Donde Estan? - the question of Chile's "disappeared"
Gabriela Zuniga with a picture of her husband.
'Where are they now, the missing sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and husbands and wives that disappeared during Pinochet's rule in Chile?' This question bears heavily on the minds of those left behind. One of these is Gabriela Zuniga, whose husband was arrested and subsequently disappeared in 1974, barely a year after Pinochet's CIA backed military coup overthrew Salvadore Allende's democratically elected Socialist Party. She has since been active as a PR spokesperson in AFDD (The Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared); an organisation dedicated to finding out the truth about the fates of their missing family members.

In her well presented lecture Gabriela underlined the importance of establishing the full truth of what happened to those who disappeared in order to build a new, peaceful society in Chile. However, even though 28 years have passed since her husband was arrested she still doesn't know what exactly happened to him and who is responsible for his disappearance.
AFDD pin commemorating family members who were made to "disappear" by Pinochet's security forces.
The activities of the AFDD concentrate on locating burial sites, tracing implicating documents and interviewing people who may have information shedding light on the fate of the many remaining cases. What the AFDD research, together with 2 major commissions by the civilian government of President Patricio Aylwin and various committees have so far established since the end of military rule in 1990, is that many people who were considered left wing or supporters of the former president were arrested, exiled, tortured and killed. One of the commissions, the National Corporation of Reparation and Reconciliation, recorded the "disappearance", extrajudicial execution or death under torture of 3197 people between 1973 and 1990 (Amnesty International). On top of that, criminal complaints on behalf of tens of thousands of former prisoners who were tortured by the security forces have been submitted to Judge Juan Guzman Tapia, who chairs the criminal investigation against Pinochet. However, the issue of impunity with regard to these serious human rights violations committed under military rule remains far from resolved.

One of the problems hindering the investigations, according to Gabriela, is that despite Chile's transition to democracy, there are still many people, including former members of the Directory of National Intelligence, in important political and social positions who were also holding posts in Pinochet's administration. Further lack of will on the side of the government in settling the problem is demonstrated by the refusal to revoke the Amnesty Law of 1978, which was passed by the military dictatorship and is widely seen as nothing less than a self-amnesty for violators of human rights.

Consequently, for Gabriela and many others who cannot forget the fate of their loved ones, an open wound will remain until the truth is out and justice has been done.
Ushaia-Papeete / Peace Boat's 36th Voyage