Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Sister hopes for answers from Chile

Man van­ished dur­ing Pinochet regime; woman ask­ing Schwarzeneg­ger for help

by Matthew Mali­nows­ki

Chron­i­cle For­eign Ser­vice

San­ti­a­go, Chile –

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger meets Pres­i­dent Michele Bachelet today in Sacra­men­to, the two lead­ers are expect­ed to dis­cuss trade and ener­gy issues. But the sis­ter of the lone Amer­i­can cit­i­zen still miss­ing from the days of Chile’s mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship hopes the Cal­i­for­nia politi­cian will ask her to find out what hap­pened to her broth­er.

Boris Weis­feil­er is among the some 1,100 peo­ple who “dis­ap­peared” under sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stance dur­ing the regime of Gen. Augus­to Pinochet (1973–90). With the same dogged deter­mi­na­tion of Ed Hor­man, the father who sought to find his Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist son that became the top­ic of the 1980 movie “Miss­ing,” Olga Weis­feil­er has sin­gle-hand­ed­ly kept her broth­er’s plight in the media spot­light.

Over the years, she has held news con­fer­ences, asked wit­ness­es to come for­ward and placed news­pa­per ads with a pic­ture of her broth­er that read: “Have you seen this man?” She has also met with dozens of offi­cials, includ­ing U.S. ambas­sadors, judges, and then-Defense Min­is­ter Bachelet.

These days, she hopes a new short film about her broth­er’s dis­ap­pear­ance enti­tled “The Colony” will spark a renewed effort to find him. Last month, the film was shown at the San­ta Cruz Film Fes­ti­val, and it can be seen at www.stevenjlist.com. The film’s direc­tor, Steven List, con­tact­ed Schwarzeneg­ger’s office and he says guber­na­to­r­i­al aides assured him that they “will look into the case.”

“An inquiry by Schwarzeneg­ger in such a set­ting will put pres­sure on pub­lic offi­cials here and in Chile to dis­cov­er what real­ly hap­pened to my broth­er and who is respon­si­ble for it,” said Weis­feil­er, 64 who lives in New­ton, Mass., and has made sev­en trips to South Amer­i­ca.

Even though Chilean courts have con­vict­ed more than 100 peo­ple for human rights abus­es since democ­ra­cy was restored in 1990, human rights groups have crit­i­cized Chilean and U.S. offi­cials for doing lit­tle to find out the where­abouts of Weis­feil­er.

“There have been no advances of any kind in this case in the past few years,” said Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al Chile Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Ser­gio Lau­ren­ti.

Boris Weis­feil­er, a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen from Rus­sia, was a 43-year-old math­e­mat­ics pro­fes­sor at Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty when last seen on Jan. 5, 1985, while camp­ing in scenic south­ern Chile. At the time, gov­ern­ment offi­cials claimed Weis­feil­er, a hik­ing enthu­si­ast, had drowned while cross­ing the 4‑foot-deep Ñuble Riv­er where his back­pack and per­son­al belong­ings had been found. Even though his body was nev­er recov­ered, a Chilean court declared him dead.

But U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments declas­si­fied in 2000 indi­cate that Weis­feil­er, who was Jew­ish and spoke Eng­lish with a heavy accent, was detained by the Chilean mil­i­tary, accused of being a spy, and hand­ed over to Colo­nia Dig­nidad, or Dig­ni­ty Colony, a secre­tive reli­gious com­pound some 210 miles south of the cap­i­tal, San­ti­a­go. Its founder, Paul Shae­fer, had once been a mem­ber of the Luft­waffe, the Nazi air force.

Olga Weis­feil­er points out that many declas­si­fied U.S. doc­u­ments have yet to be trans­lat­ed into Span­ish. She says the pre­sid­ing judge in the inves­ti­ga­tion, Jorge Zepe­da, has denied her attor­ney access to Chilean police doc­u­ments and has refused help from the FBI, which launched its own inves­ti­ga­tion in 2006 and has yet to release its con­clu­sions.

In Jan­u­ary, how­ev­er, U.S. Ambas­sador Paul Simons described the Weis­feil­er probe as “a top pri­or­i­ty,” and an embassy state­ment in April said U.S. offi­cials “con­tin­ue to work with Chilean author­i­ties on the 1985 dis­ap­pear­ance of Boris Weis­feil­er in south­ern Chile.”

Judge Juan Guz­man, who is well known for pre­sid­ing over human rights cas­es involv­ing Pinochet him­self before the gen­er­al died in 2006, believes U.S. offi­cials are with­hold­ing cru­cial infor­ma­tion.

“I know that the U.S. gov­ern­ment has the name of the per­son who was direct­ly involved,” he said. “But, they nev­er want­ed to reveal this name. Chilean police told me that it exist­ed, but that they were nev­er autho­rized to see it.”

In a recent inter­view, Zepe­da said he could­n’t pro­vide more details in an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion.

“I can­not divulge details about those pro­ceed­ings. I am a judge,” he said. “My job is not to opine, but to car­ry out my inves­ti­ga­tion.”

Mean­while, Weis­feil­er and Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty offi­cials have sent let­ters to Bachelet ask­ing her to use her office to accel­er­ate the inves­ti­ga­tion. Bachelet said she is pro­hib­it­ed by law from inter­fer­ing in judi­cial cas­es, and that Zepe­da is active­ly inves­ti­gat­ing the case.

Weis­feil­er says her worst fear is that U.S. and Chilean author­i­ties will turn a deaf ear to her pleas.

“I am hop­ing that he (Schwarzeneg­ger) will bring it up ... because no one is talk­ing right now,” she said.

On the Web: “The Colony,” a film about the dis­ap­pear­ance of Boris Weis­feil­er, is at www.stevenjlist.com.

In Bay Area: The pres­i­dent of Chile meets with the gov­er­nor this morn­ing and then vis­its UC Berke­ley. B1

The colony

Accord­ing to Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, ex-Nazi Paul Shae­fer turned a sprawl­ing 37,000-acre farm of 300 peo­ple into a prison for polit­i­cal pris­on­ers. The human rights group esti­mates that more than 400 oppo­nents of Gen. Augus­to Pinochet’s dic­ta­tor­ship may have van­ished at the farm called Dig­ni­ty Colony.

Declas­si­fied U.S. doc­u­ments say a Chilean mil­i­tary infor­mant known only as Daniel told U.S. Embassy offi­cials in 1987 that Boris Weis­feil­er was still impris­oned there 2 1/2 years after his cap­ture.

For the next 10 years, the doc­u­ments showed that Daniel met with Chilean and U.S. offi­cials on at least eight occa­sions. In the final meet­ing in 1997, the infor­mant told a Chilean sen­a­tor that Weis­feil­er had been exe­cut­ed for being a “Jew­ish spy.”

Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al’s Chile Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Ser­gio Lau­ren­ti attrib­ut­es gov­ern­ment inac­tion on the Weis­feil­er case to fear of Schae­fer­’s polit­i­cal con­nec­tions.

“There is a lack of inter­est among Chilean author­i­ties in car­ry­ing out a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion,” said Lau­ren­ti. “Schae­fer him­self had a ring of pro­tec­tion for years. Schae­fer and his asso­ciates have eco­nom­ic pow­er both in Ger­many and in Chile.”

Judge Juan Guz­man, who head­ed the Weis­feil­er inves­ti­ga­tion between 2000 and 2003, says Dig­ni­ty Colony lead­ers also instilled fear in its mem­bers, dis­cour­ag­ing them from coop­er­at­ing with any inves­ti­ga­tion.

In a recent inter­view, Judge Juan Zepe­da — who now heads the inves­ti­ga­tion — said that there is no con­nec­tion between Weis­feil­er and the Ger­man colony.

Mean­while, the 87-year-old Schae­fer is serv­ing a 20-year-term for sex­u­al­ly abus­ing under­age boys and is await­ing tri­al on kid­nap­ping and mur­der charges in a sep­a­rate case. He has remained tight-lipped about Weis­feil­er and has plead­ed senil­i­ty to avoid fur­ther charges against him.

Matthew Mali­nows­ki

The dis­ap­peared

In 1992, a truth com­mis­sion found the regime of Gen. Augus­to Pinochet (1973–90) respon­si­ble for the death or dis­ap­pear­ance of 3,197 peo­ple. In fact, some schol­ars have cred­it­ed Pinochet with intro­duc­ing the term “dis­ap­peared” to the lex­i­con of mod­ern pol­i­tics.

Until his death in 2006, Pinochet main­tained that he and oth­er mem­bers of the mil­i­tary com­mand nev­er issued orders to elim­i­nate polit­i­cal oppo­nents and that any abus­es were the work of a few rogue offi­cers.

Boris Weis­feil­er, 43, was last seen on Jan. 5, 1985, while hik­ing in south­ern Chile.

The uni­ver­si­ty math­e­mat­ics pro­fes­sor remains the only Amer­i­can still miss­ing from the Pinochet era.


No comments for “Sister hopes for answers from Chile”

Post a comment