Photo: Odlanier Mena
Odlanier Mena, former director of Chile’s dictatorship-era National Intelligence Center, or CNI, and one of 10 inmates affected by the decision to close down a special prison for those convicted of human rights violations during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 rule, committed suicide Saturday by shooting himself in the head.
According to police, Mena, 86, took his life at home, where he was spending a weekend furlough.
His attorney, Fernando Balmaceda, directly associated the suicide with the announced closure of the Cordillera Prison and the removal of its 10 inmates to Punta Pueco, a jail 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Chilean capital and also reserved for those convicted of human rights violations.
“He was in very poor health, he needed artificial respiration, a situation that was known to the prison guard service and to the doctors who attended him,” he said.
“He was terribly upset by the move, it worried him a lot that in Punta Peuco he wouldn’t get the medical attention he needed,” the attorney said.
Mena was sentenced in late 2008 to six years in jail in connection with three “Caravan of Death” killings of political prisoners, and was the only prisoner at Cordillera allowed out of jail on weekends, a privilege he had enjoyed since June 2011.
The Caravan of Death was a military task force that summarily executed nearly 100 political prisoners in the weeks following Pinochet’s Sept. 11, 1973, coup.