May 4, 1929 |
|Residence||Punta Peuco prison, Tiltil, Chile|
|Other names||El Mamo|
|Known for||Head of secret police|
|Criminal penalty||498 years in prison|
|Conviction(s)||Kidnapping, forced disappearance, assassination|
Juan Manuel Guillermo Contreras Sepúlveda (born May 4, 1929) is a Chilean military officer and the former head of DINA, Chile's secret police during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. As head of DINA he was the most powerful and feared man in the country, after Pinochet. He is currently serving 58 sentences totaling 498 years in prison for kidnapping, forced disappearance and assassination.
From 1973 to 1977, Contreras led the agency on an international hunt to track down and murder the political opponents of the dictatorship, particularly members of the Communist and Socialist parties and the former guerrilla group and political party Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). According to the report "CIA activities in Chile" released on September 19, 2000, the US government policy community approved CIA's contact with Contreras from 1974 to 1977 to accomplish the CIA's mission in Chile in spite of his role in human rights abuses. By 1975 American intelligence reporting had concluded that Contreras was the principal obstacle to a reasonable human rights policy within the Pinochet's government, but the CIA was directed to continue its relationship with Contreras, even giving Contreras a one-time payment in 1975. The CIA became concerned with Contrera's role in the assassination of former Salvador Allende cabinet member and ambassador to Washington Orlando Letelier and his American assistant, Ronni Karpen Moffit in Washington, DC, on September 21, 1976. The CIA gathered specific, detailed intelligence reporting concerning Contrera's involvement in ordering the Letelier assassination, but some of the material remains classified and another portion has been withheld at the request of the US Department of Justice (CIA, 2000) CIA contacts with Contreras continued until 1977.
After Orlando Letelier's assassination, tensions between Contreras and Pinochet grew over the course of his tenure, and the DINA was closed down in 1977 and replaced with a new apparatus, the National Intelligence Center (CNI). By 1979, Contreras was out of the army after a short time at the rank of General.
Prison sentences and court investigations
On 12 November 1993, a Chilean court sentenced Contreras to seven years in prison for the Letelier assassination. Contreras first rebelled against the Chilean justice, taking refuge in the South, and then in a military regiment and later in a military hospital  After a two-months escape, he was detained again in a military prison, where he completed his sentence in January 2001. He was afterwards placed under house arrest and then released.
In May 2002, Contreras was convicted as the mastermind of the 1974 abduction and forced disappearance of Socialist Party leader Victor Olea Alegria. Contreras was also convicted by an Argentine court in connection with the assassination of former Chilean army chief Carlos Prats and his wife Sofía Cuthbert in Buenos Aires in 1974. However, an extradition request by Argentina was denied by Chile. On June 2008, he received two life sentences for the assassination of General Prats and his wife.
On January 28, 2005 Contreras was put in prison for the disappearance of tailor and MIR member Miguel Ángel Sandoval in 1975. The sentence time is 12 years.
On May 13, 2005, Contreras submitted to Chile's Supreme Court a 32-page document that claimed to list the whereabouts of about 580 people who disappeared during Pinochet's rule. Human rights groups immediately questioned the information and its source, citing Contreras's years of deception and denials of responsibility for human rights abuses. Many of the details he provided were previously known, and some contradicted the findings of commissions that have investigated the disappearances. In the document he wrote that Pinochet personally ordered these repressive measures.
Contreras has accused Augusto Pinochet of having given the order of the assassination of Orlando Letelier and of Carlos Prats. He also declared to Chilean justice in 2005 that the CNI, successor of DINA, handed out monthly payments between 1978 and 1990 to the persons who had worked with DINA agent Michael Townley in Chile, all members of Patria y Libertad, the far-right movement which had been involved in the Tanquetazo : Mariana Callejas (Townley's wife), Francisco Oyarzún, Gustavo Etchepare and Eugenio Berríos. Assassinated in 1995, Berrios, who worked as a chemist for the DINA in Colonia Dignidad, also worked with drug traffickers and DEA agents.
- "CIA Activities in Chile," CIA declassified documents, Retrieved from National Security Archive on May 24, 2007
- Marquis, Christopher. "C.I.A. Says Chilean General in '76 Bombing Was Informer," New York Times, 19 September 2000
- Un general chileno se declara en rebeldía contra un fallo que le condena a 5 años, El País, 14 June 2007 (Spanish)
- Las pruebas de la DINA contra posadas carriles, Cronica Digital, May 23, 2005 (Spanish)
- Contreras dice que Pinochet dio orden "personal, exclusiva y directa" de asesinar a Prats y Letelier, La Tercera, May 13, 2005, mirrored on CC.TT. website (Spanish)
- El coronel que le pena al ejército, La Nación, September 24, 2005 (Spanish)