Another torturer reveals horrors of the Dirty War in Argentina
LA JORNADA, Mexico, July 2, 1995
Translated from Otro torturador revela horrores de la guerra sucia en Argentina
By Stella Calloni, Buenos Aires.
... In the mean time, tormented by the tragedy he had witnessed and taken part in, the gendarmería sergeant Pablo Caraballo testified about the death flights, the tortures and the murders committed during the 70's in El Campito - a concentration camp which had operated within the military school of the Campo de Mayo, a few kilometers from Buenos Aires.
In a court of law, Caraballo revealed that out of the nearly 3000 political prisoners who had passed through El Campito, a large number had been tortured and either beaten to death or shot in the back of the neck. He also told the court about detainees who were thrown into the sea after being injected with sedatives, and said that "in some cases, the victims' bellies were cut open so that they would sink faster and be eaten by sharks".
Looking lost, Caraballo, who is undergoing psychological treatment, confessed that there existed lists of military men who wished to adopt babies born in captivity. "The pregnant detainees received special treatment up until the delivery. After giving birth, the mothers were killed and the babies were given away".
Caraballo said that he wanted to take one baby whose mother "was very ugly, and was therefore destined to be killed along with her fetus, since everyone thought it would look ugly". The woman, about 36 years old, "was held in El Campito for a long period of time and suffered a great deal. Her friends made her do exercises meant to alleviate labor pains during childbirth. It really shocked me that she did all these exercises and was then thrown out of a plane with her unborn baby".
"One day, when I was not on guard duty in El Campito, this pregnant woman was taken on a 'flight' together with other prisoners. I asked for her baby even though I had children of my own, because I felt it would be a pity to kill it".
According to reports made available to La Jornada, Caraballo relayed to the Asociación de Abogados (the Lawyers Association) representing him before the Cámara Federal, that he joined the army as a musician in 1961 and was released four years later. He then joined an orchestra of the Escuadrón de Seguridad de Gendarmería in Buenos Aires. Although they had not been involved in military activities, they were reassigned in 1977, together with other sergeants, as guards in the secret center of Campo de Mayo. At the time, the detention center was under the command of Santiago Omar Riveros, who was later associated with the CIA and the Contras in Nicaragua.
Caraballo's commander in chief was colonel Ezequiel Verplaetsen, who used to visit the center once a week; other commanders were a lieutenant colonel named Bosso, captain García Gambón and a commander of the gendarmería named Hilario Corvalán. Caraballo personally witnessed Bosso shoot prisoners in the back of the neck after having tortured them.
"I hear those screams at night and there isn't a day that goes by without their memory. There were many young people aged 14 to 16. The center could hold about 300 people, and so the camp personnel kept count of the prisoners. Whenever the number of detainees exceeded the center's capacity, prisoners were eliminated to make room, and then new ones were brought in. Some of them arrived in trunks of cars, like Oscar Steinmberg and García (desaparecidos), two soldiers who were still dressed in their military uniforms. Others were brought in by trucks. They were beaten while being led into the camp. They were counted, each of them given a number. When the torturers came, prisoners were called up by their number, 25 or 30 or 50, and were taken to a small bitumen building. It was terrible for everyone. The detainees were held in three large zinc sheds, tied with a heavy chain and hooded".
Caraballo was demoted after crashing a car which belonged to one of the prisoners, and was loaned to him by one of his superiors. "I was not dismissed for driving a stolen car, but because I told the police that the car was from El Campito and I was therefore accused of revealing military secrets".
He met with police chiefs in order to report what he had seen, but later on he was able to reach the Asociación de Abogados (the Lawyers Association), which will now demand to reopen the proceedings that investigated human rights violation in Campo de Mayo, as has already happened in the case of the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA).
"I wanted to be a musician, and I ended up living this nightmare", said Caraballo, whose story joined this year's revelations of horror published in March by the ex navy captain Adolfo Scilingo -- at present in police custody awaiting trial on suspicion of embezzlement -- and in April by sergeant Víctor Ibañez, who also testified about the tragedy which occurred in Campo de Mayo.
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