and encouragement from Pope John Paul II.[2]


First testimony of Carmen Gloria Quintana. Collection of the National Archives of Chile.

On 2 July 1986, at 8 a.m., she was part of a small group of people preparing a barricade in Los Nogales, part of the district of Estación Central in Santiago. That day a national protest was taking place against the military dictatorship of General Pinochet. The group were carrying five used car tyres, molotov cocktails and a gallon of petrol. They were intercepted by a military patrol that was engaged in demolishing barricades in the area of Avenida General Velásquez. All of the group managed to escape except Quintana and Rodrigo Rojas DeNegri, a young photographer. The patrol, under the command of Lieutenant Pedro Fernández Dittus, was composed of three officers, five non-commissioned officers, and 17 soldiers.[citation needed]

There are two versions of the succeeding events: according to the official version of the military patrol as Quintana and Rojas were arrested, some of the molotov cocktails they were carrying broke, setting them on fire accidentally. The opposing version (of Quintana, the only survivor) alleges that both were severely beaten by military personnel, and later soaked with petrol and set on fire. What is clearly known is that after both were aflame and unconscious, patrol members wrapped them in blankets, loaded them into a military vehicle and drove them to an isolated road in the outskirts of Santiago, over 20 kilometres away. There, in an irrigation ditch, they were dumped and left to die. Some agricultural workers found them and notified the police, who then took them to a public hospital.[citation needed]

Quintana and Rojas were later transferred to another hospital, but Rojas died from his injuries four days later. Despite the second and third degree burns that Quintana suffered on 62% of her body, with many teeth broken – she was in a critical condition for several weeks – she finally survived. She was given extensive medical treatment in Chile and in Canada, but still bears disfiguring scars as a result of her burns.[3]


On 3 January 1991, a military tribunal found Fernández Dittus guilty of negligence for having failed to get medical help for Rojas, but he was cleared of any responsibility for the burning of Quintana.[citation needed] In 1993 the Supreme Court of Chile sentenced Fernández Dittus to 600 days in prison for his responsibility in the burning death of Rojas DeNegri and the serious burns sustained by Quintana. In October 2000 a court ordered the government to pay Quintana 251.7 million pesos (about US$500,000) in compensatory damages. During the visit to Chile of Pope John Paul II, Carmen Gloria Quintana met the pontiff in Santiago.[citation needed]

In July 2015, an ex-soldier of the Chilean army came forward and testified there was a pact of silence in the Chilean military to cover up the immolation of Quintana and Denegri. As a result, a homicide investigation was opened against seven retired members of the Chilean military, all of whom were detained. [4]

Current life[edit]

Quintana worked on the teaching staff of the School of Psychology of the Andres Bello University in Viña del Mar. Her teaching post deals specifically with the treatment of children and adolescents. She worked for many years at the Gustavo Fricke Hospital in Valparaiso and works with SENAME, the national Chilean organisation for the protection of the rights of minors and adolescents. In 2010, she emigrated to Canada to pursue a doctorate (PhD) in psychology at the University of Montreal.[5] and serves as scientific attaché at the Embassy of Chile in Canada.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christian, Shirley (6 July 1987). "Burn Victim in Chile Confronts Army". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  2. ^ Rasminsky, Judy Sklar; Echenberg, Eva Neisser (12 September 1987). "Ordeal by Fire". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  3. '^ Right Click and Save Target to download from the archives of the BBC Witness program (note: slow upload)
  4. ^ Montes, Rocío (24 July 2015). "Chile reabre uno de los peores crímenes de la dictadura". El País. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-11-09.  (in French)