The story of “Commander Ernesto” in córdoba: the 1986 attack on the dictator pinochet

By Gustavo Molina

Pincochet’s car after the attack

This month marked the 35th anniversary of Operation Patria Nueva, in which the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front and the Communist Party of Chile sought to end the life and dictatorship of Pinochet. The head of the operation, José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi, apparently lived in Córdoba before the attack.

At three in the afternoon on Sunday, September 7, 1986, 35 years ago, seven men and five women who were members of Unit 502 of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), a guerrilla group organized by the Communist Party of Chile to combat the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, stationed themselves at “El Mirador”, on the “Las Achupallas” slope, in the Cajón del Maipo area, 30 kilometers east of Santiago de Chile.

One member of that Unit 502, José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi, had been entrusted by the National Directorate of the FPMR to lead Operation Patria Nueva, which planned to execute the dictator Pinochet, who had come to power in Chile through a bloody coup on 11 September 1973 that included the bombing of the Palacio de la Moneda with military planes and the murder of the socialist president Salvador Allende, a tragedy marking its 48th anniversary of September.

Valenzuela Levi, who used a number of noms de guerre, including “Comandante Bernardo” and “Comandante Ernesto”. He had extensive military experience and training that he acquired in the German Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Levi’s ID card from his time in the FSLN

Had the attack against the dictator been successful, it would have changed the course of Chilean history. The three units of the FPMR of the “Comando 4 de Septiembre” who carried it out, comprising 10 women and 15 men, were led by “Commander Bernardo” or “Ernesto” and by another outstanding figure, Mauricio Hernández Norambuena, known as “Commander Ramiro”, who is currently detained in a high-security prison (from which he has already escaped once in December 1996).

At exactly at 6:32 p.m. on that Sunday, September 7, 1986, “Unit 501 blocked the route of the (presidential) caravan, after letting escort motorcyclists pass: the combatant ‘Manuel’ boldly drives a mobile home across the road; the combatant ‘Amalia’, with a burst of sub-machine gun neutralizes the first vehicle of the escort; the combatant ‘Esteban’ outguns one of the escort motorcyclists with his rifle fire, while another guard manages to escape, fleeing in the direction of Las Vizcachas ”; so Valenzuela Levi reported in his own handwriting to the directorate of the FPMR, whose leader was “Commander Rodrigo”, a moniker used by Raúl Pellegrin, another communist who received military training in Cuba and Nicaragua.

Levi’s handwritten reports on the operation to his group’s head office

In the “Operational Report” dated the day after Operation Patria Nueva, “Ernesto” describes in the same minute at 6:32 p.m.: “Unit 502 opens fire from flank positions: the combatant ‘Arturo’ hits the second escort car with their rocket; the rocket launcher destined for the third car has a failure in the trigger, while the rocket destined for the tyrant’s car hits the rear glass, without being detonated. The other combatants support these actions with the fire from their rifles and sub-machine guns”.

The head of the operation against Pinochet continues: “Unit 503 closes in from behind, opening fire from rifles and rocket launchers. The combatant ‘Rafael’ stands out, destroying the last escort car with a rocket fire; as well as the combatant ‘Samuel’ who launches a warning blast to a police patrol located coincidentally at the junction of the road to Pirque. The two carabinieri go into hiding immediately and do not reappear until after the operation is finished”.

The report from “Ernesto” to his six bosses at the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front details that between 18.33 and 18.39, the head of the escort, Army Captain Juan Mac Lean Vergara, “was hit in the leg by the explosion of a grenade” and that “the bodyguards flee without offering resistance, “while the tyrant remains hidden under the armor of his car, saving himself solely thanks to the failure of two rockets destined for his vehicles. Without caring about the fate of the members of his personal protection units, the dictator flees in terror, followed by the third escort car, in the direction of his lair in El Melocotón.” Valenzuela Levi also dedicates a paragraph to his comrade “Ramiro”: “The chief of Unit 503 distinguished himself and personally unloads a full sub-machine gun magazine on the tyrant’s car”. By 6:40 p.m. Operation Patria Nueva had ended. At 6:41 p.m. the withdrawal began, ending at exactly 7:00 p.m. And half an hour later, Valenzuela Levi orally informed the National Directorate of the FPMR of the result of the action: “Although the tyrant was not executed, his vulnerability, his cowardice was demonstrated, and sooner rather than later he will receive his deserved punishment”.

In Córdoba

Over the last 35 years an abundance of material has been published about José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi, head of “Comando 4 de Septiembre” (the group’s name honouring the date on which the Popular Unity party won the 1970 presidential elections and Allende became Chile’s first socialist president). Just recently, a second reprint of the third edition of Los Fusileros was published in Chile. There’s also The Secret Chronicle of a Guerrilla in Chile, by Juan Cristóbal Peña, in which the author recounts the attack against Pinochet, but also very effectively recreates the atmosphere of the time in Chile more widely and life and times inside the revolutionary organization itself. Another book, Operation Siglo XX, by the journalist Patricia Verdugo and the lawyer and current Communist deputy Carmen Hertz, details how the attack was prepared and executed, the shootout between the FPMR militants and Pinochet’s security personnel, and the escape plan. This book largely recreates the biography of Valenzuela Levi, a former student of the exclusive “Nido de Aguilas” school who became a Marxist militant with military training in Eastern Europe and ended up becoming “Commander Ernesto”, leader of the daring attack. As a direct result of the appearance of this book in 1990, Operation Patria Nueva became popularly known as Operation Siglo XX (Operation Twentieth Century). Pedro Lemebel, the renowned Chilean writer, artist and performer, and communist and gay rights activist, dedicated his only novel, Tengo miedo torero, to this militant action to assassinate Pinochet. “When they have a revolution that includes the mad let me know, I’ll be there on the front line”, says the gay character La Loca del Frente in the novel, who lives in a working-class neighbourhood, falls in love with a guerrilla fighter and offers their modest home as a safehouse for the clandestine activities of the revolutionaries.

But before taking over Operation Patria Nueva, Valenzuela Levi apparently lived in hiding in Córdoba, intermittently between 1985 and 1986, until he returned to his own country a few months before the operation, according to what several sources have told elDiarioAR and to what has been uncovered by this author. In 1975, Fidel Castro had suggested the formation of military cadres to the members of the Chilean communist leadership that had survived the genocide and were exiled in Cuba. Between May 1976 and January 1977, two national directorates of the Central Committee of the Chilean CP had been assassinated on Pinochet’s orders. And in 1979, a month before the Sandinista Revolution triumphed in Nicaragua (the dictator Anastasio Somoza fell on 19 July), the Cuban leader invited Chilean officers to participate, including José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi and Pellegrin, in the internationalist brigades of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Fidel Castro made clear to Chilean officials that in order to participate in the Sandinista guerrillas’ Benjamín Celedón Southern Front, they had to have the authorization of the Chilean PC’s secretary general, Luis Corvalán, exiled in the Soviet Union since 1976. With Corvalán’s endorsement, the Chilean military cadres were discharged from the Cuban Armed Forces and left for the Central American country, where they participated in the final capture of Managua and in the formation of the Sandinista Popular Army. When the U.S. intelligence agency the CIA organized the Nicaraguan “Contras” against the revolutionary government, Chilean military cadres trained in Cuba once again headed for Nicaragua. A year later, again in Havana in 1980, the Chilean communists held their congress during which, after adhering to a letter sent from Moscow by Corvalán, it was resolved that “the popular rebellion against the tyranny of Pinochet is legitimate” and the Policy of Popular Mass Rebellion was launched under the charge of the current president of the party and Chilean national deputy,  William Tellier, thereby giving birth to its armed wing, the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front.

The FPMR first appeared on the scene in the early hours of December 14, 1983 with a blackout in Curicó, in central Chile. Two years later, the Chilean Communist Party and its armed wing had ordered that 1986 be declared “The Decisive Year” in their struggle against the dictatorship. That year, weapons shipments began to arrive in Chile, in the area of Carrizal Bajo in the north of the country and these went directly to the Rodriguista guerrillas. Operation Patria Nueva was already in the making, organized by the leader of the FPMR, “Commander Rodrigo” Pellegrin, who put “Commander Ernesto” Valenzuela Levi at the head of the mission. 

Speaking to elDiarioAR, the lawyer Pedro Salazar recounts: “One day, it may have been in 1984 or 1985, a tall, blushed, skinny man came to the studio, wearing a brown jacket and matching pants. He was using one of those leather briefcases, without a handle, he introduced himself saying that he was ‘Emilio’, head of the Democratic Chile Committee of Córdoba. I received him and attended to him several times”. For security reasons, the name Valenzuela Levi used in Córdoba was changed to “Emilio”. In the Alfonsinista democratic spring, Salazar, who was a young radical lawyer and a member of the Renewal and Change Movement, worked with lawyers Rubén Arroyo and Luis Reinaudi in a studio on Olmos Avenue 33 in the heart of Córdoba, where the Argentine Human Rights League (LADH) was based. Arroyo was co-president of the Córdoba Delegation of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CoNaDeP); Reinaudi was active as a labour lawyer and leader of the press guild CiSPren; and Salazar retired as a judge in Rio Tercero.  

“This boy, ‘Emilio’, presented himself as coordinator of the Democratic Chile Committee of Córdoba, which brought together a large amount of the Chileans who lived in our province. He never asked for protection, but I knew he was exiled here; and that Democratic Chile was an organization linked to the Chilean CP. ‘Emilio’ always asked for assistance for his compatriots, many of whom were economic migrants or fellow political activists. Some were imprisoned for minor offences, really trivial infringements; or they were accused purely of being Chilean, for being guilty of being a foreigner. Because even today, we have sections of society that criminalise the Other for being different, for being a migrant, for being poor; and we continue to see that every day. Then this boy would come, or call me on the phone, notify me of the problem in question and then I would go to the police or to the Courts to see what had happened and what could be done about it”, Salazar explained. The lawyer also told elDiarioAR: “One day, in early ’86, it could have been April, I didn’t see him anymore. I was told that he had returned to Chile, secretly of course. Here he was not someone I saw much in public, he tended to avoid having a public profile; he was a rather low-profile person. He appeared on very specific occasions”.

At the beginning of the 90s, when democracy had returned to the neighbouring country, a Chilean delegation arrived in Córdoba and met with Raúl “El Negro” Cingolani, Undersecretary of Government of the Municipality of Córdoba during the administration of Ramón Bautista Mestre and informed him of the death in Chile of Valenzuela Levi. In 1984, Cingolani, by order of Mayor Mestre, had supervised  the first excavations in the San Vicente cemetery in search of the mass graves of victims of the civic-military dictatorship. “My father had entrusted ‘El Negro’ Cingolani with the task of establishing dialogue with the Salvador Allende Youth movement. ‘El Negro’ was responsible for relations with young Chileans, mainly with the Allendista groups” said Ramón Javier Mestre, like his father a former mayor of the city of Córdoba and one of the main leaders of the UCR there.  

The Cordovan lawyer also said: “I had been politically active and worked with Raul Cingolani. We both had our own respective relations with Chile. Mestre was still mayor, when ‘El Negro’ comes and tells me that some comrades linked to Democratic Chile had come to Córdoba, who had met with him, and they had left him a message for me: ‘Tell comrade Pedro Salazar that we thank him for everything he did for “Emilio”, all the efforts he made in carrying out the requests that “Emilio” asked of him’, the message and the thanks that they wanted passed on to me was something along those lines. They also informed me that “Commander Ernesto was executed a few months after the attack on Pinochet”; they commented that they failed to execute the tyrant, a mission sanctioned by the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas [“He who kills a tyrant to free his country is praised and rewarded”]. In the attack on Commander Ernesto, the grenade launcher had failed or the distance had been miscalculated, something like that. Over the years, when the Internet became more popular and I saw the photos of Valenzuela Levi, I confirmed that ‘Commander Ernesto’ was ‘Emilio’, the Chilean from here in Córdoba”.

José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi

The other “Emilio”

Another who crossed paths with “Emilio” in Córdoba is José “El Gringo” Bollo, who in the 90s came to serve as secretary general of the Córdoba region of the Communist Party, a member of the National Political Convention and the Central Committee of the CP.

“With ‘Emilio’ there are a few things, to begin with, he is not one ‘Emilio’, there are two ‘Emilios’: there was one who was on the surface, a blushing, skinny, tall guy, who was in Democratic Chile and was a militant with us in Zone 6 of the Party, and another Emilio, the comrade from the Front, also this blushing, skinny, tall guy, but who was not visible. He was a total submarine, he appeared very little and always in discreet or distant circumstances from the other ‘Emilio’. Looking at it from a distance, some 30 or 35 years later, and seeing how everything ended, the 1986 attack, the immediate reprisals, the brutality of Pinochetism and Operation Albania, which ended the life of comrade Valenzuela Levi, we can compose the complete film based on the cropped photos we had of the situation,” Bollo explained to elDiarioAR.

The former head of the Cordovan communists pointed out that the public “Emilio” was active in the Patricios neighbourhood, in the northeast area of ​​the city of Córdoba, “as just another member in the Argentine CP, but always with cells of the Chilean CP. Patricios, Villa Azalais, General Savio and Residencial América, these were some of the neighborhoods that made up Zone 6 of the Communist Party. Whilst the Emilio who was involved in the Front, the covert, underground Emilio, was a very serious guy, very reserved, and again he did not make a show or brandish his credentials loudly”.

Could it be that José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi, the person responsible for carrying out the Patria Nueva Operation, lived in Córdoba in an underground, semi-clandestine way, posing as the other “Emilio”? Rather like a character in Cold War literature, taken from the pages of the James Bond stories of Ian Fleming, or from the work of the Soviet writer Yulian Semionov, or, why not, from the Chilean writer Roberto Ampuero – who went non-stop from the Communist Youth in the 70s to Pinochetism and to the National Renewal movement of President Sebastián Piñera – Valenzuela Levi could well have shielded himself with an alias to try and save his life and move underground, while preparing the most important political and military action against the dictator Pinochet.

“Anselmo”, an FPMR militiaman who joined the ranks of the guerrilla armed by the Communist Party in 1983 at just 12 years old, told elDiarioAR that “it is very possible that ‘Ernesto’ was in Córdoba, not for long or settled periods, but intermittently, in transit to and from Chile”.

“Anselmo” added: “The name ‘Emilio’ does not sound familiar to me in relation to that operation, although that in itself doesn’t mean anything, because I only had five or six names. Maybe we are talking about the same partner, depending on what he was called. What is certain, is that the commander of that operation, the man in charge, who was ‘Ernesto’, José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi, was then targeted by the state’s reprisals in Operation Albania. If ‘Ernesto’ did use the name ‘Emilio’, then it may well be the case. The names of the people who participated there, or their ‘badges’ (pseudonyms or noms de guerre) are still secret. They still meet in a covert way, privately, every year, to commemorate everyone’s contribution to the attack. There were 25 people involved in it”, explained “Anselmo”, who served as spokesman between 2015 and 2019 for the main faction of the remaining elements of what was the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR).

Regarding the movements of “Commander Ernesto” through Córdoba, “Anselmo” summarized: “It is very likely, but I am not sure, the responsibilities were multiple, especially after the break with the CP”. Student leaders of the Córdoba University Federation (FUC), which in the mid-1980s responded to the “Santiago Pampillón” Student Front – the university arm of the Broad Front of Liberation, an alliance between the Communist Party, former left-wing radicals of the Movement of Liberation May 29 and former intransigents of the Free Homeland Current – acknowledged to elDiarioAR that Valenzuela Levi “is a well-known face” among the more politicised members of the Chilean community in Córdoba and they remember his “low profile, he did not stand out, nor did he seek to stand out”. The FUC promoted dozens of solidarity activities with Chile, and, even during the last years of the dictatorship, there were brigades of Cordovan university students who visited political prisoners in Chilean prisons.

During the government of Raúl Alfonsín, Argentina became a safe haven for Chilean opponents, especially for the few militants of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) who survived the genocide, as well as Allendista, communist and Rodriguista guerilla militants, who were the main targets of the repressive forces of the National Information Center (CNI), which replaced the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) that functioned between 1973 and 1977.

The aliases of the two “Emilios” in Córdoba, prior to the attack against Pinochet on 7 September 7 1986, could have served to disorient the CNI agents who were seeking to exterminate opponents. It would not be the first time that the Communist Party of Chile and its military apparatus, the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front, carried out a counterintelligence operation worthy of the secret services of established states. For example, the historic leader of the Communist Party, Luis Corvalán, managed to get exchanged in Zurich, Switzerland, in December 1976, for the Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovski. Corvalán, who was General Secretary of the Chilean CP between 1958 and 1989, was arrested on 24 October 1973, a month and a half after the September 11 coup. He was imprisoned and tortured at the “Bernardo O’Higgins” Military School housed at the San Bernardo Infantry School and then exiled to Dawson Island -in the extreme south of the country where he was imprisoned in the concentration camps of Ritoque, near Valparaíso; and Tres Alamos, in the commune of San Joaquín, in the southern part of Santiago. Corvalán was released in late 1976. That same year, after a strong campaign by the Chilean Catholic Church, Augusto Pinochet freed 200 political prisoners, among them Luis Corvalán, who flew to Zurich, where on 18 December he was exchanged for the scientist Vladimir Bukovski. The communist leader was given refuge in the USSR.

Pedro Sepúlveda, who in the 1980s was the covert leader of the Democratic Chile Committee of Córdoba and Political Secretary of the Chilean CP in Córdoba, confided: “Many comrades from the Front passed through Córdoba, but obviously they didn’t publicly declare their involvement; it was a matter of life and death”. Regarding the possibility that Valenzuela Levi had effectively impersonated himself through the persona of the other “Emilio” who lived in Córdoba, “César”, a former militiaman of the Revolutionary Left Movement said that “due to the lack of available documents to create false identities, we often adopted the identities of similar-looking people”.

La Operación Patria Nueva / Operation New Homeland

On Thursday, September 4 and Friday, September 5, 1986, in commemoration of the 16 years of Salvador Allende’s electoral victory, the left-wing opposition to the Pinochet regime launched a general strike called The Hunger Strike. At night, at 8:30 p.m., there was a cacerolazo (a protest in which people bang pots, pans and other utensils) by people throughout the country, mainly in the capital. The FPMR had already foreseen that the Carabineros would repress the demonstrations of the Hunger Strike, as was evidenced in the handwritten report by “Commander Bernardo” Valenzuela Levi on Monday, September 8, and sent to the National Directorate of the FPMR: “Pinochet’s intentions to travel to his home in El Melocotón are confirmed on September 5, 6 and 7, after personally directing the repressive actions against the population during the September 4 and 5 strike, in order to prepare his speech for the farce on Tuesday, 9 September”.

That Sunday the 7th September, between 3 and 6.30pm, the other members of the group of los fusileros,”the riflemen”, as the militants who participated in the attack became known through the media, joined Operation Patria Nueva. Unit 501 was stationed armed with rifles and submachine guns in a vehicle with a caravan near El Mirador; while in Las Verientes, Unit 503 was circulating in another vehicle, armed with submachine guns and rocket launchers. Members of these units, 501, 502 and 503, had arrived at a house they rented, known as “La Obra”, during the afternoon and evening night of Wednesday, September 3, on the outskirts of the “Las Achupallas” embankment, where they would then await the dictator’s return to Santiago at sunset on Sunday the 7th, having spent the weekend at his home in the El Melocotón district. The house that they militants stayed in had been rented by Raúl Pellegrin’s wife, “Commander Tamara”, Cecilia Magni, and by César Bunster, who also rented the three vehicles used in the operation.

Pinochet, who had ruled Chile with an iron fist and imposed an extreme neoliberal economic plan that was enforced through state terror, made a schoolboy error: he repeated the same routine of holidaying at his residence in the Maipo Valley on weekends, using the same hours and routes. At exactly 6:32 pm on Sunday 7 September 1986, the attack began with fierce machine gun fire and the launching of rockets at the presidential entourage, killing 5 of the dictators bodyguards and wounding 13 (including one of the guerrillas as well as Pinochet himself). Pinochet, who suffered a minor arm injury from a piece of shrapnel from a LAW 66 missile that hit his armoured car, somehow miraculously escaped with his life.

Operation Albania: Valenzuela Levi’s Last Stand

In the early morning of Monday 8 September 1986, just hours after the failed attack against Augusto Pinochet committed by the FPMR, Army officer Alvaro Corbalán, operative chief of the National Information Center (CNI), the regime’s feared paramilitary police force, ordered the revenge operation in response to the assassination bid against Pinochet. In his book, Los Fusileros, Juan Cristóbal Peña writes that “a few hours later, in the early hours of Monday, September 8, in a country that was waking up under a curfew and a state of siege, three left-wing opponents who had nothing to do with the attack were shot to death by officials of the National Information Center (CNI), the regime’s political police, in an act of revenge. The next day, the CNI claimed a fourth victim, and then a fifth”.

The victims were two militants from the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), the journalist José Carrasco Tapia, and plastic artist and university professor Gastón Vidaurrázaga Manríquez, and the electrician Felipe Rivera Gajardo, a communist militant. At dawn on September 9, the communist publicist Abraham Muskatblit Eidelstein was kidnapped and murdered and that same night they tried to kidnap, without success, the lawyer Luis Toro, from the Vicariate of Solidarity human rights group.

“After the attack, the CNI killed four comrades, two from the Communist Party and two from the MIR, one of them ‘Pepe’ Carrasco and the other Gastón Vidaurrázaga. In fact, the dictatorship killed two militants from the Communist Party and two from the MIR, because they did not know who had carried out the attack; and the only ones that could have done it are the MIR or the Communist Party’s FPMR, that’s why they killed two from each. An incredible thing happened to me that morning; I had to meet Gastón at 8am. I worked with him, we were very close, I was like his second in command, and we had to meet. My stomach started to churn, I sensed that something had happened; and obviously they took Gastón out at night and killed him. That day I was miraculously saved, I was also one of the dead”, said “César” an MIR militiaman whose life was spared by a matter of hours.

At the time of these the crimes by CNI agents, Francisco Javier Cuadra, then Secretary General of the Government of Chile, told the media that “the possibility that these deaths are the result of a purge among communists is not ruled out.” The murders were adjudicated by a command calling itself September 11, although later the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission – the Chilean CoNaDeP – delivered in February 1991 the Rettig Report on the human rights violations that occurred during the civic-military dictatorship and confirmed that the executions were the sole responsibility of the CNI. The murderers went on trial in 2005 and were released in 2009.

The beginning of the end

On the morning of Wednesday 22 October 1986, 45 days after the FPMR attack, five front-line militants who had participated in Operation Patria Nueva on September 7 were arrested in O’Higgins Park in Santiago. It was not until 15 and 16 June 1987, nine months after the attack, that a decisive blow against the structure of the National Directorate of the FPMR was delivered: during the actions state’s Operation Albania, 12 members of the FPMR guerrilla group were assassinated, among them, José Joaquín Valenzuela Levi.

The director of the CNI, General of the Army Hugo Salas Wensel, and Alvaro Corbalán, operations chief at the intelligence agency, were responsible for the Corpus Christi massacre, the name given by human rights organizations to what Pinochet’s dictatorship had called Operation Albania. Salas Wenzel, who died last August 11 at the age of 85 while serving a life sentence, was the first military figure to be tried in 2005 for crimes against humanity committed during the civic-military dictatorship.

Chilean Resistance

“Anselmo”, the militiaman who joined the FPMR in 1983 from the Communist Youth and became its spokesman until October 2019, told elDiarioAR that “popular struggles have always had milestones, crucial moments of tremendous significance, and of profound meaning; these elements have represented the feeling and actions of many comrades throughout the political history of Chile. Our people have been fighting for their independence since colonial times; we have always sought and enacted this “idea” of freedom, this enlightened notion of self-determination as an inalienable right of peoples.

The Rodriguista leader stressed that “this idea of freedom then ends up linked to the idea of the struggle that is necessary to achieve it; to achieve freedom one must fight fiercely for it; the idea of freedom then as now is strongly connected with the idea of rebellion; because over the years, we have learned that freedom is carried on through the rebellion of those of us who are not free; we recognize ourselves in chains, and we not only uphold the need to fight for freedom but also willingly embrace its realization. Being free means fighting for that freedom.”

From the struggles of colonial Chile through to the current resistance against Sebastián Piñera “we have lived, struggled, fought and died for generations with that conviction; from the peasants in Pampa Irigoin, to the Santa María de Iquique school; from the Rebellion against Balmaceda, the coup d’état against Salvador Allende. When egalitarians fought for equal rights for all citizens, or when radicals enacted the public education law; they were all struggles on the path to being free, free in all the ways in which freedom is necessary for us,” affirms “Anselmo”.

The Rodriguista leader linked the past struggles with the October 2019 Uprising against Piñera: “We owe every piece of freedom achieved so far to all who have shed their honourable blood, in those struggles, men and women who gave everything in the absolute and unwavering belief that the freedom of our people is the final and definitive achievement that we have been seeking since we were born:  Manuel Rodríguez, José Miguel Carrera, Doña Javiera Carrera, Francisco Bilbao, Mariano Egaña, José Victorino Lastarria, Luis Emilio Recabarren, José Manuel Balmaceda, Salvador Allende, Marta Ugarte, Lumi Videla, Miguel Enríquez, Clotario Blest, Rafael Maroto, Cecilia Magni, Raúl Pellegrin, ‘el comandante Ernesto’ Valenzuela Levi. They live on today, in the spirit of the October Uprising, as everyone else lives on; in every failed rebellion, in every lost struggle, in every frustrated process; reflecting in every moment of history, the most important thing in all this, that the people always rebel. The neoliberal and bourgeois democracy that today is crumbling under the weight of the October Uprising, was written with the blood of Ernesto, Benito, Chichi, Lumi, and Marta; they gave their lives to advance another inch towards the goal; their path in turn was marked with the blood of Salvador Allende dying in La Moneda, as José Manuel Balmaceda did before in the Argentine embassy; like the 2,000 workers and their families murdered in Santa María de Iquique, like Manuel Rodríguez, betrayed and disappeared on the way to Valparaíso; all seeking the same freedom for which people struggle today; comrades like Gustavo Gatica and Fabiola Campillay lost their eyes. We continue to fight, because no matter what blood has to be shed, the people will continue to rebel in search of the freedom that has been denied them since birth; and it will never stop until it is finalized.”

SOURCE: This is an expanded version of an article that originally appeared in elDiarioAR:

Translation: Aaron Kelly