Amnesty International, an apolitical world organization dedicated to protecting nonviolent “prisoners of conscience” and basic rights for people in all countries, receives reports almost daily of kidnapings, closed trials, arranged deaths, summary executions, expulsions, barbaric torture, and government by intimidation throughout Chile.
AI’s sources are numerous. They include leaders of the American clergy who have worked in Chile or visited there since the coup as well as members of a women’s group, of a trade union, and of several university faculties who have gone to Chile on fact-finding missions; also the United Nations and its High Commissioner for Refugees, who have set up sanctuaries there; commissions of both French and American jurists; and Amnesty’s own three-man mission to Santiago. The junta rejected Amnesty International’s January report as “biased and superficial” and “full of imaginary concepts about torture.” But AI has compiled confirming evidence for all its charges.
Reports of torture have come from many eyewitnesses, for example the wife of an Argentine lecturer held in Estadio Chile. (This is the larger of the two sports arenas which have been turned into detention centers in Santiago; at one time it held as many as 5,000 people.) She was stripped twice, and abused, searched by soldiers for “dynamite in her vagina” while she listened to the cries of her husband being beaten nearby. At one point she saw him in a room, naked and hung by his arms and legs, being given shocks with an electric goad. Several witnesses to the death of folksinger Victor Jara have testified to what happened to him in the same stadium: his captors gave him a guitar and commanded him to play while they broke, then cut off, his fingers; when he began to sing, they beat and then shot him. “As an example,” one report states, they left his body “strung up in the foyer of the stadium.”
Friends of Paulina Altamirano, wife of the leader of Allende’s Socialist party—who was “the most wanted man in Chile” until he escaped to Cuba—report that she was forced to listen to faked tapes that led her to believe that she was hearing her children screaming.
The sophistication and systematic use of such methods of repression and revenge is the most depressing aspect of the current regime. A few weeks ago I was shown a crumpled piece of blue paper with minute writing edge to edge, smuggled out of the Santiago stadium. Its author is a very young man. I quote from it here:
In case this anguished message arrives soon in the hands of anyone in my family, I am going to tell what they did with us since Friday the week of January 18, 1974, when civil personnel in the presence of Sr. Guillermo Alvarez K., delegate from CORFO, “invited” four of us to take part in an interrogation which would last “two hours.” We tranquilly got into vehicles, cream and blue…. They proceeded to put adhesive tape over our eyes and there we…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.