Manuel Contreras, the former head of Chile’s feared secret intelligence unit DINA during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, died Friday at the age of 86.
Contreras, who died in a military hospital, had been in prison after being sentenced to more than 500 years for a number of human rights abuses, including murder, disappearances, and torture.
“He represents evil,” Hector Salazar, a lawyer who acted for families of the disappeared during the dictatorship, told Bloomberg news by phone from Santiago. “He was the personification of human rights violations in Chile. He undoubtedly didn’t act alone, he was under the orders of Augusto Pinochet, but the person who carried out the illegal repression was principally Manuel Contreras.”
Pinochet came to power after a U.S.-backed coup on Sept. 11, 1973, that removed the democratically elected, socialist President Salvador Allende. Pinochet’s bloody regime ruled until 1990, during which time over 3,000 people were murdered and tens of thousands tortured and disappeared.
Contreras, a key architect of Operation Condor, a six-country regional intelligence operation and terror campaign to assassinate political opponents of the participating U.S.-backed right-wing regimes, was also a former paid CIA asset in the 1970s.