October 5, 2000

Disappearance Of U.S. Citizen In 1985 Continues To Be An Enigma

Family members of Boris Weisfeiler, a scientist and the only a U.S. citizen to have been "disappeared" in Chile, said Wednesday they will seek to have the investigation into Weisfeiler's disappearance transferred to Chilean judge Juan Guzman, who is currently investigating human rights charges against former Chilean junta leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"I gave my authorization to seek the transfer with the hope that it would speed up the case," said Olga Weisfeiler, sister of the missing U.S. citizen. "For me, he is still alive. I never talk about him in the past tense. He is always here."

Weisfeiler disappeared in 1985, apparently while trekking on property near an insular German community in southern Chile known (then) as Colonia Dignidad and now called Villa Baviera.

A former (unnamed) Army official testified twice to U.S. Embassy officials in 1987 that Weisfeiler was arrested by an Army patrol near the convergence of the El Sauce and Nuble rivers in Region VIII. The witness said Weisfeiler was then tortured and turned over to leaders of the German community - never to be seen again.

Although initial inquiries into the case turned up no leads and it was subsequently closed, human rights advocates claim there is a special relationship between the German colony and judicial officials in southern Chile which prevents any investigation into matters concerning the community.

Villa Baviera has been linked to serious human rights violations occurring during Pinochet's 17-year military government and has been the target of numerous police raids the past year in an effort clarify them and to locate Paul Schaefer, the community's founder, now fleeing justice on sodomy charges.

Judge Guzman last month arrested Gerhard Mucke, Schaefer's right hand man, and charged him with having collaborated in the 1974 disappearance of Alvaro Vallejos Villagran, a leftist opponent of the Pinochet regime. Chile's Supreme Court Wednesday overruled an Appeals Court decision and found that Mucke should be indicated in the disappearance of Vallejos and may not be released on bail.

The Weisfeiler case was reopened in January at the insistence of the Weisfeiler family and with the support of U.S. embassy officials, and is currently in the hands of judge Angel Coria from the San Carlos Second Criminal Court in southern Chile.

If the case is accepted by Guzman, Weisfeiler family members believe the chances for finding out what really happened will be greatly increased.

U.S. Ambassador to Chile John O'Leary, in an interview appearing in the daily La Nacion, refused to comment on whether or not a change of judges would result in a speedier resolution to the case and refused to confirm whether or not the U.S. embassy would provide Chile's courts with the name of the anonymous witness to Weisfeiler's capture. Instead, he insisted that the U.S. government has complete confidence in Chile's judiciary and was cooperating in all ways possible.