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(June 14, 2006) Chile’s State Defense Council (CDE) will take part in the investigation into the 1985 disappearance of U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler. Weisfeiler lawyer Hernán Fernández claims the 20-year investigation has been hampered by the Chilean military’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation. Weisfeiler disappeared in southern Chile while on a hiking holiday during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Weisfeiler campaigners hope the CDE’s intervention in the human rights case will put pressure on investigating Judge Jorge Zepeda. Zepeda is the fourth judge charged with investigating the case since Weisfeiler disappeared.

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

Two years after Weisfeiler’s disappearance, 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, Weisfeiler was alive as of 1987 and held in Colonia Dignidad, now known to have been a torture center used by the military regime.

Since then there have been no new leads in the case. The military has repeatedly denied arresting Boris Weisfeiler or handing him over to Colonia Dignidad.

Boris Weisfeiler’s sister and niece, Olga and Anna Weisfeiler, met with President Michelle Bachelet last Friday during her official visit to the United States. During their meeting in Washington D.C. the Weifeilers urged Bachelet to bring a renewed focus to the case (ST, June 8).

Bachelet promised to “do everything possible” to find out exactly what happened in January, 1985. The president, who acknowledged the “chaotic” state of the case, also recognized that there were still “many unanswered questions that require greater investigation,” said Olga Weisfeiler.

“It is encouraging that President Bachelet agreed to meet with the Weisfeilers, and indicated a serious interest in making a resolution of the case a higher priority,” said U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, a Democratic Party Congressman who has taken a special interest in the case. “I will continue to work with the family to help ensure that the Chilean government lives up to this commitment.”

Congressman Frank, as Olga and Anna Weisfeilers’ Congressional representative, has repeatedly urged both the U.S. Government and Chilean authorities to devote more resources to the case and to expedite a full accounting of what happened to Boris Weisfeiler.

Olga Weisfeiler visited Chile for the fifth time this past March with a letter signed by U.S. senators and representatives urging Bachelet to “continue the investigation of Professor Weisfeiler’s disappearance, so that a resolution to this tragic case can finally be achieved” (ST, March 23).

By Cristina Dunn (

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