Secret in the parquet: The complaint that shakes Linares – La Tercera

Marco Bustos was looking for job offers in the apartment he rented in Budapest, Hungary, when a Facebook post from a former basketball teammate paralyzed him. On his screen he read a comment written by Héctor Suazo that said: “Be careful. Don’t trust your kids to this guy. Rickter Valenzuela is his name ”. Bustos, a 34-year-old forestry engineer, knew Valenzuela. He had been his coach at Club Deportivo Linares MYT and the memories he had of him, he says now, were painful:

-One weekend in 2002, when I was 15 years old, Rickter summoned three players to a specialized training session and they gave me ‘massages’. I was lying on a wadding table, wearing shorts and no underwear, and he was sitting up. There he began to touch me, from the genitals to the anus.

That same day, October 25, 2018, Bustos began to contact his former teammates to tell them about that experience that, until then, he had not dared to reveal.

One of the first to receive his call was his friend Pedro Ortiz. He also had a secret: he claimed to have suffered the same touches from 2001 to 2005, when he was between 11 and 15 years old, in addition to having been photographed by Valenzuela while he was naked.

The stories and calls were accumulating, until Bustos reached Héctor Suazo: the author of the funeral to Valenzuela on Facebook and who, in addition, reported him to the Linares Local Prosecutor’s Office that same 2018. The reasons were the same as in the cases previous: muscle massages inside a gym, when Suazo was 12 years old, which ended with Valenzuela inserting his finger into the minor’s anus. The problem is that the events had occurred in 2003. Therefore, Suazo’s case was dismissed by prescription.

To bring together all the former players of the MYT club who wanted to share their experiences, Bustos created a WhatsApp group on October 29, 2018. They named it “The ball is not stained”. The next step was to bring their stories to justice. Marco Bustos, who had already returned to Chile, reported Rickter Valenzuela for sexual abuse at the Linares Local Prosecutor’s Office on February 4, 2020. Thirteen other accounts, such as that of Pedro Ortiz, added to the complaint in the following months.

Justice, says Héctor Suazo, was the only thing that could calm their anger. Especially when, not long after, they discovered something: Suazo had not been the first victim.

Rickter Valenzuela dictated workshops for the Ministry of Sports.

Rickter Valenzuela was 19 years old when he created his sports club in Linares. He named it MYT because they were the acronym for the phrase “My young team”, or “My young team” in English. Valenzuela, who only a year earlier had graduated from the Linares Institute, and who years later would study Basic Pedagogy at the Catholic University of Maule, began practicing on the fields of the Ramón Belmar Saldías School.

“He didn’t look like a sportsman.” He was fat, but he knew a lot, ”says Carlos Vallejos, a former MYT captain and also a whistleblower for the coach. He promised many that he would take them to the national team, but there were prohibitions: they could not play in their schools or in other clubs. They also couldn’t have partners and had to train the entire week.

Manuel Herrera, former player of the Chilean basketball team and today president of the Maule Regional Basketball Association, met Valenzuela:

-He trained good players, but it was striking that his club was so closed. They did not lend to their pupils and neither did they compete at a high level.

Off the court, Rickter Valenzuela was the youngest of six siblings. He always lived with his mother, whom he cared for until she passed away in 2010. His personal life was always a mystery. For example, he was talking about an alleged son that his closest family never found out about.

– He told me that he had been a father, but that his son died in Valparaíso. With my colleagues we realized that some things changed, such as the place. He told some that this had happened in Valdivia, another that it was in Argentina, ”remembers Monier Villarreal, a former basketball player for the club.

Carlos Vallejos goes further:

“He wanted to tell those stories to the weakest, like the children of separated parents,” says Vallejos.

So it was with Carlos Fritz and Cristián Cofré.

On Monday, November 14, 2011, Fritz, 16 years old at that date, asked Cofré, one of his good friends from the generation, to please talk at recess at the Salesianos Educational Center in Talca. Both had arrived the previous Saturday from a basketball tour to El Salvador, in the Atacama Region, where they represented the Valenzuela MYT.

– As soon as Carlos began to speak, he began to cry. He told me that the coach abused him on the tour and I shivered – recalls Cofré, today.

On November 16, the mothers of both minors reported Valenzuela for sexual abuse at the Local Prosecutor’s Office in Talca. This was stated by Cofré in that case: “During the trip he put a suppository on me, spanked me and said ‘ya, my skinny boy’. Days later he did it again and I felt that he put his finger deeper than normal ”, accused Cofré, who also stated that Valenzuela kissed him:“ One day he asked me what was wrong with me, that I felt strange. I had problems with my dad. Then he took me to his room and started talking to me. Then he said ‘you know that parents kiss each other on the mouth’, then he kissed me on the mouth. I started crying and he told me that he saw me as a son ”.

Fritz provided more details: “He told us that we had to love him like our mothers and respect him like our fathers. He told me to squeeze the poto to shoot and, since he was not putting the ball in, he inserted one of his fingers between my buttocks and said ‘squeeze’ ‘squeeze’. On the bus to Talca I went with him. I fell asleep on his shoulder and woke up because he was stroking my genitals over my pants. I said, ‘I feel weird because it’s touching me a lot.’

Although Valenzuela denied the abuses, both testimonies were classified as “credible” according to the Psychological Expert Report. The PDI also carried out a forensic report on the coach’s computer. They found 141 videos of homosexual pornography, where young men participated. However, it could not be established whether they were minors.

All this information was in the folder that was sent on April 11, 2013, from the Talca Prosecutor’s Office to the Diego de Almagro Prosecutor’s Office. In it, in addition, there is an email in which Óscar Salgado, prosecutor of Talca, assures: “This case is ready to be formalized, the problem is that we are not competent. The statements are consistent, the skills are good and the test is good ”.

Four years later, on March 14, 2017, Valenzuela was formalized. The sentence came out on April 4, 2018, almost seven years after the complaint. In it, Valenzuela was convicted of “indecent offenses with serious and transcendental acts that affected the victims” and it was recognized that the coach touched the buttocks of both with his hands, for which he served 300 days of minor imprisonment, through of conditional referral in Linares. On April 16, 2019, he finished serving his sentence in freedom.

– We never really knew the reasons for the decision by which the crime was changed, nor why they took so long. Also, I never found out about the conviction. Justice was not served and for me that was very hard. Until today I find it hard to sleep – Cofré claims.

That was not the only alert. Sebastián Toro knows this well, who denounced Valenzuela for crimes committed against him in 2012, when he was 12 years old:

“My parents were separating and he took advantage of that to touch me,” he confesses.

Toro’s case went to trial on April 29, 2014, but the Linares Criminal Oral Trial Court acquitted Valenzuela.

–The acquittal was achieved because the conviction could not be achieved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the events occurred and that the accused had participated in these eventual events, ”acknowledges Camilo Bahamondes, public defender of Rickter Valenzuela in that cause.

Toro recalls that the prosecutor Mónica Cánepa, the same one who years later would investigate Suazo’s complaint, in 2018, and that of Bustos in 2020, ended up devastated after the trial.

-He came out crying to seas. They told me they had never seen a prosecutor like that, because everyone believed there was enough evidence to convict Rickter. It was very painful – recalls Toro.

Those causes did not harm Valenzuela’s job prospects too much. Since April 2018, the same date he was convicted, he worked in a Sports School of the Ministry of Sports in Linares. Not only that: 20 days after the sentence, the municipality awarded $ 400,000 to MYT, the club in which the condemned events occurred. During 2018 the same club received $ 2,000,000 in municipal funds, according to the Transparency Portal.

Witnessing this, Sebastián Toro confesses, led him to suffer a depressive picture:

–I associated everything with darkness, I saw everything black, I tried to kill myself on more than one occasion. It was hard to know that Rickter was walking freely down the street.

Between 2017 and 2020 the Club Deportivo Linares MYT received contributions from the Municipality of the commune.

Rickter Valenzuela’s fortunes began to change in 2020. On August 20 of that year he ceased to be vice president of the Chilean Basketball Coaches Association (Adebach). He had held the position since January 2019, when he had already been charged in two legal proceedings.

– We asked him to resign because we received an anonymous complaint and we saw his background – acknowledges Mario Negrón, president of Adebach.

During 2021, Valenzuela worked at the Massachusetts Technical Training Center as director of institutional development. There, they say, they had no idea about the complaints.

–That’s a lie, two months ago I called the CFT and spoke with the secretary. I told him about the complaints, because I was worried that the investigation was not progressing – reveals Cristian Cofré.

The same feeling was shared by his peers.

“We thought he was going to get away with it again.” We began to doubt, because they took a long time to formalize, while new information appeared every day – says Bustos.

On recent October 16, Ignacio Valenzuela, a former MYT player and physical education teacher, decided to ask his students if any of them had been trained by Rickter. He told them that it was in connection with the complaints that had been made public. To his question, none of the young people reacted and most left. But two children stayed until the end. They claimed to be victims of the coach, one of them in 2019.

In total, the PDI managed to collect 14 complaints of sexual abuse. While compiling them, he summoned Valenzuela to testify, who used his right to remain silent. In addition, his home was searched in Linares. It was as if, after 19 years, the fence around the coach was finally starting to close. In fact, sources from the Maule Prosecutor’s Office admit that they were going to formalize Valenzuela. That, until on Thursday, October 21, news stopped them: Rickter Valenzuela had taken his own life at home.

The whistleblowers soon found out.

– I was happy to know that there will be no more victims, but the part of justice was pending. He knew what was coming to him if he went back to court – says Héctor Suazo.

The day after Valenzuela’s death, the group “The ball is not stained” released a statement entitled “Basket without abuse.” After the publication, more complaints reached the group. But it was too late.

“After the death of the accused, the Local Prosecutor’s Office of Linares will apply a definitive dismissal to the investigation that was carried out against him for events that occurred more than 10 years ago and where the results of the latest proceedings ordered to the PDI were being awaited. to request a hearing from the court to formalize the charges against him “, explains the Maule Regional Prosecutor’s Office through a statement.

The last to know about the allegations were the coach’s relatives. None, says one of them, ever suspected Rickter:

“We will never know what he did.” But if the denounced events are true, we apologize to the victims – says one of the relatives, who then adds something else:

– If we had known what was happening, we could have done something. D

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Secret in the parquet: The complaint that shakes Linares – La Tercera