A previously planned conference in Chile highlighting New Technology at the Service of Historical Memory, was held on the day of Pinochet’s funeral. Newly declassified documents by the D.C.- based National Security Archive underscore the role of the United States in the military coup headed by Augusto Pinochet, among other cases.
It was also the opportunity for the investigative journalists Monica Gonzalez and John Dinges, to release the 3000 pages of previously uncatalogued documents of Enrique Arancibia Clavel, a Chilean intelligence officer.
Arancibia Clavel was a gay DINA spy sent to Argentina who was excluded from the dark corridors of intelligence and power in Chile for his sexual preference. In Buenos Aires he proved to be one of the most effective facilitators for the Operation Condor, the transnational intelligence operation responsible for carrying out Operation Colombo, undermining the transnational alliance of armed leftists called the Junta Coordinadora Revolucionaria (JCR) and the sharing of information obtained from captured leftists under torture.
This is the first publically available electronic catalog of these documents, under the curatorial eye of the UNIACC university in Santiago, Chile. In addition to providing judicially relevant information on Operation Condor and Operation Colombo it also documents the curious efforts by the DINA to spy on the human rights violations of Argentine security forces during the seventies.
Surprisingly enough, Arancibia Clavel duly reports to his superiors that the own, internal, Argentine security force numbers report 22,000 dead and disappeared in Argentina.
This body of documents was discovered by the award winning Chilean investigative journalist Monica Gonzalez. She was left alone in a room full of crates of documents, including the stolen identity cards of disfigured friends and acquaintances and voiced its contents into a tape recorder, which was then transcribed into text. Now, this information is readily searchable. The entirety of the documents has been catalogued using the classification system of the investigative journalist John Dinges, author of the book The Condor Years.
The National Security Archive site has also released a new document collection which, “includes CIA records on Pinochet’s role in the Washington D.C. car bombing that killed former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt, Defense Intelligence Agency biographic reports on Pinochet, and transcripts of meetings in which Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resisted bringing pressure on the Chilean military for its human rights atrocities.”
The NSA is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University, Washington DC. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
I arrived at dusk and spoke to a women, a psychologist, about her love for Pinochet. Her eyes teared up and words were laden with appreciation and emotion. Her father was an exile of the government of Allende and her family got destroyed. She stood in line at 13 to receive food handouts and rations during his government. She also was helped by a Communist to get more food, and then helped the Communist flee the Pinochet dictatorship. We spoke until dark.
At 1030 pm, the day after his death, a four and a half hour line to see the body of Augusto Pinochet provided ample opportunity for a celebration of the death of the dictator along the streets of Americo Vespucio, in front of the high, iron and concrete gates of the Escuela Militar.
Some were humble, short and dark, some tall and blonde. Some wore pressed Dockers and bright white shirts, women made themselves up as they walked to the grounds. Others had prepared food and tight pony tails and skirts hiked up high on the waist, reminding me of a librarian. Many women were beautiful and would smile sweetly for photographs, holding aloft their respective banners, signs or photographs.
In line, chants from weak voices declaring their love for Pinochet emanated from some of the timid. Others joined in and the collective voices got stronger. In the green park across two lanes of traffic in front of the entrance two girls in middle school uniforms, part of a group of 200, were bouncing and screaming and chanting, encroaching upon the traffic flow. Their energetic demeanor was indiscrimately squashed as the crowd control horses would throw their hips into the group, and the girls were reduced to nervous giggles.
The line would shift every ten minutes in advances of 15 feet.
Groups of neo-nationalists representing the youth brigade of the fascist group Patria y Libertad, the thugs of the dictatorship, whose founding member Pablo Rodriguez Grez is Pinochet’s lead lawyer, waved a white flag with the insignia of what was described as an indigenous symbol valued by the resilient indigenous warrior group, the Mapuche’s. They yelled the loudest. It runs in the family said a friend. In one case, it was a grandfather who was a military officer who influenced the 18 year old flag waver, boot wearer. They are also not neo-Nazi’s this kid said, but the defenders of freedom and the defenders of Chile. An older man in a gray pinstripe jacket and glasses asked me gruffly who I was and what press I worked for. In another notable and curious display, a Chilean waved a Dixie flag at passing cars.
Young children on top of the shoulders of their well to do fathers, and surrounded by his family. They screamed at cars to honk in unison and support. One car, stalled in the traffic because supporters, demanding “We Want the Streets” and dancing in the headlights, had the Patria y Libertad flag draped over its windshield. When the car advanced and the drivers face was visible, she did not express signs of support, but a steely look straight ahead and the two hands gripping the steering wheel. Hell or Heaven? She was wiping tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
A girl of about 12 waving a flag, along with her sister who appeared to be about 15 smelled the weakness, as the driver failed to respond to their pleas of support. “That must be a Communist!” was their realization and began to direct their screams of support for Pinochet and then accusatory cries that the driver was a Communist. It was pandemonium.
Other drivers, most drivers, were supportive. Some had a knack for inciting the entire line of supporters as it cruised by, slowly, tinted windows and chrome hubcaps, a new Chrysler. With each new car supporters were newly invigorated. Some banged lightly on the sides of an empty bus, and then more aggressively on the following taxi. It seemed as if an exercise in self-expression and protest and noise. In other instances a tall blonde kid with the Chilean flag tied like a Superman cape around their back leaned into traffic with screams of Pinochet and a raised, open hand gesticulating furiously. He was seeking out hands to shake from passing cars.
Screams demanding to take the streets got stronger and stronger. It was an unbelievable expression of democracy, for me, being experienced by people not accustomed to screams and jumps and chants. People were enthralled.
The vendors of chips, peanuts, soda and water asked desperately where the nearest supermarket was to stock up for the night of sales. A Mormon from Hawaii who lives nearby heard chants at 4 in the morning.. “Long live Pinochet.” The paper reported that 60,000 people, visited the vapor-shrouded casket of Pinochet. I was sick of the carnival and wondered about hate, aggression, fascism, death and suffering…and reconciliation and Chile.
The dictator has died this past Sunday. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, born into a middle class family in 1915, a late-comer to coup plotting in 1973, and subsequent figurehead of the military coup ousting the democratically elected Socialist Salvador Allende, was dead 30 minutes after losing consciousness. He was hospitalized last week after suffering from a serious heart attack.
Karen, a 34 year old massuese from the desert oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, located an hour away from the copper unionist town of Calama, declared to me last week that his death means, “the end of an era. This is the end of the patriarchy.” Her landlady harbored a union leader in her home who was found by police within days and dragged off.
Lorena Pizarro, the long-time president of the Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared, said in comments to the local paper La Tercera, “Who knows what is the story, Pinochet dies the 10th of December and maybe its because all of humanity told him that it was enough.”
The tenth of December is the anniversary of the United Nations approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which asserts that human rights and dignity are “the foundations for liberty, justice and peace in the world.” It is also the day in which Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon dictated the court motion to prosecute him in 1998 for responsibility in genocide, torture and terrorism involving 3000 people, as well as the 84th birthday of his wife Lucia Hiriart, whose hand he clasped upon his final breath.
Pinochet’s dictatorship was unique. It had a low body count (he called it economy), especially in comparison to Argentina, where in the 1970’s almost 30,000 people died. Regardless, he was known the world round for his violations of human rights, professionalization of repression, torture and interrogation techniques, fascist tendencies and usage of the Chilean society to experiment with one of the most extreme versions of neo-liberal economies in the world.
Last years Valech Report confirmed the most disastrous yield of the violent and professionally repressive regime; 30,000 people tortured and a corresponding psychological wasteland today called Chilean society.
This is a country cleaved in two, a small country of 15 million ripped apart by individual acts of violence and imposition of fear upon children, women, men, workers, mothers, friends and neighbors. It was the cleaning of society of “Marxist scum,” and the imposition of liberal capitalism.
Its effects are barely visible to the outside. While there are official documents and direct experiences communicated publically by the most assiduous and public fighters, there is a second level of experience with the dictatorship which is often forgotten. There are casual anecdotes of friends and neighbors whose fingers were deformed by bamboo slivers being inserted under fingernails during interrogation or stories of missing bodies under airport tarmacs, or brother’s assassinated the day after the coup, or the smell of the interrogator in Villa Grimaldi. These and more have been efficiently tucked away into the far reaches of the heart, lock and key. With each new conversation the magnitude of this dictators regime is comprehended.
The reformist and socialist president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who herself was tortured and her father assassinated by the regime, has sent out a sign of support to the police forces who are controlling the hotspots of celebration and protest by people.
Local press citing government sources say that this is to “avoid a carnavalesque environment.” This is wonderfully stateswomen like behaviour, but I am sure that President Bachelet, as well as so many people in the current government, will toast at the end of a day of professional reserve. She has denied Pinochet a state funeral. Although, after a meeting with the Commander of the Armed Forces, Oscar Izurieta, allowed for the Chilean flag to be flown at half staff.
On the efficient and clean Metro a clump of military conscripts wear green and black combat fatigues. Strangely enough so does an officer with a German moustache and the name of Weisser, whose head snaps to look at the television on the platform upon mention of Pinochet. In the Metro car he towers above the rest of the riders. His civilian partner tells me that “everyone is wearing them (fatigues) today.” I sense an eerie silence and curious eyes directed at the military officer.
La Victoria, Villa Francia, La Pincoya are all poblaciónes which were particularly repressed by the dictatorships police forces. They broke out into celebration within hours of Pinochet’s death and continued into a night lit by burning tires, and in one case, a hijacked bus.
Outside the Escuela Militar, in the upperclass neighborhood of Las Condes, there is a line of supporters waiting to see his body on display. It was here where Pinochet had his opportunity to be formed as an officer and rose through the ranks. It is also where Luz Gajardo, known to the Chilean people through television for her attack on the former commander of the armed forces and violent confrontations with non-Pinochet supporters, has now expressed her support by attacking a half-built apartment building being constructed by workers who had heckled her from above. “Pinochet, dictator, he’s already dead.” She smashed the plate-glass windows of the pilot apartment and sacked the showroom office.
I wonder if the construction workers, whose monthly minimum wage is $130,000 pesos, or approximately USD $250, have felt effects of the so-called economic miracle that is now always touted alongside the dour recitation by almost all Pinochet adherents when recognizing human rights violations. The El Mercurio newspaper, the right wing standard bearer whose editor Agustin Edwards received cash payments from the CIA in the 1970’s, deals with the issue on their special edition in this way. “Lights and Shadows: violations of Human Rights and Economic Modernization”
What about the Violations, why don’t they put that in bold? What about the fractured families, careers and stifled society left by Pinochet’s regime. Maria Martinez-Conde is a 54 year old artist whose husband was persecuted by the dictatorship in the 70’s. She fled to Brazil, leaving her child behind, and to be reunited by an Amnesty International mission. Martinez-Conde’s mother died by herself, without her daughter, and was buried by her neighbors. Forced to remake herself upon return to Chile in 1991, the profession that she studied in the 1970’s was of no use now, she set out to the now tourist haven of San Pedro de Atacama where her artwork was more objectively received by foreign tourists. She is angry that justice was not done in his case, and that he dies with impunity. “Where he should be worried is not here and now, but in the afterlife, where all the deaths related to his regime will come after him with vengeance.”
One of these people could be Ricardo Rojas, a nineteen year old photographer who was sequestered by police while covering a protest in 1987, doused with gasoline and set on fire. An opposite sentiment was described by the priest Alfonso Baeza, vice-president of the Catholic charity group Caritas, who in a radio interview this morning mentioned his friend, a priest, who reportedly asked not to be blindfolded when summarily executed so he could pardon his assassin in heaven.
A friend bursts into the room. Pablo del Rio is a 42 year old film and television producer. “This is really important…you didn’t live and grow up here, and have your life changed by this guy.” He paces and in the distance he cries out “Pinochet is dead!”. He strides back in and sees the front page of the Mercurio paper and its inch high bold font, and declares again, “He’s Dead!”. Pablo left at nineteen because he was sick of the dictatorship and went to live in Mexico with exiled family members. Then he went to Pittsburgh. His sister (in Mexico) as recent as last week writes treatises on Pinochet to rid her of the pain and frustration over his impunity. “I was all afternoon and morning talking to people, Pinochet is dead! Pinochet is dead!, but didn’t see the body.” He doubted the death of Pinochet. “Show me the money…show me his body…And then I saw his body on tv, and I was so happy. Now everyone can be happy…The fucker, the fucker is out of our lives, no more, he can’t bother us any more.” Why don’t I go to see the corpse, he tells me, so I can go and spit on his body. “Now it can be like Spain and Franco, all the girls are pretty and happy, sex and rock and roll.”