‘I know where you live, pal!’ — Lt Colonel Hector Varela, the ‘Butcher of Patagonia’ (PDF)

Lt Colonel Hector Varela, ‘the butcher of Patagonia’, is brought to justice by Gustav Wilkens (1886-1923)

In Patagonia, in 1920, anarchist activists led an uprising of agricultural labourers which was viciously repressed by the army under the command of Lt. Colonel Héctor Varela who sent more than 1500 strikers and ordinary workers to the firing squads. The remoteness of the region and poor communication prevented the full story from becoming known in Buenos Aires until much later. When the details of Varela’s methods became known, the anarchist press launched a campaign against the “killer of Patagonia” which culminated in the assassination of Varela by a Tolstoyan-anarchist, Kurt Wilkens

On the 25January 1923 Lt Colonel Héctor Benigno Varela left his apartment at 7 in the morning. Outside, waiting for him with a bomb and a revolver, was Kurt Wilkens, a hitherto pacifist anarchist. Wilkens explained his reasons for killing Varela in a letter dated 21 May 1923:

No fue venganza; yo no vi en Varela al insignificante oficial. No, él era todo en la Patagonia: gobierno, juez, verdugo y sepulturero. Intenté herir en él al ídolo desnudo de un sistema criminal. ¡Pero la venganza es indigna de un anarquista! El mañana, nuestro mañana, no afirma rencillas, ni crímenes, ni mentiras; afirma vida, amor, ciencias; trabajemos para apresurar ese día.

He will not kill anyone again. I have avenged my brothers.”

Condemned to life imprisonment, Wilkens was shot in his cell, while sleeping, on June 16, 1923, by the rightwing nationalist, Perez Millan,  who was killed in turn on November 9 1925, by the Russian anarchist German Boris Vladimirovitch. PDF