On 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 human rights
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 ever since
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 Saavedra
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


After 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 countries.

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 power.

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 endured exploitation.

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 of impunity.

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.





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