Weisfeiler arrived in Chile last week for the tenth time since 2000,
returning again to the country where her brother Boris disappeared 26
years ago. He is the only United States citizen among the 1,100 Chileans
who disappeared during Pinochet’s 17-year military regime.
Ms. Weisfeiler and her long-time congressional supporter Barney
Frank wrote letters to President Obama urging him to discuss her
brother’s case with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.
“I very much expect that my brother’s case will be on Obama’s agenda with President Piñera,” Weisfeiler told The Santiago Times.
last week Olga met with U.S. Embassy officials to discuss the state of
the case and strategies for continued pressure on Chilean authorities to
finally close it. Hernán Fernandéz, Olga’s legal council since 2000,
says “we hope to resolve the case soon, but it is impossible to say when
that will happen.”
A mathematics professor at Penn State
University, Boris Weisfeiler emigrated from Russia in 1975 and became a
naturalized U.S. citizen six years later. He was last seen in January
1985 at the Los Sauces River near the Chilean border with Argentina. A
month later, the local court declared accidental drowning his cause of
death, although his body was never found.
In 1991 the United
States Embassy submitted Boris’s case to the Rettig Commision, which
formed after the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship. As the majority of
the evidence on Boris’ disappearance was classified by the U.S. Embassy,
the Commission declined the submission and the case was closed for
almost a decade.
In 2000, when former U.S. President Bill Clinton
declassified documents pertaining to repression under the Pinochet
regime, some 400 cables, memoranda and reports on Weisfeiler’s
disappearance came to light.
The declassified documents suggested
that Weisfeiler had been captured by the Chilean police or army and
taken to the nearby German colony of Colonia Dignidad. This mysterious
walled community, founded in 1961 by former Nazi and convicted
child-molester Paul Shaefer, had deep connections with the Chilean
military and was used as a torture center during the dictatorship.
26 years later, Olga’s questions regarding her brother’s death remain
unanswered. “It’s my life, Chile. Sometimes people tell me ‘You need to
do something else,’ but I cannot,” she says.
With the case under
Chilean jurisdiction, Olga can do little more than exert consistent
pressure on Chilean authorities to bring the case to its conclusion.
Over the years, she has enlisted the support of the U.S. Embassy as well
as several senators back home. “I believe now that everyone wants to
close the case and just get rid of me,” Olga said.
Though no new
information has surfaced in the past year, Ms.Weisfeiler says, “I have
been very satisfied by the level of embassy involvement,” and is
confident that the end is within reach.
Her lawyer Fernandez,
though realistic about the case’s indefinite timeline, confirms, “There
have been significant advances in the last year, more so than in the
past. This could be a decisive moment.”
In the meantime, Ms.
Weisfeiler has continued campaigning for the attention of Chilean and
American officials alike. During the summer of 2010, a letter written by
Senators Barney Frank (D-Mass) and Glenn Thompson (R-Penn) and signed
by representatives from 15 states arrived on the desk of President
Piñera shortly after his inauguration. Should Obama do as Olga hopes,
this week’s visit by the U.S. Commander-in-Chief will also serve as a
reminder for Chile’s head of state.
“I want to know when and how
he died and find the rest of the body,” Ms. Weisfeiler told the
Santiatgo Times. “I am not really looking to put someone in prison.
Ineed to know to move forward. Simple as that.”
By Michael Snyder (