To the Editors:
We urgently request that readers of The New York Review of Books support the campaign to save the life of Mario Muñoz Salas, the Chilean miners’ union leader who is being hunted—and has been ordered shot on sight—by the Argentine military junta. Along with thousands of Chilean workers and peasants he was forced to flee Chile and Pinochet’s terror after the 1973 coup by crossing the Andes by foot to seek asylum in Argentina. Now he faces the same fate as that awaiting him in Chile. His situation symbolizes that of the thousands of South American political refugees in Argentina who are being killed without any legal proceedings or who are deported, imprisoned, tortured.
Only forty-eight hours after the Argentine military junta took power, a military patrol of national police composed of thirty men in battle gear raided the home of Mario Muñoz. They smashed up the place and dragged out his companera as well as five children and two relatives, who were all badly beaten. The patrol finally left but not without warning Muñoz’ companera that he would be shot immediately if he were found. The province of San Juan has been sealed off and all interprovincial transport is being searched to look for him.
Mario Muñoz Salas is thirty-six. At fourteen he had already joined his father in the mines. He was among the first to organize pirquineros or contract miners, 90 percent of whom were illiterate, and many of whom were afflicted with silicosis and dying in abject poverty. During Allende’s Popular Unity government, Muñoz became a national leader of the Regional Miners Councils. In Argentina, Muñoz had been trying to help the thousands of Chilean workers and peasants also driven into exile.
Only the international support of those concerned for human rights can save Muñoz. The Committee to Save Mario Muñoz, co-sponsored by the Europe-based Committee to Defend Worker and Sailor Prisoners in Chile and the US-based Partisan Defense Committee, an anti-sectarian defense organization which is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League, calls upon all labor, socialist, civil libertarian organizations and concerned individuals to endorse and aid the campaign to save Mario Muñoz.
For further information write the Partisan Defense Committee, Box 633 Canal Street Station, New York, New York 10013. Contributions are urgently needed and should be made payable to the Partisan Defense Committee and earmarked “Committee To Save Mario Muñoz.”
Reuben Shiffman for the Partisan Defense Committee
June 10, 1976