Osvaldo Romo

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Osvaldo Romo Mena (c. 1938 – 4 July 2007) was an agent of the Chilean Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) from 1973 to 1990, during the rule of Augusto Pinochet. Involved in the forced disappearance of more than a hundred people, including Christians for Socialism and MIR members Diana Aron Svigilsky, Manuel Cortez Joo and Ofelio Lazo. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but several of these sentences were suspended by the Chilean Supreme Court.[1]


Osvaldo Romo made himself known in working classes' neighborhoods before Pinochet's coup in 1973 as a leftist activist, member of the Popular Socialist Union (USOPO) and MIR sympathizer.[1] Following the coup, he reappeared in these neighborhoods with a military uniform, arresting his friends and contacts. Left-wing circles still debate to know if he suddenly changed political orientation or if he always was a mole for the security services.[1]

Known as Guatón Romo ("Fatso Romo") or Comandante Raúl, he was one of DINA's most important torturers, operating among others centers in Villa Grimaldi.[1] On April 11, 1995, in an interview televised by Univisión, he commented in great detail, and evidently without remorse, on the techniques that had been used. These included the application of electricity to women's nipples and genitals, the use of dogs, and the insertion of rats into women's vaginas.[1]

Would you do it again? Would you do it the same way?

—Sure, I'd do the same and more. I wouldn't leave anybody alive (...) That was one of DINA's mistakes. I was always arguing with my general: don't leave that person alive, don't let that person go free. There are consequences.
As for throwing the corpses of the prisoners into the sea...
—I think it could have happened. (...) Throwing them into the crater of a volcano would be better... (...) Who'd go looking for them in a volcano? Nobody.
On the day you die... what would your epitaph say? "Here lies the hangman, the torturer, the murderer..."

—Logical, logical. I accept that. But for me it was a positive thing. (...) I am at peace with my conscience and my beliefs.

— Extract from the interview, [2]

Life in Brazil and arrest[edit]

In 1977, Romo was sent to Brazil by his superiors, where he may have participated in death squads according to human rights NGO.[1] During Chile's transition to democracy, Romo, as one of the most important figures of the Pinochet regime, was pursued by prosecutors and localized in São Paulo, living with his wife and his five children in June 1992.[citation needed]

Arrested by the Brazilian police, he was extradited to Chile in November 1992.[1] He was sentenced to ten years in prison for the kidnapping of MIR member Manuel Cortez Joo and five years and a day for the kidnapping of Ofelio Lazo, who was "disappeared" in July 1974.[citation needed]

Romo, suffering from diabetes and heart failure, was moved to the hospital of Santiago Penitentiary on 3 July 2007, and died the following day. His funeral, held on 5 July at the Cementerio General de Santiago, was completely unattended.[3]