(This Article appeared in Spanish in the June 19, 2005, issue Diario Siete in Santiago, Chile)





            The discovery of a battalion’s worth of armaments buried at Colonia Dignidad confirms that the Pinochet regime used the furtive German enclave as a secret border base.  The discovery of intelligence files as well can be expected to shed significant light on the dark relationship between the Chilean secret police and its CD collaborators.  All that remains now is to find where the bodies are buried.


            Indeed, the most surprising thing about the discovery of this trove of weapons and documents is that it has taken so long to find them.  Judge Zepeda's most recent search at Colonia Dignidad is but the latest in a series of investigations of the property over the last five years.  Until earlier this year when the metal skeletons of two cars belonging to disappeared Chileans were unearthed, substantive incriminating evidence had been elusive.  Paul Schafer and his deputies had proved quite adept at hiding the extensive evidence of the military and intelligence ties between the regime and the Colonia—until now.


            The arsenal of armaments indicates that La Colonia served as a contingency military base along the Argentine border as well as perhaps a procurer of illicit arms for the Pinochet regime.   The documentation found there suggests that the DINA used Colonia as an intelligence facility and a place to hide key records relating to the regime’s ongoing repression.


            The documents and files may well turn out to be some of the most important and revealing papers relating to the operations of the Chilean secret police whose archives, like so many victims, disappeared years ago and have yet to be located.  (Rumors abound that Manuel Contreras smuggled the DINA files out of the country in the late 1970s in order to assure that General Pinochet would continue to protect him from prosecution.)  At best, they will implicate key military officials in human rights crimes from that era; at minimum the discovery of the documents will put pressure on General Cheyre to finally turn over all relevant military records that have been withheld from public scrutiny since the end of the dictatorship.


            Those who await the results of the analysis of these records are, first and foremost, the families of victims who were believed to have been killed at Colonia Dignidad.  Among them is Boris Weisfeiler, a mathematics professor in the United States who disappeared during a hiking trip near Colonia Dignidad on January 5, 1985.  Twenty years later, he remains the only disappeared U.S. citizen among 1100 missing Chileans from the Pinochet era.


            For Olga Weisfeiler, Boris’s sister, the discovery of the archives brings with it the possibility of discovering the fate of her brother.  Five years ago, when Judge Juan Guzman--at the time in charge of the investigation into Weisfeiler’s disappearance--traveled to Colonia Dignidad, a file folder marked “Boris Weisfeiler” was found in an office.  But the file was empty, except for a few newspaper clips.  In an interview with Siete this week, Olga Weisfeiler said she hoped the missing contents of that file would now be found. “I hope we all will learn a lot soon about our loved ones and about the crimes committed by the Colonia and the Chilean secret police,” she noted.  “Now it is just a matter of time.”


            To her credit, Ms. Weisfeiler has tenaciously sought the declassification of U.S. documents, not only on the disappearance of her brother, but on Colonia Dignidad and all its abuses.  Documents she has obtained include debriefings of former members of the Colonia who fled the cult, observations of U.S. officials about wrongdoing there, and hundreds of records relating to the disappearance of her brother.  Long before June 1987 when a mysterious Chilean agent who called himself “Daniel” told human rights officials that Boris Weisfeiler had been detained as a “subversive” and taken to Colonia Dignidad, declassified documents like the one reproduced here show that the U.S. Embassy suspected a Colonia connection.  “At the time of his disappearance Weisfeiler was either on or very near to the Colonia property,” notes this “eyes only” memo written by Consul General Jayne Kobliska on April 10, 1985, only weeks after the U.S. citizen disappeared.  Kobliska believed it was “vital that this new information be transmitted to the [State] Department by secure telephone.”


            Due to Olga Weisfeiler’s persistent pressure on the United States government to help resolve this crime, the U.S. Embassy has offered official support to an investigation of Colonia Dignidad.  That offer has included FBI technical assistance.   But to date the only specific assistance that has been discussed between Chilean and U.S. law enforcement authorities is a lie detector test that the FBI would help administer to members of a military unit suspected of detaining Weisfeiler and delivering him to Paul Schafer and Colonia Dignidad.  Lie detector tests are common in the United States, but are not used by the judicial system in Chile.


            But Chilean authorities may well want to consider actually asking the FBI for a far more important technical contribution: satellite photography of the 37,000 hectares that make up the Colonia property.  The United States has technology that can perhaps detect underground tunnels and bunkers, and map areas where the earth has been disturbed, even years ago.


 Now that it is clear that cars and guns were secretly interred at Villa Bavaria, perhaps U.S. technical assistance can help Chilean investigators identify the likely spots where the bodies may be buried.  Hopefully, as Olga Weisfeiler suggests, it is only a matter of time until those who disappeared within the walls of this dangerous enclave are found.