And still more Chile coup anniversary links


An Australian politician, Peter Phelps, has told the New South Wales parliament that many people “believe that General Pinochet was a reluctant hero, a morally courageous man” and that “yes, Pinochet killed people and if you know of any way to overthrow a government other than military force then let me hear about it.” Phelps’ remarks drew immediate calls for him to be censured, and a small group of Chileans held a protest outside the state parliament building.

Australia’s SBS network has a special feature on Chile, with a report on Australian intelligence agents working to destabilize Salvador Allende’s government and an interview with Adriana Rivas, former secretary to the Pinochet regime’s secret police director,  Manuel Contreras, who now lives in Australia and justifies the use of torture as necessary “in order to break people.” She says she has happy memories of working for the security forces and that “it was exciting, travelling in limousines and staying at the best hotels in the country.”

La Nación has an interview with Manuel Contreras himself, who states that a thousand desaparecidos, people missing and never accounted for following their arrest by the regime’s security forces, are buried in Santiago’s Cementerio General.  He also claims that former president Michelle Bachelet and her mother were not held at the DINA’s notorious Villa Grimaldi detention center but at an air force barracks.

The Economist on wounds still unhealed in Chile, forty years after the military coup:

In the Washington Post, an opinion piece by Heraldo Muñoz on whether Pinochet can be credited for any of Chile’s economic improvements. The answer is no, and he quotes Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa who observes that dictatorships invariably produce “atrocities that leave civic and ethical sequels infinitely costlier than the status quo.”

And finally, a guest post by this blogger on the University of California Press web site:

Publication day!

My book is being published in the United States today, by the University of California Press, with the overseas publication scheduled for next month :

And thanks again to Marcelo Montecino, one of Chile’s best photographers, for providing the cover photo and several others. To see more of his work, go to

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

Guest post on my publisher’s blog: a missing American in Chile

I have a piece on the UC Press blog about Boris Weisfeiler, an American mathematics professor and experienced outdoorsman who disappeared in Chile in 1985 under suspicious circumstances. His case is under investigation by a Chilean judge, but justice and the truth move very slowly and Weisfeiler’s sister is hoping it will be on Obama’s agenda during his brief visit to Chile this week.

Stay tuned for an updated posting on the case in a few days.