December 10, 2009, the Doctors Professional Guild of Santiago
commemorated the anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Before holding a panel discussion about
the future of human rights in Chile, in a ceremony honoring
21 Doctors of the People killed by the military dictatorship,
Dr. Alfredo Estrada addressed the public with the folllowing
words translated below.
Salvador Allende Gossens, died
in La Moneda Presidential Palace September 11, 1973
Jorge Avila Pizarro, arrested
at the Santiago Psychiatric Hospital where he worked, and
shot at the National Stadium September 18, 1973
Gabriel Castillo Cerna, disapeared
since October 11, 1976 when he publicly called to fight for
Vicente Cepeda Soto, executed
September 23, 1973 in Antofagasta
Jorge Cerda Albarracin, shot September
22, 1973 in Antofagasta
Miguel Enriquez Espinoza, founder
of the MIR, died in confrontation October 5, 1974
Hector Garcia Garcia, arrested
at Buin Hospital and shot dead August 13, 1974
Carlos Godoy Lagarrigue, arrested
en route to San Bernardo clinic August 4, 1976, disappeared
Eduardo Gonzalez Galeno, arrested
and disappeared since September 14, 1973
Hernan Henriquez Aravena, dedicated
his life to protecting health of Mapuches, shot in Temuco,
October 5, 1973
Arturo Hillerns Larrañaga,
arrested and forcibly disappeared September 15, 1973 in Puerto
Ivan Insunza Bascuñan,
disappeared since his arrest in Santiago August 4, 1976
Jorge Jordan Domic, shot in Ovalle
September 16, 1973
Jorge Klein Pipper, arrested in
La Moneda September 11, 1973 and disappeared
Enrique Paris Roa, arrested in
La Moneda September 11, 1973 and disappeared
Claudio Tognola Rios, director
of obstetrics at Tocopilla Hospital, detained and disappeared
October l 4, 1973
Bautista Van Schowen Vasey, forcibly
disappeared as of December 13, 1973
Absalón Wegner Millar,
arrested in San Felipe and executed December 13,1973
the horrors of the Second World War, 61 years ago, the nations
of the world signed the Universal Declaration of Human Right
to form the ethical foundation for a new society characterized
by greater brotherhood and greater justice among peoples and
The wars of the second half of the 20th century and the early
21st century, as well as the military dictatorship in various
countries that violated those basic rights of men, women and
children, tell us that humankind still has a long way to go
in creating that ideal society.
The military dictatorship of Chile, torture in Iraq, Afganistan,
Guantanamo, and Guatemala represent a fraction of the enormous
debt many States owe their own citizens.
We know what that means. Since September 11, 1973 with its
aftermath of violence, torture and death unleashed by a conspiracy
among the most reactionary segments of Chile in conjunction
with the United States and the Armed Forces, profound changes
have occurred in Chilean society.
In recent days suspicions appear to have been confirmed regarding
the fate of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva. We now
know that he was murdered by army intelligence agents in a
conspiracy still shrouded by shadows. This has returned the
subject of human rights and the dictatorship to headlines
of Chilean press.
Nevertheless, we believe that the before and afterwards
in our country took place the day Air Force jets bombed
La Moneda, the seat of the executive branch, leading to the
death of the democratically elected President Dr. Salvador
Allende, and ushering in a period of state terrorism that
resulted in thousands of deaths, including the 21 colleagaues
we remember today.
To a great extent the crimes of dictatorship have not been
prosecuted. Political prisoners who were tortured, people
summarily executed and forcibly disappeared have not found
justice. Initially this was caused by judicial complicity,
armed forces concealment of information, the amnesty law enacted
by the military regime and maintained intact to this day,
as well as a political pragmatism that allows individuals
who collaborate with the dictatorship to retain considerable
The inadecuacy of the Chilean courts and erroneous political
priorities led the courts of other nations, such as Judge
Baltasar Garzon in Spain to indict Pinochet in 1998 and today
the court in Rome has charged Alfonso Podlech Michaud, former
military prosecutor of Temuco, in human rights crimes. Remember
it was this same Podlech who told the wife of Dr. Hernan Henriquez
that for him the enemies of the homeland do not have the
right to a tomb.
Despite certain progress made in human rights, we believe
the political objective of reconciliation will not be achieveable
before the passage of three or four generations. The wives,
children, mothers and siblings of people murdered and disappeared
by dictatorship continue to demand full justice, and despite
appearances, a deep wound has yet to heal.
As we gather here today to remember 21 doctors murdered or
forcibly disappeared at the hands of the repressive forces
of dictatorship, we reaffirm our commitment to the struggle
for justice and to retain their example as medical professionals
committed to social struggle.
Today when medical practice hinges on the market to such an
extent, the humanitarian outlook, the willingness to contribute
knowledge to those most in need, and the readiness of our
colleagues to accept political commitments is notable.
For a small son or daughter the loss of father or mother left
a sense of abandonment. Questions that have no answer tend
to persist over time, sometimes posed as, Why did he choose
others over me? Only when that child grew up did he or she
come to understand that in making that choice their parent
was in fact chosing them, their children, first. The biographies
of each one of these doctors highlight deep affection for
family, parents, and siblings. We know they struggled for
a better life for all and their political option derived from
their capacity as doctors. Being a doctor was their way of
affirming the belief that the world could become a better,
more fair place for those they loved and for everyone who
We may wonder why these doctors were the object of such hatred,
even in light of the polarization that occurred in the Doctors
Guild during the Salvador Allende government. There was a
time when we doctors enjoyed significant social recognition.
It was therefore common for this regard to be projected also
as a political influence, although not necessarily a partisan
one. Since a doctor was likely to side with the powers that
be, when a doctor crossed that line to join forces with the
dispossessed he was perceived not only as a traitor but also
as a dangerous element that threatened the dominant system.
In Cunco or Santiago, La Serena or Tocopilla, in Temuco or
Antofagasta or in anywhere else in the country where doctors
were committed to the social and political cause, they had
already been identified as targets for repression.
They were murdered just like thousands of other young men
and women because the dictatorship needed to sow terror and
divide people by fear, and above all, choke all hope.
During those dark years repression implanted fear and silence.
Mistrust of others became the norm. Our children had to learn
not to speak out at school. The complicity of the press, and
television manipulated information, converting victims into
the cause of their own demise. Concealment, lies, distortions
of the truth by spokesmen and representatives of the dictatorship
became habitual. I believe the malignancy of dictatorship
persists today in social disintegration, in the loss of legitimacy
of politics and credibility of others.
Today, more than 35 years after the military coup, our society
has not fully recovered. The quest for justice has achieved
only partial progress, and a good measure of setbacks exemplified
in the impunity granted Pinochet after his rescue, the continuation
of the amnesty decree law, the disporportionately low sentences
for military personnel convicted of human rights crimes.
Although we understand that the court cannot indict institutions,
we find incoherent the thesis posited by Defense Minister
Francisco Vidal about limiting responsability for human rights
crimes to specific individuals, while excusing the institutional
role of the armed forces. How can we understand this? If these
individuals were agents of the state, of armed forces intelligence
services, they used vehicles, weapons, financing, buildings
and other public resources to conduct torture, murder, and
disappearances under orders fro an hierarchical superior.
It is as if the profound political, economic and structural
changes implemented during dictatorship and which served the
repression itself, had been set in motion merely by a few
corporals and soldiers.
During the season of election campaigns, like this one, some
sustain that in regards to human rights we must not look back
to the past, as if it were possible to generate a kind of
societal Alzheimers. What these people fail to understand
is that unsolved crimes, disappeared persons not located,
and impunity of the responsible parties comprise a reality
in the present day that is impossible to conceal.
The victims of human rights violations and their relatives
have had to withstand psychological, social and economic injury.
They also are the bearers of the conscience at the heart of
our society that must always remain alert to prevent the consolidation
I am not a religious believer but I do share the idea that
each human being in this brief passage through life, radiates
concentric waves, much of what he was or is, transmitting
his or her experience and life force, which continues to propogate
from these closest to him or her to even people who perhaps
did not know them personally. In this, there is something
akin to an earthly eternity which will perpetuate itself through
the course of tie as long as humanity exists.
It seems to me that a final, perverse objective of the military
dictatorship was not only to destroy opponents but also to
kill their hope and spirit. They, our colleagues, struggled
to build a more fraternal, luminous world. That task still
remains for us and our children to carry on. We can affirm
in life and despite everything, that to believe in love is
the proof of the failure and defeat of the repressors of yesterday.
For those of us who think the world is not well, and that
we must overcome injustice and inequality, it seems to us
urgent that we recover bonds of trust between people, discover
the dreams and expectations we share, strengthen each other
in order to achieve the transformations our society needs.
All of them will accompany us as we walk that path.
We would like to thank all of you here this afternoon, as
well as our friends and colleagues doctors Laura Moya, Rubi
Maldonado, Margarita Romero and Ana Vega who authored the
testimonial books, Porque Fuimos Médicos del Pueblo
and Ellos se Quedaron con Nosotros, whose work has
enabled the example of these martyred doctors and their social
and political commitment to continue projecting into the future
both in various places of Chile as well as in other countries.
to "Reclaiming Memory"