Conception of the DINA

"We will fight in the shadows so that our children can live in the sunlight."
private motto of the DINA

Shortly after the coup, one of Pinochet's former students from the military academy approached him with an idea for an underground organization whose purpose would be to "purge" the country of its communist insurgents. This man was Colonel Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda who would act as head of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) when it was officially created on June 18, 1974.

Contreras selected several hundred men already enlisted in the armed forces and had them trained to: "spy, deceive, kidnap, interrogate, torture, and break the human spirit." The members of the DINA were promised a "carte blanche" to fulfill their duties.

The first job of the DINA was to eradicate the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionario, called MIR). The MIR had survived the coup and continued to plan attacks against the military in an attempt to oust the junta. DINA agents descended on MIR safe houses in the night and took MIRistas (as they were called) away.

The victims of the DINA extended to include a lengthy list of people. After the coup the DINA hunted for people who were: leaders, collaborators or sympathizers of the UP government, trade union leaders and members, in support of agrarian reform, intellectuals, professors and university students, military personnel who opposed Pinochet's rule and family members of any of the above.

Later, in the mid 1970's to the 1980's, the DINA also captured human rights activists, religious leaders who were against the regime, armed opposition and members of opposing political parties.

The DINA continued to grow, expanding its torture centers, its chain of command and employing thousands of agents and informants. As the influence of the DINA grew, so did the influence of Contreras. As Federico Willoughby, a former Pinochet aide turned detractor, said, "Contreras operated virtually like a cogovernor; he ran an entire world that no one wanted to get involved in." The piles of information that the DINA had gathered on thousands of Chilean citizens gave Pinochet and Contreras incredible power.

Fear of the DINA became entrenched in society. Colleagues and friends no longer trusted one another because anyone could be an informant.