December 27, 2020
From Act For Freedom

source: es-contrainfoTranslated to Italian by infernourbano and to English by Act for freedom now!
Chile: 10 years after the massacre of San Miguel – Memory and tales of struggle 
If prison walls could talk they would tell the experiences of those who were (and are) locked up behind them; perhaps they would tell us many stories where the poor are the protagonists, or perhaps they would tell us of the immense yearning for freedom that fills the hearts of those locked up in the dungeons and the cells.
Unfortunately prison walls are silent witnesses of the experiences of the people inside them. It is therefore a precise responsibility of each of us, kidnapped by the State, and of whoever wants to put an end to the present system of terror to tell what happens inside these places. The history of the prisoners is our history and cannot be lost.
Sadness reigns in prison, is its lady and mistress and dominates the lives of those who end up in this gloomy place. Not only does the prison of San Miguel contain stories full of pain, it has also had many experiences of resistance and struggle.
In the early 1990s many political prisoners were locked up in this prison, men of several organizations filled the tower cells until they were transferred to the C.A.S. in 1994, a transfer that the combatants opposed arms in hand.
During the cell searches right after the clashes a large quantity of weapons and ammunition were found: a 7.65 mm Browning gun with seven cartridges; an Italian calibre 38 Trident revolver; a Dachmaur gun with fifteen cartridges; a 7.65 calibre Llama; a bag containing thirteen bullets; another leather bag with 18 bullets; a NEC cell phone and three homemade explosives (1). Several prison guards and a number of prisoners were injured during the clashes, among whom Mauricio Hernández Norambuena (guerrilla and ex-commander of the FPMR, Manuel Rodrìguez Patriotic Front). Commander Ramiro (one of the founders of FPMR) said: “I was seriously injured. I had never been hit by gunfire before, and it was precisely in jail that I was shot for the first time” (2). The same event was recounted by Ricardo Palma Salamanca (ex-guerrilla of the FPMR) in an interview given in Paris on 27th January 2019: “In the middle of the clashes two people were killed, I was also armed but I wasn’t hit”.
The weapons used in the resistance during the transfers to the C.A.S. had originally been destined for escapes. Mauricio Hernandez tells it like this: “We managed to get various weapons into the prison of San Miguel and had devised a very interesting escape plan with external support, which was joined by fighters of Mapu-Lautaro (Mapuche military leader protagonist in the war of Arauco in Chile and the MIR, Movement of the Revolutionary Left). The idea was to get a large group of prisoners out. There were fifteen or twenty combatants in support outside. There were good weapons but unfortunately the plan failed. The whole operation was organized right down to the smallest detail, the fighters outside occupied a house whose walls adjoined those of the prison, with the intention of blowing it up. They could just go through a gate and get out from that side. Unfortunately, we were transferred to the C.A.S. a few days before the escape and used the weapons for the escape to resist the transfer” (3).
This was not the only escape attempt from the prison of San Miguel. In 1997, a group of ex-members of the FPRM tried to escape from the prison through the roofs, with a system of ropes and pulleys, so as to reach one of the adjoining roads. But the attempt failed and a revolt broke out, the prisoners involved were transferred to the prison of Colina I and II, among whom Jorge Saldivia, who was killed during a bank robbery in 2014.
The walls don’t talk but they bear signs that are difficult to erase. Many prisoners tell us that in Tower 5 in the prison of San Miguel, where 81 prisoners died in a fire, the stains of the bodies were never completely erased … The women say that the stains seem to be made of oil, and it doesn’t matter how much wax and paint they put on the floor and walls, they always come through again. Many anecdotes are told about the ghosts and spirits of tower 5, beliefs, myths or reality… but the death of 81 prisoners has never been forgotten by the other prisoners of tower 5, and shouldn’t be forgotten by any other prisoner.
1) Interview with Ricardo Palma in the book Retorno desde el punto de fuga by Tomás García
(2) “A step forward” Mauricio Hernández Norambuena
(3) “A step forward” Mauricio Hernández Norambuena