Biographical sketch of Efraín Plaza Olmedo
Chile’s Marriott Hotel bombers call themselves the Efraín Plaza Olmedo Blasting Crew, but who exactly was Efraín Plaza Olmedo?
From Liberación Total:
November 4, 2009
Given the scarcity of information about Efraín, here is a brief outline:
Efraín Plaza Olmedo was a carpenter and an anarchist; he read writers like Max Stirner, and he liked to write, authoring the text “Find Yourself a Revolver.” He believed in individual action as a form of combat in the struggle against capital and exploitation. He also believed that it was necessary to be armed at all times, and that is why he purchased a revolver in 1909, at the age of 23. During the winter of 1912, Efraín left for downtown Santiago with the clear intention to kill some bourgeois. He shot two representatives of the upper class, killing them both. He then tried to flee, but was immediately stopped by citizens who tried to lynch him, while he shouted: “I am happy to have avenged the oppressed!”
When questioned, he declared that “only violent means can manage to overturn the current state of affairs.” He later added that he had bought the revolver “in order to kill President Pedro Montt and some military leaders responsible for the massacre at the Santa María School.” Pedro Montt, who was president of Chile, was directly responsible for the Santa María Massacre, but he later left for Europe, which was why Efraín was unable to kill him.
After Efraín’s action, the press and the public got involved in the ongoing debate on violence. Some anarchists, through the newspaper La Batalla, said: “Brother! Idiots may call you a murderer, but we call you righteous.” Meanwhile, the firefighters of revolt—those who always look to distance themselves by talking about one’s background—called him mentally disturbed and said that his actions were representative of an individual with an extreme sensitivity to the abuses of power.
During the trial, the prosecuting attorney, requesting a conviction from the judge, stated: “The charged defendant Plaza Olmedo maintains the statement in which he confessed to perpetrating the double-crime . . . that he left his house with a revolver in his pocket, determined to kill a bourgeois . . . that after the massacre of workers in Iquique, which happened some time ago, the catastrophe in the El Teniente mine increased his indignation, and for this reason he decided to attack the bourgeoisie in order to avenge the working class. He insists that he committed the crime with total premeditation, and repeats that it was because of his anarchist ideas.”
In the middle of May 1913, Efraín received a 20-year prison sentence plus extra time for each of the murders, with the extenuating circumstance of faultless prior conduct, which prevented the death penalty.
Now behind bars, Plaza Olmedo continued his protest activity. A series of communiqués sent to his La Batalla comrades told the story of how the warden made him attend Sunday mass after handcuffing him and having guards beat him, despite which Efraín did not allow the priest to say a single word, insulting him as well as the guards and the judge. On returning to his cell, Efraín continued his stream of expletives against the priest and the judge, so guards tried to shackle his hands and feet, which he resisted by using an iron from his cell to stun one of the jailers.
His constant disturbances would lead to innumerable conflicts, as he also looked to spread his ideals among the rest of the inmates. The hunger strikes and riots multiplied, as did the demands to the Santiago Penitentiary authorities, for which he was punished with four years of solitary confinement without visitation rights. He was later transferred to Talca Penitentiary, which severed the ties to his comrades yet brought about an increase in support for Efraín on the part of individuals and the anarchist press.
In an attempt to win sympathy from the workers, the military movement of young army officers turned toward the left in January 1925 and pardoned Efraín. On the first Sunday of March 1925, he left Talca Penitentiary at the age of 39, having spent 13 years as a political prisoner, 56 months of which were in complete isolation. He later told the magazine Acción Directa: “Prison did not torment me, comrades! I always lived, despite all the sorrow in prison.” From then on, he would actively participate in the Santiago tenants’ demonstrations for the lowering of rents and the improvement of city living conditions.
On April 27, 1925, a body was found on the side of the road in Conchalí, near a canal underneath a tall willow. It was Efraín Plaza Olmedo. The anarchist press declared: “Suicide or murder? It does not matter to us. All the signs point to capitalism and the state as those most responsible for the death of a man who—through his words filled with kindness and love, and his revolutionary action—made them think twice about their illegitimate interests.”