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(June 9, 2006) President Michelle Bachelet meets with relatives of disappeared U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler today, Friday. The meeting characterizes Bachelet’s first diplomatic visit to the U.S., which prioritizes human rights over political wrangling.

Boris Weisfeiler is the sole U.S. citizen still unaccounted for among 1,119 people who disappeared during the 17-year Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). He was a U.S. university professor who disappeared in southern Chile in 1985. Weisfeiler is believed to have been turned over to a German cult community (Colonia Dignidad) by Chilean military officials, where he was most likely killed (ST, June 8).

Before meeting President George W. Bush, Bachelet placed a reef in the Sheridan Circle in memory of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Letelier, who served under Salvador Allende’s socialist government, and who was assassinated in Sheridan Circle in September, 1976: a death squad had place a car-bomb in Letelier’s automobile on orders by Dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

“Orlando Letelier’s death filled us with horror; it is a part of our history that we are not very proud of,” said Bachelet, who also reiterated her intentions to prevent such an event “from ever happening again.”

Later, during their 45 minute meeting, both Bush and Bachelet shared their “points of view” about achieving world peace and stability. Bachelet said she was satisfied with U.S. political and commercial ties. Bush, in return, lauded Bachelet’s dedication to human rights. Meanwhile, the nomination to the UN Security Council was barely touched (ST, May 31).

“We did not specifically discuss the UN Security Council issue … here, there has not been any pressure over any specific issue. Instead, what has taken place here is a conversation between two Presidents about common interests stemming from our long and high quality relationship,” stressed Bachelet.

Thursday’s meeting contrasts sharply with previous Chilean media reports about the UNSC polemic.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary Robert Zoellick reportedly pressured Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley last month, insisting that the U.S. “would not understand” if the Bachelet government supported Venezuela’s Security Council aspirations. Rice and Zoellick reportedly went on to warn of the “extremely high price” Chile would pay if Bachelet does in fact back Chávez. U.S. government officials have expressed their support for Guatemala, the other Latin American country vying for a seat on the Security Council.

Chile, a country well within Washington’s good graces, finds itself trying to smooth out alliances between two political blocs in South America: what the U.S. calls the “responsible progressive” governments in Chile and Brazil and the “irresponsible populist” left in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina (ST, June 5).

“We want to develop the best relations possible with the United Status and its government, and we hope to be successful in this endeavor,” Bachelet said.

By Matt Malinowski (

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