More on the Boris Weisfeiler case

In an earlier post there was a link to my article on the University of California Press website, Penn State University professor Boris Weisfeiler’s unsolved disappearance in southern Chile in 1985.  Weisfeiler’s brave sister has just completed her tenth visit to Chile to meet with U.S. Embassy officials and investigators assigned to the case.

A brief recap: Boris Weisfeiler, a Russian-American mathematics professor at Penn State University, was on a hiking trip to southern Chile when he disappeared.  Local police reported he had drowned while crossing a river, and claimed to have found his rucksack (with his passport and travel diary missing). Declassified U. S. State Department documents tell another story.  According to one Chilean informant (name deleted), Weisfeiler may have been killed by police who mistook him for a “subversive,” realized their mistake too late and then attempted to cover their tracks. Another anonymous informant indicated that Weisfeiler was taken to a secretive German colony used by the Pinochet regime’s security forces, where he was interrogated and executed. And a U.S. consular official who visited the area “had the distinct impression that officials were keeping close track of her whereabouts from the time she arrived until the time she departed.”

Chile’s courts have been investigating the case since 2000, but until now there have not been any significant breakthroughs. Olga Weisfeiler met with the new president of Chile’s State Defence Council, roughly equivalent to the U.S. Attorney General’s office, who told her their office would support all her lawyer’s requests and that they considered the case to be their “legal and moral responsibility.”  The new director of the Chilean detective police’s human rights department seemed very well-informed and told Olga that her brother’s case was one of the best known.  She was pleased with the level of U.S. Embassy attention to the investigation, detected “a more businesslike attitude” toward her brother’s case among Chilean officials.

“They are trying to eliminate all the discrepancies in order to move forward. The Weisfeiler case has lots of unexplained connections and facts,” she said. “They are going to investigate all of them until they have an answer to what really happened.” She left Santiago with a hopeful feeling.

“I do not know and was not able to find out if President Obama did include the Weisfeiler case in his conversations with President Pinera,” she told me. “But apparently there was some conversation in regard to human rights.”  Pinera told the Associated Press that he would accept Obama’s invitation to formally request any classified U.S. documents that might help identify Chilean agents involved in human rights abuses during the Pinochet regime.

The Weisfeiler family’s web page is

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