In occasion of the 100 birthday of the late Chilean President Salvador Allende, the Region of Liguria and the City of Noli organized a commemorative program. Prof. Alberto Peluffo, Vice Major of the City of Noli, asked me to write a personal testimony on the happenings around the 11th of September 1973, the day when the military coup d’etat ended the life of President Allende and its democratic elected government. My personal connection with the nautical city of Noli being my Italian ancestors’ native boroughs before the set up house in Serra Riccò, Genoa, by Antonio de Noli in 1587. This is the English version of the text (selections) read to the public assisting to the act. Here is also included (Part II) a complementary information on the aftermath of the September 11th happenings accounted in the personal testimony, namely my time as prisoner at the Stadium and the Quiriquina Island camp. The public event in the City of Noli took place in Piazza del Comune the 15th of August 2008. Pictures of the event here
Combatants of the leftist organization MIR and from other leftist parties presented active resistance to Pinochet’s army on the coup of the 11th of September. However, the resistance to the military takeover was in general sporadic, with relative low firepower, and we did not prevail. In other words it did not occur in the scale we expected, or planned. We in the political/militar organizacion MIR assumed we were psychologically prepared “for the moment to come”, and for relevant operative actions, as we new (and even provided Allende with intelligence on the coup preparation) that the putsch was imminent.
In fact, the open direct resistance was bloodily crushed, and also, due to the brutality of Pinochet forces the core-militants did not succeed to encourage the mobilization of the vast majority of Allende supporters in order to take up the fight together. A third aspect was that Allende himself warned (on the 11 of September) the supporters that have elected him of not taking unnecessary sacrifices. I was in Concepción at the moment of the coup and at that time with assignment in the Organization detail of the Regional Committee, meaning that my “structure” was of a “central” kind. Three of the five members of the detail were captured. I spent times at different detention centres such as the Stadium, the Navy’s camp of prisoners at Quiriquina Island, the “marines” detention quarters at the Navy base in Talcahuano, and finally back to the Stadium in Concepción.
Many died in these places either under torture or executed by firing squad. For instance, in the photo here below taken at the prisoner camp of Quiriquina Island and published in the front page of the mayor Chilean newspaper “Tercera de La Hora” (6 of October 1973), is mentioned the Intendente of Concepción Fernando Alvarez (head for the Regional government at the moment of the coup), at the centre of the picture. In fact, he died under torture at the camp in Quiriquina Island some days after that picture was taken. I am also depicted in the same photo, up right (signalled by the red arrow). The photo was taken at a visit of the Red Cross International at the camp, and for which I was to be thereafter considered as a “recognized” prisoner instead of risking “hidden” status.
Three factors have contributed to obscure the real magnitude of the resistance on the 11th of September and the days ensued. One is the reluctance of the putsch leaders of acknowledging the true magnitude of their casualties. Doing this would have shown that the resistance was effective and thus motivating its continuation.
A second factor was that the far most of the operations were of clandestine character. Also, due to the fact that all the press, all TV channels and all radio stations were seized the 11th and remained under the direct control of the military (not only by decree, but physically under control) it was not possible either to communicate eventual results of the actions.
A third is the “factor seguridad” of the militants and units involved. As cadres become arrested in increasing numbers, the units or combatants acting with own initiative tightened security to keep knowledge of the actions to the absolute minimum, or even unknown. For instance, not even the closest members of our families, spouses, etc. would know or suspect what had really happened. This ignorance would save them too. And that silence continued for the years to come, no matter that many lived then in exile. However, an unequivocal recognition from the part of the military authorities on that the active resistance in Concepción took place in form of armed attacks is given in the text of the photo published in the front page of la “La Tercera” and showed here above (see translation below).
Translation of the the text above, first part: <<In “Isla Quriquina” have (the military goverment) concentrated the extremists and the local authorities in Concepción of the past “marxist” regime. The first ones [the “extremists”] are there because they have attacked the Armed Forces with firearms >>.
I was then 30 years old and a professor at the University of Concepción. Having worked previously as invited professor in Mexico with books published there etc, I was released from captivity partly after direct demands from Mexican academic scholars and authorities (pressures and solidarity came also from colleagues in Italy and Germany), and partly after demands from my family which had strong tradition among the military. I was not set free in Chile but expelled from the country directly to Mexico from the prison, escorted to the airport by the military. I had to sign in the airport a document committing me of not to speak about the atrocities in Quiriquina Island etc. However, I changed route in Lima (the first stopover in my way to Mexico), from where on instructions of my organization I went directly to Rome, Italy, in order to participate in the Russell Tribunal which had started in Rome on the crimes of Pinochet’s junta.
(Cont.) While in Rome I was main witness at the Russell Tribunal and thereafter member of the scientific committee of the Russell Tribunal together with writer Gabriel García Márquez, Linda Bimbi, and Senator Lelio Basso. Thereafter I was sent to Sweden where my last assignment from MIR’s Comité Exterior was to organize intelligence work for the counterattack to Pinochet liquidation squads in Northern Europe, activity which I lead until 1977. I resigned all my activities in MIR in June 1977, during the MIR Conference in Stockholm.
. . .
In these days I become 65 years old (the 25th of July). The main Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) had recently a brief portrait-article in which some of the aspects mentioned above are touched upon. The article was authored by DN staff-journalist Per Mortensen and published the 17th of July. The article is titled “Professor has sailed in dangerous waters”. The text relevant here is marked text in the newspaper clip that follows. The translation into English that ensues is mine. Click on pic to enlarge
“The one who understood in which ethical frame is within, and after that made up his decision, has thereafter no choice”. So reasons Marcello Ferrada-Noli, one of the founders of the militant left organization MIR in Chile.
Although a majority democratically elected Allende as their president, which was killed thereafter, it was only a minority of Chileans which confronted Pinochet with active resistance. Where the courage to do this does comes from? Marcello Ferrada-Noli resumes after a long reflection:
– It is a question of honour to act according one’s conviction, which is not to be confounded with martyrdom. It is also a question of instinct, an altruistic behaviour such as the person who risks his/her life in saving the life of another.
– Perspective must be to see mankind as something bigger than only the ego of our own, and not like the amoeba, that, in Einstein’s words, experiences the drop of water in which she lives as being the all universe. And finally:
– When there is no other available alternative, the one who fights has nothing to lose but his own opressed existence”
September 11th, 1973 It was a very shiny seven o’clock, that morning of September 11th 1973 in Concepción, the largest city of southern Chile. I was then staying at the family country house some 20 kilometres north of the University campus, where not so long ago I had been appointed professor of psychosocial methods. I have come back from México some months before. Going out towards the garage, the meeting of a sunny day made me decide at the last second to ride instead my motorcycle to the job. As it did show, it was a spur-of-the moment decision that most certainly save me from being captured, tortured, and killed that very same day. Nearly exact three years ago had Allende became the first democratically elected president in the western world. I was then 27 years old and living at that time in London, and I decided to comeback immediately to Chile.
During those first years, the structural changes made by Allende’s government in favour of the less privileged sectors of society, and that to certain extent were to be financed by the nationalization of the Chilean cooper mining industry – then exploited by private USA corporations – brought about many powerful enemies to him and his government from both in and outside Chile. The biggest and most important parties of the centre-left coalition that supported Allende’s government were yet in good faith convinced that the vast popular support to Allende together with the democratic credentials of his government would indeed avert any serious political attempt against the “gobierno popular”.
On the other hand, a tiny minority voice within the left ranks, mainly represented by MIR – the revolutionary left movement – was pretty convinced that Allende government was not safe, and that a coup d’etat would be imminent. With thesis as point of departure, MIR had instead prompted Allende to secure his support among the masses by deepening the socialist measures in their favour. At the same time, MIR started to do some preparations to resist militarily if necessary, and seriously thought that such resistant could be prosperous when the time would arrive.
Besides, as a young university professor graduated in philosophy and recently having published a book  which – although its mainly philosophic content – I had expressly dedicated it to an Indian leader of the agriculture workers (Moises Huentelaf, who fallen death 1972 by the bullets of the powerful landowners of Southern Chile), I was indeed considered by the military among the so called “left intellectuals”. Not to mention I had published articles in the independent leftist magazine “Punto Final”. And “worst” of all, I have been one of the founders of MIR back in October 1965 and also co author, together with long-time friend Miguel Enríquez (MIR’s leader) and his brother Marco Antonio, of the first “Tesis politico-militar” of MIR approved in the constituent congress .
Pinochet coup had started in the Navy base in Valparaiso and coordinated with Army troops in Santiago. They were now moving around the President Palace “La Moneda” in downtown Santiago. From the Enríquez’s place I called the “central” but it was not operative that early. In the meantime we saw the army trucks, full lasted with soldiers, going in dirección to the university campus. At aprox. 10.30 I made finally contact and I was given a “punto” (meeting point) in Concepción downtown, specifically at the exit Maipú Street of Galería Rialto (if I remeber the name well), to receive details of the orders. At that times MIR had prepared, nation-wide among its core organization, a military-political organization based in the “GPM-structures” (“grupos político-militares”). This means that every single militant, regardless his/her public political commitment, was member of a concrete GPM. These GPMs, also called “structures”, were in turn organised in clandestine military-political cells (“las bases”).
In my particular case, being at that time working clandestine at the Organization detail of the Regional Committee, my GPM was the one called “the centralized structure” and my operative cell was the detail itself, integrated at that time by five members (of whom three have survived, all of us living in different countries in Europe). The main contingency strategy of MIR for the eventuality of a putsch was contained in the nation-wide “Plan militar de emergencia” (PME), according to which every single GPM, and its turn every concrete cell, had a previously assigned geographic area to act upon politically and militarily during the planned resistance.
Up to my knowledge, every single MIR militant have had some military training. Apart of the cells mentioned above, existed at MIR also a few so called “grupos de fuerza”, integrated with militants with a certain degree of specialization for this kind of resistance task. For instance, during the months prior the coup, the training coaches of MIR ranks used to belong to those structures. Some of them, also as militants of MIR, had previously served as bodyguards of President Allende. Nearly all of them are now dead.
18th September 1973. Seven days after the coup, Tedeum in the Cathedral of Santiago. Pinochet and his Junta, and the Cardinal and his bishops.
The organization cell which I belonged to – as I said before pertained to the central structure of MIR in Concepción – had been assigned combat stations precisely in the centre part of Concepción City. This posed a terrible problem for me, personally, since my parents lived in the building of Colo-Colo Street and Avenue San Martín, two blocks from the Concepción “Plaza de Armas” and were the government offices were located. This means also that near my parents residence was situated (circa two hundred meters towards the opposite direction) the head quarters of the Military Division of the garrison Concepción are (at O’Higgins Street and Castellón Street)! Also my son and his mother have been sheltered at my parents’ residence; this after my father went to the country side and brought them to “safe”.
In fact, Pinochet forces have had – during my absence – a siege to the property at the country side on the afternoon of September 11th. The resistance in Concepción, and in Chile as a whole, was not done at the scale that MIR had expected, although numerous combats took place in several sites all over the country. In this fight participated also militants from other political parties of the left. In Concepción, sporadic skirmishes were reported regarding the nights of the 11th and 12th of September, both in the centre of the city and in some point of its periphery.
And this was supposed to be according to the plan. After 35 years it is not possible to be exacy without the documentens in hand, but, as I recall in gross terms, the PME had among other items in its strategy these four moments to be implemented:
a) MIR cells assigned for combat in down town were not to seize positions or barricade but to develop hit and run operations in multiple targets with the principal focus of distracting Pinochet forces from the combats in the “cordones industrials”.
b) These so called industrial cordons were the regions in the outer perimeter or outskirts of the city where factories were allocated, and also many “poblaciones” – the living areas of that time for the working class and the poor. Here it was previously organized, and predicted, severe resistance to the military forces.
c) The cool mining workers from Lota and Coronel, cities near Concepción, were “expected” to cross Bio-Bio Bridge in a mass march (a political demonstration, not necessarily with arms) towards Concepción and thus reaching first the city’s periphery where the workers would unite with the people in the cordones.
d) The battle would continue pushing the military towards the centre parts of the city and were they had their head quarters and also the three regiments were located.
The only aspect I can personally testify is the one related to the nights’ “enfrentamientos” (perhaps more properly referred as sporadic “fire exchange”) from some roofs of buildings in Concepción down town the 11th and 12th of September. They did exist. And I also remember vividly some sounds of explosions and the sound at intervales of automatic fire, heard long away from downtown, during those two days. As a matter of fact, in a visit I made to Concepción in 1984 (my first visit to Chile after my exile in Europe) the impact of bullets were still visible on the walls and stairway of the building were my parents lived, in Colo-Colo St. and San Martín Av., and in the big neighbouring wall of the Hotel Alonso de Ercilla. Most certain is that those marks have survived in one or another fashion under the make up. They were to big and too many to conceal by cosmetics.
On the other developments, I never knew for real what real happened at the “cordones industrials” of Concepción. We heard the automatic fire and some heavy explosions-sounds that came from the city’s outskirts. Mostly the very same day of September 11th. I met some comrades both at the stadium and at Quiriquina Island who were assigned to that front. But one fundamental rule (for one’s survival and the rest’s) is that you never, ever, ask your comrades in captivity on “how did it go” on such matters. On the other hand, I certainly know what happened with the projected march of the mining workers.
According to the information I have, the head of MIR’s Regional Committee in Concepción, which was supposed to have the ultimate responsibility for the political side of the PME would have ordered MIR militants in Lota and Coronel – in spite of the orders contained in the PME – to halt the march towards Concepción. He visited me at my residence in Stockholm in 1980 and after his account of facts I am prone to believe the version I had heard from before that he tried to halt the march in order to avert the almost certain massacre that march would eventually end in. Indirectly, this is a clear acknowledgement for us that the resistance against the deployment of military Pinochet forces in Concepción did not achieve the goals of the PME.
Personally, I was first publicly declared dead at the combats of Concepción, which in the beginning occasioned much problem during my first time in military captivity, as I explain down below (in order to survive torture, it existed the praxis to attribute to the perished combatants the responsibility facts and whereabouts searched by the interrogators). In fact, I continued moving myself in clandestine forms in Concepción, and in regular contact with our enlaces (females all of them. Known as “las compañeras de la central”), until the order of cease operations and “submerge” was given to me by her and as it was contained in a communication from MIR leadership in Santiago to all the GPMs which had survived in Chile.
As MIR cadres were abated and our logistics became more and more precarious I have to mover more and more often between safe houses. MIR transports were in a moment extremely scarce or too risky to use, and I had finally to rely in my family for such transports. “Safe houses” were at the end just places of people around your private life, acquaintances without political bounds, or places dangerous per se. This was the case of the last safe house I could count with, in the northern sector of Concepción, and actually belonging to the maid employed at my parents’ residence. What I did not know it was she had a relationship with a sergeant of the Regiment Chacabuco. I call my father immediately to come and pick me up but the car was detained “for driving after the curfew”. I never knew if it was a set up. My family is indeed rightwing and many were, and in later generations still are, officers in the armed forces or in the Navy. On the other hand this fact contributed that I am still alive.
I was taken first to the Stadium in Concepción. The morning after I was lined with two other prisoners waiting execution – right under the goal frame – by firing squad. One of the fellow prisoners was the former executive director of the state-owned SOCOAGRO in Chillán, and the other was a 16 years old worker from a “cantera” (sort of stone mine) caught with explosives apparently taken from the mine. I was recognised by a petty officer years before serving under my father’s command. I was saved, and it was not going to be the last time. See more details in the text below of Anna-Leena Jarva.
The aftermathThe text here below is from: “Political biography of Marcello Ferrada-Noli, one of the founders of MIR” by Anna-Leena Jarva 
(Continue from section Facing firing squad at the Stadium). Briefly, that morning Vallejos ordered Marcello first to seat early in the morning in the very middle of the field together with two other detainees. The chief of SOCO AGRO in the region of Chillán and a socialist militant, and a very young man (16 years old) who had previously work in a mine and was caught staling explosives and demolition gear. Later, at about 10 AM, approaches Vallejos himself armed with a machine gun and heading an armed squad integrated by four gendarmes, two Carabineros and two civil police men from the former “policía política”.
They escorted the three detainees towards the South Goal of the field and order them to stand right under the goal frame. One of the Carabineros, a sergeant and former “escribiente” of the Prefectura where Marcello’s father was once upon a time a chief officer, said that the prisoners had first to be blindfolded, and said he would fetch some appropriate stuff at the main building. The prisoners and the squad waited. After ten minutes or so comes back the sergeant together with Army Captain Sánchez (officer in command of the military unit at the camp) and a full armed platoon of professional Army soldiers. They interrupted the procedures and a dispute arises between the Sanchez and Vallejos that ended that Marcello was separated from the other two and taken to custody at the military premise of the camp.
The same afternoon was Marcello Ferrada-Noli included in a transport of 18 prisoners from Stadium heading to the Naval Base of Talcahuano in a military bus, to be from there transported by boat to Quiriquina Island. What had happened? The sergeant called Marcello’s father, which called his son Mauricio, which called his old time comrade at the 1964 course of the Officers Military School, Captain Sánchez, once being a protégé of Mauricio at the bullying-prone officer’s mess at the Escuela Militar.
POW in Quiriquina IslandAfter the Stadium, where he was kept the shortly described above, was Marcello thereafter held prisoner of war at the camp in Quiriquina Island run by the Navy (see photo 1 below). “Prisoner of war” was the denomination officially used by the authorities, which even issued certificates of detention signed by and with the seal of “Chief of the Prisoners Camp – Quiriquina Island, First Lt. Pedro Arrieta Gurruchaga (see Marcello’s certificate ). The political prisoners then arrested believed that the measure was taken in connection to the visit of a delegation of the International Red Cross which took place at the Island. Matching the notion that the detainees were to be considered “war” prisoner, the national newspaper La Tercera published on October 6th 1973 a full front-page photo of some of the arrested at the camp (with Marcello among them), and with the footnote “there (detained at the camp) for they have attacked the Armed Forces with fire weapons” or – referring to the local authorities of the deposed government – “for being the intellectual authors in a plan to exterminate military officers and politicians belonging to Allende’s opposition” [36a].
Days after DINA assassinated in the “Campo de Prisoners de la Isla Quiriquina” – under interrogation- the former Governor of the Region (Intendente) Fernando Alvarez, the one who appeared at the centre of the referred picture in La Tercera [36a]. He was one of the several Marcello’s peer inmates at Quiriquina who died at the camp, including those executed by firing squad such Carrillo, the union leader of the coal workers in Lota-Coronel.
Prisoner in Quiriquina Island The interrogations to the prisoners were performed as regular twice a week by agents of a nation-wide security organization to be known later as the National Directory of Intelligence DINA. These agents came to the Island from the garrisons at Concepción. In fact the DINA personnel that took part in the interrogations were integrated by officers and petty officers selected from all branches of the Armed Forces. During the interrogations the question for Marcello Ferrada-Noli by the DINA agents remained unchanged: where did he hide the weapons (see Marcello’s poem “El generalísimo” in the section Poems & Novels), and, where was Miguel Enríquez. Marcello was charged later for his responsibilities and taking part in an operative consisting of a weapon transport and smuggling it into Chile (this process against Marcello at the Militar Attorney Authority [Fiscalía Militar] was eventually dropped about six years later, while Marcello was already living in Sweden. Marcello denied the charges until the end). Marcello and friends worked already on the escape plan and had hidden Navy working uniforms which were of very simple design and easy to emulate with help of transformed jeans and civil clothes.
However, and thanks to family pressure, the fact that he was publicly recognised as being a prisoner at Quiriquina Island, and the solidarity of his peers at the Camp (which although well aware of Marcello’s stand never said a thing) as well as academic pressure from Mexico, Marcello was released in 1974. However, this was decided only with the clear stipulated condition that Marcello should leave the country and he was also expected to do so immediately (originally to Mexico). Marcello was presented as well a hand written clause on that he should be very careful with what he was going to say abroad [36b]. The “authorization to travel abroad” was signed by General Agustín Toro, the Division general in charge of the military zone in the Region and an old brother in arms with Marcello’s brother Mauricio (both at the Artillery, Mauricio had served as Lt. Field Aid (oficial ayudante) to General Toro years before in the Northern garrison at Arica). General Toro actually signed on the very envelope containing the letter arrived from México University asking for Marcello’s release and also issuing an invitation for him to work there as a professor. Ordinarily, an Army General perhaps would have refused such a petition, but one coincidentally aspect in this case it was also that General Toro had served as Military Attaché at the Chilean Embassy in México just months before.
Back to Inferno
Marcello was taken from Quiriquina Island in a sealed empty metal tank on board a Navy tug-boat to the detention centre Cuartel Borgoño. After shortly staying this centre – run by the Marines at main land Talcahuano- Marcello was taken to the head quarters of the III Military Division where his brother Mauricio ultimately picked him up. They went together to their parents’ residence where a flight ticket and a packed suit case were waiting for Marcello. There Marcello reunited also with his new born son José-Miguel and mother, and a relieved brother Mauricio finally could travel with his wife and kids to a long postponed summer vacation in Southern Chile.
But the drama did not end there. As soon as Marcello’s brother Mauricio had left Concepción came two agents and arrested Marcello anew, taking him directly back to the camp at the football stadium in Concepción (the very place where Marcello was detained before Quiriquina). DINA would not comply with General Toro’s gentlemanly gesture towards his brother in arms and once his own attaché officer, namely Marcello’s brother Mauricio. Marcello was transported to the Stadium in a van together with another detainee, Galo Gómez, the university professor and Vice Rector of the University of Concepción. During his night at the Stadium could Marcello share cell with two of his best personal friends, Marco Antonio Enríquez (Miguel eldest brother) and Rodrigo Rojas.
Those in the cell were due to be transported the day after to Chacabuco camp (see below). To complicate things, Marcello’s father was in Santiago to wait for the arrival from Great Britain of daughter Carmen Consuelo. Marcello was taken back to the detention centre at the Foot ball stadium in Concepción, awaiting an imminent flight transport to the Chacabuco Camp, in Northern Chile (approximately two thousand kilometres from Concepción). Only José-Miguel’s young mother was left in Concepción for managing the new critical situation. Eventually she managed to contact Mauricio, who interrupted his holiday to come – at the very last minute- and rescue his brother from boarding the military transport. This time Mauricio came with his own military escort and in addition with Captain Sanchez and his platoon, and carrying the General orders.
The Agents at the stadium said to Marcello – and in front of his brother and escort- “we do not release you, you go just because your brother and his Artillery men are taking you with them, but we will come back to you, and you will come back here”. Officers and gentlemen But, according to Marcello, not all the Military and Navy personnel acted as DINA agents acted, or as the death squads acted. According to Marcello there are several episodes he witnessed him self and that can tell about the other side of the behaviour of Military and Navy personnel towards the detainees or their families. Marcello said “in very general terms, it was in a way similar to the difference between the SS and the Wermacht, the behaviour of the fanatics at the Gestapo contrasting to the strictly militarily, and at times gentlemanly, behaviour of the professional officers, at least those who respected the Geneva Convention”. Shortly thereafter Marcello was escorted – this time with his brother on his side until the last minute- to the exile flight from Santiago de Chile.
In Rome Marcello did certainly disregarded what the generals prohibited and went directly thereafter to Rome to participate as main witness at the Russell Tribunal investigating the violation of human rights in Chile in the aftermath of the Military Coup. Marcello even stayed afterwards as a permanent member of the Russell Tribunal Scientific Committee together with among other five Gabriel García Marquez and Senator Lelio Basso and also participated in the activities of MIR’s cell in Rome. The Committee at Russell Tribunal was chaired by Linda Bimbi, which made afterwards possible for Marcello the contacts with Amnesty International in Sweden. where new duties for MIR waited for Marcello in Stockholm. Years after, amid his second exile in Scandinavia, Marcello would pursue General Pinochet’s international trial (photo 2). By observing the originals of the photos below, separated by almost 30 years, I just could guess – thinking in the story related above – time did not much difference to the steadfast message in his eyes. ANNA-LEENA JARVA. Helsinki, December 2002.
EPILOGUE 1998, Norway/Sweden
1998. Demanding publicly Pinochet on the fate of his friends Edgardo Enríquez and Bautista Van Schowen. Click on picture
 Teoria y Método de la Concientización by Marcello Ferrada-Noli (1972). Prologue by Prof. Sandoval Trujillo. Edit. Facultad Sociología UNANL, Monterrey, México, 1972.
 Elementos teóricos en la formación y desarrollo del MIR durante el periodo 1965-1970 by Pedro Alfonso Valdés Navarro (2008). Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile. Tesis de grado. Pages 120-121.
 M. Ferrada-Noli [bio]