The Marusia massacre (Spanish: Masacre de Marusia) (March, 1925) was the Chilean government's response, then headed by Arturo Alessandri, to a strike by the workers of a saltpeter mine, that ended with more than 500 deaths.
On March of 1925, the workers of the nitrate "office" (saltpeter mine) of Marusia, on the province of Antofagasta near the Andes, went on strike to demand a salary raise, less working hours and better working conditions. While the negotiations were taking place between the company executives and the worker's representatives, the British engineer who run the "office", much hated because of his habit of whipping his workers, was found dead near the mine. A Bolivian engineer was accused of the crime and executed without process by decision of the owners of the company.
The union, under the leadership of Domingo Soto, was afraid of reprisals, and especially of another massacre like the one that had happened only a few years before in San Gregorio, so they decided to take several preventive measures. They contacted the other "offices", and proposed to blow up the railroad tracks in order to prevent the arrival of strike-breakers. The government aprised of the unrest responded by sending forty soldiers under the command of captain Gilberto Troncoso, known as the "Hyena of San Gregorio" for his violent behaviour.
The women of Marusia organized themselves under the leadership of Selva Saavedra, and decided to resist the advance of the troops. When the soldiers arrived, they entered the town already shooting. A group of workers responded by throwing dynamite sticks at them, killing several soldiers and taking over their guns. Then the workers mounted a counter-offensive taking over the explosive depot of the mine, and cutting the telegraphic wires. Captain Troncoso was forced to retreat.
The miners proceeded to arm the whole town (about 2,400 people). In an open assembly, the union leaders proposed to negotiate their surrender, while some miners advocated to call upon the help of the workers from other mines. In the end the motion of Domingo Soto calling for the Town priest to negotiate was decided upon.
While these negotiations were taking place, the army returned with a 300-men strong battalion under the command of Colonel Pedro Schultz. They attacked the town in the middle of the night and machined-gun everyone in sight. Hundreds died, including women and children — the exact number was never properly established. A group of workers were able to mount a hasty defense, throwing dynamite sticks to the advancing troops, and they managed to kill 36 soldiers and to injure 64. The surviving miners escaped with their families into the high mountains. This put an end to the inmediate strike, but the conflict flared again less than two months later, and led to the La Coruna massacre.
- Arturo Alessandri
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Other pages about Massacres in Chile
-Caravan of Death -Marusia massacre -Ranquil massacre -Seguro Obrero massacre
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