This blogger is not an academic and so was very flattered to be asked to write this review of an article in Diplomatic History by Professor Tanya Harmer of the London School of Economics, “Fractious Allies: Chile, the United States and the Cold War, 1973-76. It appears in H-Diplo, a diplomatic history discussion network: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/reviews/PDF/AR395.pdf
Pablo Neruda’s bone samples will be sent to a laboratory at the University of North Carolina for toxin testing, giving investigators a better chance of determining whether the Nobel laureate was poisoned in his hospital room nearly 40 years ago (see earlier posts http://notesontheamericas.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/exhuming-pablo-neruda/ and http://notesontheamericas.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/what-killed-pablo-neruda/). A team of Chilean and foreign forensics specialists are already examining Neruda’s remains and are expected to issue a preliminary report on their findings April 22. Judge Mario Carroza, the Chilean prosecutor in charge of the investigation, told Radio Cooperativa http://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/cultura/literatura/pablo-neruda/restos-oseos-de-neruda-seran-analizados-en-estados-unidos/2013-04-12/135923.html that Neruda’s casket cannot be returned to the grave site until he receives the forensics reports. Rodolfo Reyes, a lawyer and the late poet’s nephew, said the Neruda family wants investigators to “take all the time in the world so that no doubt remains.”
On a more pleasant note, here’s a link to the Fundacion Neruda web page on Isla Negra, where the poet is buried: http://www.fundacionneruda.org/en/isla-negra/history.html
How long does a man live, after all?
Does he live a thousand days, or one only?
For a week, or for several centuries?
How long does a man spend dying?
The investigation into the death of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda began nearly two years ago, and this week his remains are being exhumed. Was Neruda, who was suffering from prostate cancer, poisoned in his hospital room shortly after the 1973 coup? He was planning to fly to Mexico with other Chilean asylum seekers and his driver maintains the poet called him to say, “come quickly because I was sleeping and a doctor gave me a shot in the gut. I’m in a lot of pain and I’m boiling.”
But investigators are warning that, nearly four decades after the death, they may not be able to determine whether he was poisoned. Eva Vergara of the Associated Press reports
“Neruda’s remains have been buried for years in soil that receives intense coastal humidity. Once they are exhumed, investigators will then have to work with what experts say is outdated technology and equipment.
“No big or false hope should be made about the exhumation and the analysis of the remains of Neruda yielding a cause of death” said Dr. Luis Ravanal, a forensic specialist.
Chile’s legal medicine laboratory “lacks basic equipment for the analysis of toxics and drugs that even the most modest labs own,” he said. “Technically there’s a big limitation; there is no sophisticated equipment to detect other substances, so they’ll invariably have to seek other labs.”
Ravanal also said that Chile lacks expertise in analyzing bone remains.
Chilean Communist Party lawyer Eduardo Contreras, who is overseeing the exhumation, said he was disappointed that outside experts were not allowed.
“There’s no ill doing or trickery, but I think this not rigorous enough,” Contreras said.
Some more background on the poet’s death and the investigation by the Guardian’s Jonathan Franklin: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/07/pablo-neruda-exhumed-murder-investigation
A Chilean judge has issued an international arrest warrant against a former army lieutenant—now living in Florida—and charged seven other retired military officials in the 1973 killing of Victor Jara, a folk singer, theatre director and member of Chile’s Communist Party.
Jara was arrested the day after the coup at the Universidad Tecnica, when army troops occupied the institution and made mass arrests of students and university personnel, transferring them to Santiago’s Estadio Nacional and the Estadio Chile. Jara was held in the latter stadium, where he was recognized by military officials/ According to a ruling by the judge investigating the case, http://poderjudicial.cl/modulos/Home/Noticias/PRE_noticias.php?cod=4796&opc_menu&st=0&opc_item Jara was moved to the locker rooms and subjected to several days of interrogation and torture before being shot. The folk singer’s remains were exhumed in 2009 and investigators found 44 bullet wounds in his body, which had been dumped near the national cemetery, along with the bodies of three other prisoners.
The arrest order names retired army lieutenant Pedro Barrientos and another officer as those responsible for Jara’s killing, along with six other former officers as accomplices. Barrientos, a car dealer living in Winter Springs, Florida, was interviewed by a Chilean television station last May, and denied any involvement in Jara’s death, saying he had never even been in the Estadio Chile. A former army conscript interviewed on the same program said he had witnessed Barrientos shooting Jara.
Here’s a video review of my book, The General’s Slow Retreat: Chile after Pinochet. This comes from East Tennessee State University:
The new mayor-elect of Santiago is the daughter of one of the late socialist president Salvador Allende’s cabinet ministers who died in detention after the 1973 coup. Allende’s granddaughter unseated the center-right mayor of the municipality of Nunoa, who had called students at a local girls’ school “sluts” after they sheltered protestors fleeing riot police. An independent candidate beat Cristian Labbe, a former Pinochet regime secret police official and mayor of the Providencia municipality where earlier this year Pinochetistas held a homage to a notorious human rights abuser (see earlier posts http://notesontheamericas.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/a-book-an-invitation-and-oops/ and http://notesontheamericas.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/the-krassnoff-aftermath-2/). And a transgender candidate won a seat on the city council of Valparaiso. Overall, center-right candidates lost 23 municipalities, a serious political blow to President Sebastian Pinera’s conservative government one year before Chile’s next presidential election.
Voter turnout, however, was relatively low. It was the first election since Chile made voter registration automatic, with all adults over 18 eligible to vote. So the electorate was increased from 8.1 million to 13.4 million voters in a country of 17 million. But abstention levels were higher than in the past, down from 58 percent in 2008 to 45 percent.
It started out as one of the Spanish empire’s backwaters, a small, poor colony isolated by the vast Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes mountains to the east and the world’s driest desert to the north. It had a front row seat during the Cold War, with Salvador Allende’s ill-fated socialist government ending in a brutal military coup in 1973. It made a painstaking democratic transition beginning in 1990 to become one of the region’s most stable and prosperous nations. And today, September 18, Chile marks its 202nd year of independence.
Earlier this month Google announced it was opening its first Latin American data center near Santiago, a $150 million project to be completed next year: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/09/google-chile/
The Chilean capital can be downright gorgeous in September, with the beginning of spring weather while the snowy peaks of the Andes still gleam in the distance. It is a month of historic dates for Chile: the 11th marks the anniversary of the brutal 1973 military coup and the beginning of the Pinochet dictatorship, the 18th is the country’s Independence Day and the 19th is a day honouring the Chilean army, with a military parade. It is also the anniversary of one of the saddest incidents during the Pinochet years, the death of a brave French priest working in a poor area of Santiago. My colleague Tim Frasca, who blogs at http://bipedtwilight.blogspot.co.uk/ , was there when the killing happened, and has the following guest post:
Death of ‘Andrés de La Victoria’
I interviewed the French missionary priest André Jarlan at the parish house in La Victoria in Santiago’s southern zone sometime in the autumn or winter of 1984 (i.e., March to July in the southern hemisphere) to ask him about the community that he had been sent to serve less than a year before. La Victoria was a famous radical stronghold in Santiago as it had been formed through a land seizure some decades before. These seizures were typically led by leftist parties as a way for the rapidly growing numbers of urban poor to establish themselves in the city given that they had few other options for obtaining permanent housing. Often, the government would bend to the persistance of the occupiers and facilitate the creation of a new community on agricultural or idle lands. This was much more difficult to achieve during the Pinochet dictatorship but nonetheless still happened.
Jarlan, or ‘Padre Andrés’ as he was known, was cautiously forthcoming but not particularly interested in the overtly political aspects of the ongoing agitation against the military regime. He saw his role as essentially pastoral and worked under the guidance of the neighborhood’s senior priest, Pierre Dubois, another French missionary. They both lived in the two-story parish house on one of the neighborhood’s dusty streets.
La Victoria always participated in the regular protests called against the regime, and its residents were a constant target of beatings or outright killings. I once reported on how riot police took up positions in an empty lot across the main road bordering the enclave and fired live rounds at people gathered in small groups in the hours before a major protest. These sniper assassinations would then be described in the pro-regime newspapers as acts of ‘violence’ stemming from the protests or the result of ‘unclarified’incidents—never simply police bullets.
The night of September 4 was always a protest date because it was the anniversary of Salvador Allende’s election in 1970. I headed to La Victoria at dusk in 1984, almost exactly one year after I had arrived in Chile, knowing that getting into the area would be impossible after dark. A dozen other journalists were there in anticipation of the dust-up that inevitably would occur, including at least one other foreigner (another Frenchman).
As soon as night fell, the local kids dragged tires into the main intersections and set them on fire and scattered ‘miguelitos’ (tire-puncturing nails twisted into balls) on the streets to impede traffic. We loitered with the local youth and other residents to see what would happen.
Quite early in the evening, a cry went up alerting everyone to the arrival of the pacos or riot police. The residents, veterans of many protests, immediately scampered over roofs or ducked into alleyways to get away while two Chilean reporters stood their ground. I was in doubt about what to do and hesitated but eventually turned and ran down the street toward the parish house. Because of my moment of uncertainty, however, most of the others beat me to the gate and huddled in a small entryway with access to inside. Halfway to that point, I heard two faint popping noises that did not particularly alarm me nearly as much as the continuing sound of exploding tear gas grenades. However, they turned out to be rifle rounds; as my tape recorder was running, I captured the sound of the shots.
The riot police dismantled the barricade and roamed the streets looking for people, which we observed from the narrow passageway of the parish house. One Chilean photographer stayed on the corner and was not bothered by them. When the police withdrew, we filtered back onto the street. A short while later, a woman speaking for Father Pierre asked us all to move to another church building a few blocks away, and while we were en route, rumors began to circulate. A reporter whom I knew said she had heard that someone had been hit by a live bullet. As this was not unusual, we waited to hear more.
Once assembled in the other space, Father Pierre came to address us. He was highly upset and could barely speak but told us that he had gone upstairs to see Father André and found him slumped over his desk, dead. It was clear that he had been killed instantly by the shots fired over our heads just an hour before. Ironically, Andrés had remained in his room as he disliked the upheavals and was quietly reading the Bible when his life was cut short. The photo of his body slumped over the Bible with a tiny trickle of blood running down his neck from the bullet wound became the iconic image of the incident.
We were shocked but of course could not leave until the morning. I went straight to the Catholic Church’s human rights organization and gave the tape recording of the shots to a lawyer there, who turned it over to the judge assigned to investigate the death. I didn’t know that this would entail giving a statement at his office, which occurred some days later.
The Chilean legal system is built on a Napoleonic rather than Anglo-Saxon model,meaning that the investigation is carried out by a judge who then issues the verdict. There is no jury although the decision can be appealed to both an appellate court and eventually the supreme court. The first stage is the gathering of witness statements, which I assumed would be a low-key deposition-type procedure. Instead, I was quite taken aback to see that the courthouse was staked out by reporters. I answered all the judge’s questions and confirmed that the recording was of the shots in question. This was important as the tape was forensic evidence from which considerable data about the trajectory of the shots, and thus the location of the shooter, could be determined. Needless to say, the police had denied that any of its men was responsible for the fatal bullet.
The questions were fairly routine, and I then emerged to a barrage of questions from reporters, many from the pro-Pinochet media who were trying to find ways to obscure the obvious: that the police had fired the shots. There were a half-dozen witnesses to this fact, but these regime operatives looked for any way to muddy the waters. They asked me if I had actually seen the cops fire, and I said no since I was running in the opposite direction, away from them. That turned into a headline, ‘Foreign reporter did not see who fired fatal shot’. On the evening news on Catholic University television (which was considered the less embarrassingly Pinochetista station), this turned into, ‘The foreign reporter could not identify who had fired shots as he had already withdrawn from the spot’ (se había retirado del lugar). I thought, What a lovely euphemism for ‘running away from a cop shooting a rifle at me’.
The French reporter’s eyewitness testimony was downplayed similarly through his confusion about the proper Spanish word to describe the cops’ olive green uniforms. The two Chilean journalists who were standing right next to the cops and had not ‘withdrawn from the spot’ as they fired were never quoted.
I must say that one of the most remarkable moments of my 20 years in Chile occurred the next day when I went to the news kiosk for my morning papers and saw a full-length picture of myself on the front page of one. I was quite taken aback and said to the vendor,who saw me every day, ‘That’s me!’ He stuck his head out of the little window to look at the paper hanging there, looked up at me and replied, ‘Sí. Es usted! (yes, it’s you!)’
My mail stopped arriving for about six weeks after this incident and then started up again. When I later applied for permanent residency, the civil servant in the immigration office said that there were ‘political problems’ with my application. I said in response, ‘There are no political problems, only professional problems’. Eventually, whatever obstacles had existed were overlooked—I assumed they had bigger fish to fry. The whole process took a year instead of the usual three months.
My telephone also acted funny, but that was a constant of life in Santiago, and I can’t really say if anyone was listening in. I always assumed they were and if so, they learned a lot about my love life
He left everything he had to his family, with 62.5 percent going to his widow Lucia Hiriart, 25 percent going to his five children, Lucia, Augusto, Veronica, Marco Antonio and Jacqueline and the remaining 12.5 percent to their children and grandchildren. But what that legacy consists of is still a mystery. General Augusto Pinochet’s will was opened in a Santiago court on Wednesday, and officials hoping to learn more about the suspiciously large fortune he accumulated found no information about his property, goods or bank accounts.
“The will makes reference to a distribution of goods without specifying anything registered under the name of Augusto Pinochet,” notary Humberto Quezada told reporters.
Five years ago Pinochet’s widow, children and several associates were indicted on charges of misappropriating at least $20 million from government funds and all but Lucia Hiriart (who was rushed to a military hospital) spent two days in prison. The charges were later dropped when the prosecuting judge retired from the case. But it isn’t over yet. While the Pinochet family did not want the will opened at all, the Chilean Defense Council of State hopes to recover any illegally obtained funds from the estate. Last April a court opened what was supposed to be Pinochet’s last will, signed shortly before his death in 2006, but that document contained only a statement changing his executor. This earlier version of the will, signed after Pinochet was released from detention in London, was drawn up in 2000.
So what now? Authorities say they will continue to investigate.
Number of people attending the screening: about 1,200, according to carabinero police. About 900, according to Chilean photographer Kena Lorenzini, whose blog http://lorenzinilorenzinikena.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/homenaje-al-dictador-chileno-augusto.html contains her photos of incidents at the screening.
Number of people protesting: “hundreds,” according to the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/world/americas/chileans-protest-pro-pinochet-film-screening.html, the Associated Press and other news sources.
Number of police at the scene: “more than 500 police in full riot gear,” according to Agence France Press http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i_0_Nd6Yt5zFxytmOtE_60xRhMow?docId=CNG.ced5e98af01ff3b72bfea903de6874f4.31.
Number of arrests: 64
Number of injuries: 22, mostly police, according to Chilean authorities.
Number of foreigners invited to the screening: at least 10, according to a list published by Chile’s satirical online magazine The Clinic
They include a member of Britain’s House of Lords, the rightwing French presidential candidate Marine LePen and from the United States, Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, Florida state senate president Anitere Flores and Yasser Torres, president of the Juventud Anticastrista.
Number of aforementioned foreigners who attended: 0