Weisfeilers' Trip to Chile in December 2000

Boris Weisfeiler disappeared while hiking in Chile in 1985. He is the only one of the 1,100 desaparecidos in Chile who is an American citizen. I am his sister.

My family – my son Lev, my daughter Anna, and I—have recently returned from a trip to Santiago, Chile. Peter Kornbluh, the director of the Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive accompanied us. The Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

We went to Santiago for the first time ever looking for support, publicity, and information in an effort to advance and accelerate the investigation of Boris' disappearance. The investigation and the legal case are both under the guidance of Judge Juan Guzman Tapia, who is responsible for prosecuting General Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations during his seventeen-year dictatorship.

We hope and believe that with this short visit we were able to create the momentum that will hopefully culminate in the discovery of Boris' fate as well as the prosecution of those responsible for his disappearance.

When we arrived, we met with our lawyer Hernan Fernandez for our first face-to-face meeting. Mr. Fernandez has been working on behalf of our family in Chile for over two years now and was able to reopen Boris' case in the Chilean courts in the early part of the year 2000. He is doing an excellent job helping to move the investigation along and to bring justice to this case.

During our visit we met with the American Ambassador to Chile, John O'Leary, Consul General Carl Troy, and other members of the Embassy staff. Ambassador O'Leary assured us that my brother's case is of the highest priority for the Embassy and for him personally, promising full cooperation and support for the investigation being conducted by Chilean authorities. I hope that the Embassy's commitment will continue with the new U.S. administration and Embassy staff.

We also met with Judge Juan Guzman, discussing ways to accelerate the investigation. I personally reiterated my accusations against Augusto Pinochet and Paul Shaffer, the fugitive leader of Colonia Dignidad as well as others who I believe are responsible for Boris Weisfeiler's disappearance.

I found our meeting with Judge Guzman to be very helpful and productive. He is a very good and congenial person. He listened to our concerns and assured us that he would do everything in his power to solve the case and bring the responsible parties to justice.

On December 6, 2000 we met with an official from the Israeli Embassy in Chile, Amir Ofek. We asked the Israeli government and security services to provide us with any information they had regarding Colonia Dignidad, as well as any information on Chile from the period surrounding my brother's disappearance in 1985.

Isaac Frenkel, a prominent lawyer of the Jewish community in Santiago, met with us as well. Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League in New York recommended him to us. We asked Mr. Frenkel to bring more attention to Boris' disappearance within the Jewish community in Santiago and for any assistance he could provide regarding information surrounding the circumstances of the case.

We met with a well-known Chilean human rights lawyer and Staff Director of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, known as the Rettig Commission, Jose Zalaquett. We asked for his legal advice and opinion regarding my brother's case.

It is important to mention that during this trip we met Viviana Diaz, the head of the support group for families of those who disappeared in Chile during the brutal military dictatorship. It appears that despite more than a dozen recent publications in the Chilean press regarding Boris' disappearance, Ms. Diaz was not aware of the case. I stressed to Ms. Diaz that I personally feel very close to the group she represents as we all share the same sorrow and pain of not knowing the true fate of our loved ones.

She told us that from now on their group would include Boris' name in the list of family members who disappeared in Chile and she welcomed us into this extraordinary group of people who are still suffer from crimes committed by the Pinochet regime.

We also discussed my brother's disappearance with Sebastian Brett, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Chile.

I was disappointed by the lack of support from the Chilean Mathematical Society. We learned during our trip that the private investigator hired by the Chilean Mathematical Society that was paid for with funds collected by Boris' friends in US, was a former officer of the Carabineros who had been fired from his position on corruption charges. If, as many sources indicate, Boris remained alive in Colonia Dignidad, this report could have provided information leading to his release. This opportunity was lost.

I was always very skeptical regarding that report and convinced that it brought more harm than good to the investigation. The report gave incorrect information and came to conclusions that were convenient for the parties involved at the expense of being correct.

Despite the recent publicity in Chile regarding my brother' disappearance in the vicinity of Colonia Dignidad, there is still very little known about the case.

In some of the embassy 's correspondence from 1985, the consular officers discussed the chance that widespread publicity could save Boris' life. Unfortunately, nothing was done to generate the publicity and all the valuable information regarding Boris' whereabouts was classified and sealed in the files of the US Embassy and the US State Department.

Now, almost 16 years later when most of the information regarding my brother's disappearance has been declassified thanks to the tremendous efforts of Peter Kornbluh, we came to Chile looking to publicize the case and garner public support. We had an interview with National TV reporter Rodrigo Espinoza. Two of his news reports regarding our visit to Chile and the meeting with Judge Juan Guzman were aired.

A journalist for the Chilean newspaper La Segunda, Viviana Candia, who has helped us since the beginning to move the case forward, published an article regarding Boris' case and our visit to Santiago on the day after our arrival in Chile.

An interview with a reporter from El Mercurio, Jorge Castillo, was summarized in an article published in this, the leading Chilean newspaper, on December 5, 2000.

We thank Pascale Bonnefoy for her tremendous efforts to publicize my brother's case and his life story by publishing the story on the web newspaper, El Mostrador. In that article we again brought up the issue of why the Chilean Government still allows Colonia Dignidad, a compound responsible for known human rights abuses, to exist.

Jorge Escalante from La Nacion already published a number of articles regarding my brother's disappearance and will continue to publicize the story, asking for support and answers.

Carlos Basso from Cronica of Concepcion published the story on the front page of the newspaper on Saturday, December 9, 2000, with my plea to the author of the anonymous letter, a former soldier, to come forward with the information once again.

We also had interviews with Santiago Pavlovic, the film producer from Television Nacional de Chile, and with Sandra Igelka of Argentinean television.

The most common question asked by almost every reporter was, "why did Boris come to Chile?" His choice was very simple: his passion, excepting mathematics, was hiking in the wilderness. Boris had more than twenty days of vacation in January 1985 and he went to Chile with only one purpose -- to relax while enjoying the nature and warm climate.

My children and I fell in love with the beautiful mountains surrounding Santiago, with the people showing their support and sharing our pain. We did not have a chance to travel in the countryside and we probably never will because of the pain associated with the land, but we understand Boris' choice.

I would like to express my great appreciation and thanks to all who put forth an effort to help us to come closer to our ultimate goal: to solve Boris' case, and find out the truth for all of the families of desaparecidos.

I would especially like to thank Judge Juan Guzman who, by taking my brother's case, gave me hope that one day we will find truth and justice in Chile.

Olga Weisfeiler