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(April 24, 2006) Also in the news over the weekend …

By Geoff Burt, Jen Sotolongo, and Matt Malinowski (


As part of the FBI’s new investigation into the disappearance of American citizen Boris Weisfeiler, U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly met last Thursday with Jorge Zepeda, the judge in charge of human rights investigations at Colonia Dignidad.

Weisfeiler, a math professor at Pennsylvania State University, is the only U.S. citizen still unaccounted for among 1,119 people who disappeared during the 17 years of Chile’s dictatorship (1973-1990).

Weisfeiler disappeared during a hiking trip in southern Chile in January, 1985. Two years later, a Chilean military informant told U.S. embassy officials that he was a part of a military patrol that arrested a foreign hiker two years earlier and concluded he was a Russian spy. According to the informant, he was alive as of 1987 and being held in Colonia Dignidad, now known to have been a torture center used by the military regime (ST, March 23).

Boris’s sister Olga has stated her desire to meet with current Army Commander-in-Chief, Óscar Izurieta. She believes that members of the military patrol that detained her brother 21 years ago still have information about his disappearance.


A recent study by the University of Chile found that native flowers species in Paposo, a desert area located on the coast of Region II, may become extinct within the next eight months, principally because of unfettered goat grazing.

Paposo provides a habitat for between 80 and 140 different species of flowers. Of these species, 50 and 60 percent exist only in Chile, and 15 percent are endemic to Paposo, found nowhere else in the world.

The study revealed that one quarter of these plants are either endangered or face extinction and calculates that within eight months three species of flowers could be wiped off the globe. The most threatened specie is the Blue Dhalia, with only 110 plants remaining.

The main threat to these plants are the 2,500 wild goats that eat them down to the roots and tromp through the area destroying the plants with their hooves.

Heavy rains and the construction of miner paths are other factors that threaten the plant species.

Environmentalists are working to protect the plant species, encouraging plant preservation in environmental information centers and by encouraging community involvement in their protection.

Paposo’s location is unique. It is situated in an isolated valley in a desert climate adjacent a mountain range. “The high peaks of the mountain range act as a natural barrier to the marine air that runs along inside the valleys. This allows for the levels of humidity to rise somewhere between 200 and 800 meters high,” said environmental biologist and project coordinator Francisco De la Barra.


Supreme Court Justice Enrique Cury announced that he will leave his position on June 1 of this year. Cury, who first started working in the Court in 1998, was to retire in 2008.

Cury was appointed to the court by former President Eduardo Frei. Unlike most court appointments, Cury’s background was not as a judge, but rather as an academic and attorney. His appointment to the Supreme Court came only after extensive judicial reforms aimed at revitalizing and democratizing the Supreme Court.

During his years on the bench, Cury supported rulings in favor of international human rights treaties on human rights, saying they override Chile’s controversial Amnesty Law of 1978 (ST, April 18).

Since he currently sits on the Supremc Court’s criminal law bench, there is concern that his replacement may not adhere to a similar interpretation of the law.

President Michelle Bachelet must select Cury’s successor from a slate of other lawyers who are not judges. The Supreme Court will propose the slate after filling the vacancies created by the retirement of Judge Jose Benquis and the death of Judge Domingo Kokish.

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