Mood: don't ask
Topic: human rights
With all the concern after 4 Corners last Monday in a programme called "Ghost Prisoners" about state sanctioned torture, and here in the press today:
it is well to remember Pinochet's neo nazi fascist coup on 11th Sept 1973 was extremely brutal and murderous also. Especially on the occassion of the visit of the "barquentine" Esmeralda to our coastline today, because it too presents as a ghost ship with a grim history.
We didn't know about this tall ship Esmeralda's contribution as a torture/murder chamber by the Chilean Navy to consolidate the coup's more general murderous rampage (killing well over 3,000 victims). That is until we noticed this: ESMERALDA: TORTURE SHIP VISITS SYDNEY | Sydney Indymedia
Here is a past image of the ship in a previous visit to Sydney Harbour, ghostly white, which is ironic.
Picture: Esmeralda visits Sydney 1988 during our Bicentennial when Neo Nazi dictator Pinochet still ruled Chile.
This is not some old wound that should be left in the past and simply sanitised. The truth should be known. We all know about the crimes of mass murder at Port Arthur by one of our own, and now torture of Mamdouh Habib, and it is not airbrushed from Australian history. Nor should the vicious torture and deaths of over 100 at various times on the 'good' ship Esmeralda after the coup in Chile in 1973 against a twice democratically elected President Allende.
It's true a great number of Chileans do want to move on too especially in that country, and not have this sorrow like a millstone around their necks, but then there is no statute of limitations on murder either. This website report is very revealing, including a modern legal consequence for Pinochet:
Victims - Victimas Father Michael Woodward
"The Esmeralda ship: The Chilean Navy's Torture Chamber
by Germán F. Westphal (2003)*
Thirty years ago, on September 11th 1973, general Augusto Pinochet ousted Dr. Salvador Allende's Chilean constitutional government in a bloody coup d'état. During the 17 years of his dictatorship, he coerced Chile into an empire of state terrorism, the most cruel of all forms of terrorism since it relies on the use of authority to commit its crimes. According to official information, during this period 3,197 men and women were brutally assassinated by state agents. This number includes 49 children between the ages of 2 and 16 --one of them, a 13 year-old boy found with 11 bullet impacts on the body and 9 impacts on the head--, 126 women --some of them pregnant--, and some fifty foreign nationals.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (Report 24/OCT/74), Amnesty International (Report AMR 22/32/80), the American Senate (Resolution 361-16/JUN/86), and the Report issued by the Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Part Three, Chapter I, Section 2 f.2.), immediately after September 11 1973, the ship Esmeralda was used by the Chilean Navy as a centre of detention and torture in the port of Valparaíso.
The testimonies to the fact that the Esmeralda was indeed used as a floating torture chamber include that of Chilean lawyer Luis Vega, who died in exile in Israel (2001); the ex-government official of the National Institute of Agricultural Development, Claudio Correa, currently residing in the United Kingdom; and the college professor and ex-mayor of Valparaiso, Sergio Vuskovic, currently residing in Chile.
According to the report of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, "In the case of the ship Esmeralda, the investigations conducted by this commission established that a special unit of the navy was operational on board for the purpose of interrogating detainees who were on the ship and also those brought to her from other detention centers. As a general rule, these interrogation sessions included torture." According to the same report, the other detention centers included the cargo ships Maipo and Lebu.
Due to the fact that the detainees were being moved from one ship to another, the actual number of prisoners on board varies depending on the testimonies. However, the U.S. Senate (1986) indicates that there were 112 of them at one point. According to the evidence available, there were 40 women who were subject to all kinds of torture, rape, and other violations of their dignity and rights. Moreover, amongst the detainees there was a Chilean-British Catholic priest, Michael R. Woodward, who had to be taken to the Naval Hospital upon the recommendation of a navy doctor. Father Woodward eventually died as a consequence of the torture inflicted upon him. To this date, it has been impossible to determine where his remains were buried.
Father Woodward's assassination by the use of torture is part of Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón's case against Augusto Pinochet for his responsibility in the crimes of genocide and international terrorism involving multiple assassinations, conspiracies to assassinate, kidnapping, torture and forced disappearances. Father Woodward' detention on the Esmeralda was first reported by the Valparaíso newspaper La Estrella in September of 1973, while all the Chilean media, including La Estrella, were under military censorship. This fact constitutes undeniable evidence of the truthfulness and accuracy of La Estrella's report regarding father Woodward's detention on the Esmeralda.
The Esmeralda's Cóndor figurehead is not only one of the the Chilean national emblems, but also reminiscent of Operation Cóndor, the international terrorist plan implemented by Augusto Pinochet and his military supporters to coordinate military repression in the countries of the Southern Cone of Latin America, Europe and the U.S. In fact, Operation Cóndor allowed them to use military intelligence services for the purpose of assassinating Chilean General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires and President Allende's Foreign Relations Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. Operation Cóndor was also instrumental in the assassination attempt against former Chilean Vice-President Bernardo Leighton in Rome and the death of ex-President Joao Goulart in Brazil.
The Esmeralda is not only the Chilean Navy's Torture Chamber, as it has been thoroughly documented, but also --along with the bird of prey on its bow-- a symbol of the most heinous crimes ever committed in the countries of the Southern Cone of Latin America.
The ship's annual visit to different
ports of the world should not be welcomed until the Chilean Navy overcomes its moral cowardice, acknowledges the criminal use of the ship and other detention, torture and death centres under its control, discloses the names of the criminals involved, applies dishonourable discharge to them, and fully cooperates with the Chilean Judiciary system surrendering all relevant information and documentation.
* Germán F. Westphal is a former Chilean political prisoner and a Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Maryland, 21250, U.S.A.
This grim history is quite different to the general PR around the visit of this ex death chamber, as for earlier today on ABC radio and here for a local charter business:
Cruise onboard the James Craig to welcome this 370' vessel to Sydney.
This morning we went down to the naval dockyards to see this ship and the locals of South American especially Chilean descent making their point about human rights abuses on this so called "graceful lady" of the Chilean Navy.
We noticed heavy weight local Unionist Andrew Ferguson giving his moral support but the ship was still offshore due to heavy weather so we were advised by the local security personnel:
We often refer to the criminal assasination of one Victor Jara in a sport stadium (that now is known as Victor Jara stadium in the suburb of Central Estacion in Santiago) a legendary folksinger who was every bit as significant as Bob Dylan to the tens of millions of Spanish speaking South Americans. A superb musician dangerous to the dictator for his ability to communicate to millions of poorly educated via song having lived the same peasant upbringing.
Pictures: The revered Victor Jara legendary folksinger and leader of a cultural revival in Chile under Allende also pictured, at right with son and step daughter, from Victor An Unfinished Song by his widow and British dual citizen Joan Jara.
If one is fortunate to hear Jara's dulcet tones (which seem to be growing like topsy on YouTube here also in a marvellous whimsical song) one cannot help but feel righteous anger that such a voice and genius was denied to the world by a pompous military thug in padded shoulders and gold braid. You don't really know until you actually hear. Just like say Jeff Buckley to this generation, but in Jara's case singing the song of his country's reality and crushing poverty for many.
On a wholly satirical note, in the Young Ones tv comedy of a disfunctional group house in Britain the snotty Rick Mayal character is always fantasising about being the 'People's Poet' as some kind of left wing saint. We believe the comedy writer is in fact referring to the real life Victor Jara - who was actually martyred by the Pinochet thugs. Listen to this song again and say he doesn't sound like a saint.
That's why many Chileans with some fair logic regard Pinochet as a ruthless neo Nazi as here VIctor Jara Y Violeta Parra - Documental p 1
Similarly SBS Dateline 27th June 2007 in this truly brilliant work Pursuing Posada " In the last day, the US Central Intelligence Agency has released some 700 pages of what it called "the family jewels" secret files detailing, among other things, years of attempts to assassinate the communist Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. And, Dateline can reveal the life and times of a man right at the centre of those attempts. Last month, in Texas, Luis Posada Carriles walked free from a court after US immigration charges against him were dismissed. On the face of it, a fairly unremarkable event, but below its surface is a tale of international intrigue and espionage stretching back for close on five decades. In Latin America, several governments have labelled Posada one of the world's worst terrorists, responsible, they claim, for death and destruction throughout the region. So why, you might ask, is he still free and living in the US? Dateline's David O'Shea has come up with some answers."