This week marks the 45th anniversary of the US-backed Chile military coup. On 11 September 1973, socialist President Allende was killed and the country seized by General Pinochet who orchestrated a bloody rampage to purge the country of Allende supporters.
It has been described as a “bloodbath“. Left-wing sympathisers and government officials were rounded up in the thousands and imprisoned in detention centres, including the National football stadium where folk legend Victor Jara was assassinated. They were then tortured or murdered.
Although 45 years have passed, his family are still searching for his body amid a climate of intimidation, threats and secrecy.
The case of Father Woodward
Father Michael Woodward was born in 1932. He attended Downside Abbey in Somerset and was ordained in 1961 before travelling to Chile to work in its shantytowns. During the coup, he was arrested, taken to local police headquarters and savagely beaten. He was later transferred to Naval vessels ‘La Esmeralda‘ and ‘Lebu’ for further violent interrogations. By the time he was admitted to the naval hospital, he was already dead. His body then ‘went missing’ and has not been found to this day.
This is the case of a forced disappearance. Michael was tortured to death by the Chilean Navy. The case is still open in the hope that concrete evidence be found to condemn those retired naval authorities who were responsible for torture and detention.
Regarding the search for my brother’s body, leads and clues have been followed with no success. A last dig in the cemetery of Playa Ancha June 2018 was not conclusive. Antecedents requested by the judiciary have not come forth. There is no willingness to cooperate resulting in an obstruction of justice.
I would like the Navy to speak the truth about its unlawful crimes against its own citizens. and in the case of my brother, to reveal how they disposed of his body.
Culture of impunity
Father Michael is just one of around 4,000 people, including children, who were ‘disappeared’ by Pinochet’s secret police and have yet to be found. There have been no state efforts to locate the missing to date. The military has stubbornly held its pact of silence.
In this challenging climate, relatives of the missing have been forced to organise themselves in order to follow leads about their ‘missing’.
Javier Rodriguez from Valparaiso is one of the ‘Amigos de Miguel Woodward‘ a voluntary group formed to establish the truth about what happened to Michael. Earlier this year they excavated a site to find Michael and other missing people from Playa Ancha. He told The Canary:
Michael was a close friend of my family. We lived on the same road. We were the last people to see him alive. The Chilean Navy have refused to cooperate with this and other cases of forced disappearances. Throughout this 45-year quest to find Michael we have supported Pat and Fred’s struggle to get answers.
We will continue to pressurize the Navy to tell us what they did with the missing and apologise to the nation for their crimes. We will continue to honor and remember Michael and other victims of the Navy until we locate them. Our pact is with truth and justice.
The prospects for the families of Pinochet’s victims under current ultra right-wing President Pinera are bleak. Last month his administration caused widespread outrage when seven convicted torturers were released despite not fulfilling bail conditions. Another was given a state pardon.
The Canary contacted the Chilean Ambassador in London, Mr David Gallagher, for a comment about Father Michael’s continued disappearance and whether any efforts are being made to find him. He responded: “No comment”.
With the direct complicity of the current government, torturers are free from prison while official sources attempt to re-write historical wrongdoing in order to institutionalise the injustices of the Pinochet Regime, while the 4,000 victims murdered in the aftermath of the coup remain ‘Missing‘.
– Learn more about ‘The Other 9/11’. Watch this video.
– Read more Canary articles about Chile here
Featured image via YouTube
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?