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Terror in Chile I: The Chicago Commission Report

What follows are excerpts from the report of the Chicago Commission of Inquiry into the Status of Human Rights in Chile, which visited Santiago in February, 1974. Large sections of the report are omitted, as is the separate volume of documents and other supporting evidence referred to in the text by roman numerals. The full report can be obtained by writing to Joanne Fox Przeworski, 1320 East Madison Park, Chicago, Illinois 60615, or Doris Strieter, 1600 South 14th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois 60153, or other members of the Commission. The report and documents cost $1.50, plus fifty cents for mailing costs.

The Chicago Commission of Inquiry

The Chicago Commission of Inquiry Into the Status of Human Rights in Chile (henceforth referred to as “the Commission”) was constituted as an ad hoc group of Chicago citizens concerned about the conditions of human rights in Chile after the military takeover of September 11, 1973. The Commission was formed upon the initiative and with the assistance of the Chicago Citizens’ Committee to Save Lives in Chile, a loose coalition of groups and individuals. Members of the Commission hold differing political views and religious beliefs. They also vary in their attitudes toward the policies of the Popular Unity government headed by the late President Salvador Allende.

The members of the Commission are:

Ernest DeMaio, General Vice President, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

Abraham Feinglass, International Vice President, Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen

Geoffrey Fox, Instructor of Sociology, University of Illinois, Chicago; Vice President, Chicago Circle Federation of Teachers

Father Gerard Grant, S. J., Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University

George Gutierrez, Counselor, Chance Program, Northern Illinois University; Member, Human Relations Committee, Dekalb

Anna Langford, Lawyer and Alderwoman, Chicago City Council

Dean Peerman, Managing Editor, Christian Century

Joanne Fox Przeworski, Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Committee for the Comparative Study of New Nations, University of Chicago

Jane Reed, Associate General Secretary, Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church

James Reed, Pastor, Parish of the Holy Covenant, United Methodist Church

Doris Strieter, Village Trustee, Maywood, Illinois

Frank Teruggi, Sr., father of Frank Teruggi, Jr., murdered in Chile

The members unanimously endorse the full contents of this Report.

Summary of the Findings

Given the limitations of time and resources, the Commission cannot estimate the frequency of detentions, torture, and executions in Chile. Moreover, because of the necessity to protect several of its sources, no documentation can be made public with regard to several cases of searches, seizures, detentions, and torture. [These limitations are discussed in detail in the full report of the Commission.]

The principle findings of the Commission are the following:

(1) The campaign of terror developed by the Junta seems to have assumed a systematic and organized character;

(2) Cases of politically motivated detentions are numerous: (a) the estimate of the number of persons detained as of January 20, 1974, exceeds 18,000; (b) an estimated total of 80,000 have been detained in the past six months; (c) a single list, made available to the Commission, of persons who have been detained and are presently missing contains over 250 names.

(3) No legal procedures are followed on a systematic basis, not even those appropriate for the “state of war and the state of siege” in the light of Chilean laws. Detentions continue indefinitely without charges being preferred. The access of lawyers to their clients is curtailed in violation of the Code of Military Justice, Codigo de Justicia Militar, Libro II, Tituto IV, Art. 184. Proceedings of military tribunals are secret in contravention of Art. 196. The request of the Commission to observe a trial was denied by the Vice Minister of Justice. Additional sentences are arbitrarily imposed after military tribunals pronounce their sentences.

(4) The use of torture continues. The Commission has obtained (a) written depositions of family members, (b) eyewitness accounts, (c) testimonies of released prisoners detailing the nature of wounds inflicted. As of December 11, 1973, there have been at least forty-two published reports of more than 410 persons killed “while attempting to escape.”

(5) The use of economic sanctions with regard to those suspected of sympathies toward the government before September 11 is widespread: our estimate is that a total of approximately 160,000 were expelled from their work for this reason. An unknown number has been forced to retire prematurely, forfeiting the accumulated social security and retirement benefits. Those on the government blacklist are barred from other employment.

(6) Of 137 national unions, 30 of the less important are functioning; the rest were either dissolved or suspended. The national and regional bodies of the Central Federation of Workers (CUT) were disbanded. All delegated labor bodies and meetings of such bodies were abolished and prohibited. Several union members were picked up at random and shot in the presence of other workers, for example eleven railway repair and maintenance workers in San Bernardo.

(7) Unemployment is estimated to have reached 20 percent. The work week was extended by four hours. Inflation since the takeover has been 1,000 to 1,100 percent. Wages were raised by decree from 200 to 300 percent depending on work category on January 1, 1974. Unemployment compensations are based on 75 percent of the average wage during the past twelve months, but because of the inflation, such compensation, even when provided, is below the level of subsistence; hunger is widespread.

(8) All universities and several private elementary and secondary schools are under military administration. Several university schools and departments are closed. Police and nonuniformed agents are often present in classrooms. No extracurricular activities are allowed. Tuition has been instituted and access to education made much more difficult. The estimated number of students expelled reaches 20,000 (6,000 in Concepción alone); 300-400 professors are seeking employment and many more of those expelled have left the country. New educational programs are expected to drastically curtail the study of the social sciences, journalism, and public health.

(9) All periodicals which the Junta views as opposition have been closed. Of the eleven major newspapers which appeared daily in Santiago prior to September 11, only six continue to be published. Of these six, three are controlled by the Edwards family. Moreover, La Prensa, the Christian Democratic newspaper, recently announced that it will discontinue publication. Copies of newspapers (1971-September, 1973) sympathetic to the Popular Unity government were removed from the National Library and other libraries. After a period of self-censorship, prior censorship has been reinstituted by the Junta. Some bookstores were closed, their books confiscated and burned. Most of the books dealing with philosophy, politics, and social problems are dangerous to own. Many people voluntarily burned their books, journals, and posters out of fear.

(10) From the early days of the takeover, there was an intense campaign against foreign residents in Chile. According to El Mercurio, as of February 17, 3,647 foreigners were given safe conduct passes to leave the country. A total of 7,317 persons obtained safe conduct passes while 243 persons are said to remain in foreign embassies. All embassies party to the right of asylum (Montevideo Convention, 1961) are carefully patrolled and access to them is prohibited.

(11) The Embassy of the United States seems to have made no serious efforts to protect the American citizens present in Chile during and after the military takeover. It refused to aid Charles Horman, directing him to seek assistance from his local police; it maintains not to have known anything about the arrest of Frank Teruggi, Jr., until notified by Stephen Volk on September 24, 1973. This must be contrasted with the conduct of several Western European embassies which threatened to break diplomatic relations if any of their nationals suffered at the hands of the military. The United States Embassy is one of the embassies where no asylum was given. The US consular officers continue to reject those seeking refuge in the United States whom they consider to have leftist sympathies.

(12) Contrary to the assertion of the Chilean Junta, Mr. Frank Teruggi, Jr., was murdered while in military custody at the National Stadium. He was tortured and shot seventeen times. Contrary to the statements of the US Embassy, protection was sought on his behalf the morning after he was detained and before he was murdered. Contrary to the assertions by the Embassy, no thorough investigation has been made with regard to the circumstances of his death by the Junta. Actually, the information concerning his death was unearthed by Frank Teruggi, Sr., while in Santiago.

(13) The Church high schools and Catholic University have been placed under military control along with state schools. At least 130 priests have been forced to leave Chile; at least three were killed and many tortured…. The Junta campaign in the press includes “letters” to the editor which denounce the Church as infiltrated by Marxists and as being an agent of international communism.

Interviews with the Junta Representatives

During its stay in Santiago, the Commission had various interviews with official representatives of the Junta. It is the impression of the Commission that the Junta representatives made no attempt during these interviews to present us with a portrayal that would be in any way compatible with the situation known to them and easy to observe by anyone outside their offices. To the contrary, we were impressed by the fact that those Junta representatives felt most assured that they can present obviously transparent lies with utmost impunity.

We were told, for example, that every prisoner is given the charges against him (Vice Minister of Justice Max Silva, Lt. Col. Mario Rodriguez) and even that the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Clodomiro Almeyda “is in his house” (taped interview with Max Silva). Upon telephoning Almeyda’s wife, the Commission learned that he had been held on Dawson Island and removed to Santiago military hospital for treatment. He is allegedly no longer in the hospital, but she has no idea of his whereabouts.

When the Commission requested to see José Toha, former editor of La Ultima Hora, former Minister of Interior, Defense and Agriculture, the Minister of Justice responded that he was in a military hospital in Santiago and could not receive visitors. (He has since been reported dead under mysterious circumstances.)

It is clear that the Junta is bewildered by the fact that anybody might actually be concerned about the status of human rights in Chile. Anyone who does not uncritically accept the pronouncements of the Junta is regarded as an enemy. Their vilifications range from the United States Senate (“infiltrated by Marxists”), Senator Edward Kennedy (“agent of international communism”), the Ford Foundation (“not only infiltrated but controlled by Marxists, including admitted communists”—La Segunda, December 20, 1973), to Ambassador Harald Edelstam of Sweden (“the Red pimpernel”—La Segunda, February 22, 1974).

General Atmosphere of “State of War,” “State of Emergency,”

State of Siege” The campaign of terror developed by the Junta seems to have assumed a systematic and organized character. Repression is more selective than during the first months following the takeover, but it is thorough and well prepared. Names of prisoners, their location and details of arrest are computerized; it is assumed these lists include potential prisoners as well. For example, while persons who spent three months or more in Cuba were arrested during the first wave of detentions, persons who spent two months there were arrested subsequently, and those who were one month in Cuba are being detained at present. (II, 13)

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