A retired Pinochet-era Chilean general and former head of the DINA secret intelligence unit committed suicide Thursday at the age of 76, after being convicted of dictatorship crimes earlier this week.
Former General Hernan Ramirez Rurange was one of 14 military personnel convicted Tuesday for involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Eugenio Berrios, a chemist and secret police agent under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Berrios was disappeared in the early 1990s after escaping from hiding in Uruguay. He had been sent there as part of DINA’s Operation Silence to avoid testifying in cases of assassinations carried out by secret police in the 1970s in the dictatorship-era Operation Condor.
Ramirez was sentenced to a total of 20 years and two days in prison this week: 10 years and one day for being the mastermind behind Berrios’ kidnapping, and another 10 years and one day for illicit association.
The former general died in the hospital after shooting himself in the head Thursday. His suicide immediately after the sentencing provoked strong reactions on social media.
No daba mas con su conciencia #hernanramirez o fue muy cobarde para enfrentar su castigo, porque para torturar no le costo nada
— Harry Muñoz ® (@HarryMunoz) agosto 13, 2015
“Hernan Ramirez couldn’t deal with his conscience or he was too cowardly to face his punishment, because he didn’t have any problem torturing.”
Hernán Ramírez, hoy te reúnes en el Cielo con Odlanier Mena, Himmler, Hitler, Goebbels, Göring, Hess y otros que valientemente se suicidaron
— Tía Evelyn (@LaTiaEvelyn) agosto 13, 2015
“Hernan Ramirez, today you join in heaven Odlanier Mena, Himmler, Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, Hess and other who valiently committed suicide.”
Ramirez’ suicide comes a week after Manuel Contreras, another former head of DINA during the dictatorship, died Friday age of 86, remaining unrepentant until his death for the grave human rights abuses he committed, including torture, murder, and disappearances.
Ramirez was a right-hand man to Pinochet. He committed serious crimes aimed at protecting the dictatorship military regime at the beginning of the 1990’s, during the transition to democracy, when the Chilean government launched investigations into military personnel for human rights abuses perpetrated under the dictatorship, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
In the Berrios case, Ramirez testified that Pinochet had directly ordered him in 1991 as a DINA operative to take Berrios into hiding in Uruguay and that Pinochet knew “perfectly” who Berrios was.
Berrios oversaw the development of chemical weapons for use by DINA under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Such biochemical weapons included sarin gas, a chemical used to kill victims silently and without a trace by mimicking a heart attack.
DINA was key in executing Operation Condor, a six-country regional intelligence operation and terror campaign to assassinate political opponents of the participating U.S.-backed right-wing regimes.
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.