La Esmeralda – brutal history

Press Release

Brisbane 30th June 2012

La Esmeralda: This Tall Ship Has A Bloody, Brutal History

La Esmeralda in Brisbane for a “cultural exchange and good will.”

The ship will surely be a majestic sight. But behind the stately image of one of these ships, La Esmeralda, lies a terrifying history that should not be forgotten.

In 1973, in the aftermath of a bloody coup against the democratically elected government, the Chilean Navy made a special contribution to the new military junta led by Pinochet. They allowed La Esmeralda, a four-masted Chilean naval ship, to be used as a prison and torture chamber. According to testimony collected by Amnesty International and the Organization of American States, at least 110 political prisoners – 70 men and 40 women – were interrogated aboard the ship for more than two weeks without charges or trial.

The former mayor of Valparaiso, where the ship was stationed, described being tied to one of the ship’s masts and subjected repeatedly to electric shock. “I couldn’t sleep for six days because they woke me up every six minutes, night and day,” he told Amnesty International. “We could hear how the others were tortured right where we were.”

According to a Chilean lawyer held on board, military officials stripped and savagely beat the prisoners and shot them with high-pressure jets of water that produced “an unbearable pain in the head, ears, eyes, and lungs” At least one of those tortured on board La Esmeralda, a British-Chilean priest named Michael Woodward, died as a result. His body was thrown into an unmarked mass grave.

La Esmeralda has received angry receptions around the world; we want to make clear that our peaceful demonstration is not against the trainees or crew members, but for what it represents for many Chileans.

More than two decades has passed since the end of the reign of Pinochet, the man who led the coup and ruled the country with an iron fist for 17 years. After losing a plebiscite, Pinochet allowed democratic elections to take place in 1990. In exchange, he received a series of concessions, including immunity from prosecution for his role in more than 3,000 killings and tens of thousands of torture cases

La Esmeralda sails as the representative of a �democratic� nation that is making constant unsuccessful efforts to overcome the horrors of the Pinochet regime and to hold human rights violators accountable.

While Pinochet’s crimes may seem distant to many, for Pinochet’s victims and their family members, the horror remains a part of their daily lives.

Unless the crimes committed aboard La Esmeralda are brought out into the open and the torturers held accountable, the victims will not be forgotten.

Movement for Justice and Peace – Brisbane, Australia

3 thoughts on “La Esmeralda – brutal history

  1. BULLSHIT! Pinochet was anything BUT a dictator! He pulled the country out of the hands of the communist regime, and made Chile what it it is today! The most developed South American country! LO WNS DE MIERDA QUE NO SABEN LA HISTORIA QUE SE VAYAN A LA XUXA! GRINGOS DE MIERDA!

  2. A tall ship friend ! says:

    What are you trying to prove – this ship is a training ship for the Navy’s 100 midshipmen. They sail the world to learn maritime skills. What Pinochet did is a long time ago & he’s dead now. Stop wasting everyone’s time in protesting something that is long past ! People went down to see the ship last Saturday 30th June in Brisbane & got their visit disrupted due to your protestors ! Get over it !

  3. Jaime Francisco Mejia says:

    To the first comment,

    True, Pinochet is dead and what he did happened long ago. The Holocaust happened long ago too. Does it mean that we should forget about it?

    That ship represents the tyranny under Pinochet’s regime and therefore it is a symbol of oppression and terror. Welcoming it is an insult to the victims.

    That ship should be destroyed to erase that memory and help heal the scars that many Chilean still bear to this day.

    To Arx,

    You are either a fascist or completely ignorant of Chile’s recent history.

    Pinochet deposed a democratically elected government by the force of arms and unleashed a regime of terror against the population, kidnapping and killing people who opposed him or had socialist leanings.

    He was clearly a dictator of the worst kind and never relinquished his power, making himself senator for life (unelected) after losing the referendum in 1989 and granting himself immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity.

    If that is the kind of people you support, you are nothing but a fascist scumbag.

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