Voices from the South
Chile Delegation Report: Resisting repression, forging alliances

Responding to an invitation of the Chilean SOA Watch collective, seven U.S. SOA Watch activists traveled to Chile last week to learn firsthand about the repression being unleashed by state security forces, many of them trained at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Close to 4,000 Chilean military and police have trained at this school, and Chilean soldiers continue to fill the WHINSEC student rosters.

Alejandra Arraiza, Chilean lawyer and founding member of the Chilean SOA WATCH collective "Observadores de la Escuela de las Américas"

"Today, all forms of social protest in Chile are being met head-on with brutal force, a tactic long taught at the SOA. This is why it was so important that the delegation join us in meeting with the Minister of Defense in requesting a withdrawal of Chilean troops from the SOA" (In the photo, from left to right: Andrés Allamand (Defense Minister of Chile) Amanda Jordan (SOAW), Alejandra Arriaza (Executive Secretary of CODEPU (Corporation for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of People) and member of SOAW Chile) y Alicia Lira (President of the Group of Family Members of the Polically Executed).

Sofía Antilef, Chilean university student and member of FECH (Federation of Chilean Students)

Repression against the burgeoning student movement was immediately apparent to the delegates. While checking into the hotel, early arrivals were greeted by the noxious fumes of tear gas and sound of police shooting into a nearby student demonstration. Sofia later shared with the group: "I was beaten by a mounted policeman and they refused to help me even though I was thrown to the ground. Last year 10,000 students were detained and 200 injured, but in spite of this repression we will continue our struggle for free and quality education".

Pablo Ruiz, SOA WATCH Latin America Coordinator and Delegation organizer

"This visit was important because delegates were able to talk directly with family members of people who had been assassinated and tortured by graduates of the SOA, and they were able to visit sites of memory such as la casa de José Domingo Cañas and Londres 38. Today, although the Pinochet dictatorship is gone, we still have the legacy of the Doctrine of National Security - introduced to Chile by SOA graduates – but with new names".

Bishop Luis Infante de la Mora, Aysen

Of greatest concern to the delegates was the repression being directed against the citizens of the Aysen, a community of the Patagonia 1,200 miles south of Santiago. In this remote community, a united social movement “Your Problem is My Problem” has arisen, demanding rights to affordable food, fuel ,and education. The response of the Chilean government has been to send in hundreds of special forces, referred to by local children as the “Ninjas”, whose brutal repression has left at least 4 residents without an eye, while disfiguring dozens more by spraying birdshot to the face. Aysen bishop, Luis Infante de la Mora stated "Not only are they (the government) privatizing our wealth, but also decisions, dignity, and consciences of our people".

Kent Spriggs, human rights lawyer and SOA Watch activist

Responding to a request by Chilean human rights groups for international observers, the delegation sent a representative, Kent Spriggs, to the Aysen. After a moving visit Kent states: "there should be an international campaign to condemn the State of Chile for the massive violence exercised over a defenseless community. The police in the darkness of night enter the houses, causing damage and traumatizing children and pobladores; …an entire community has been punished……..indiscriminate violence, surely trying to force the community to stop supporting the movement."

Marian Mollin, Professor of History, Virginia Tech

"The Chilean government treats its citizens with intense brutality and with no concern for human rights. I left Chile feeling quite strongly that it’s time to put Chile back on the radar as far as US citizens are concerned. Dracionian laws are essentially criminalizing protest, not to mention intense police brutality and impunity. The U.S. is, in part, responsible for this - the 1973 coup lay the groundwork for everything we see today".

Judith Kelly, Peace activist and former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience

Reflecting on her reasons for returning to Chile for the third time Judith states:, "Citizen diplomacy and committed human rights advocacy does make a difference and can bring about a culture of peace. We can all learn from each other and be inspired by each other to keep going, even when the work is hard, slow and seemingly endless". Judith is shown carrying out the role she describes of “citizen diplomacy” by delivering a letter to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, calling on him to cease the repression.