WEAPONS ARSENAL FOUND BURIED IN CHILE’S EX-COLONIA DIGNIDAD

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Published On : Fri, Jun 17th, 2005

Weapons Prove Colony’s Complicity During Dictatorship, Government Says (June 17, 2005) The Special Brigade of the Investigaciones Police found Chile’s largest private weapons collection buried in the German enclave formerly known as Colonia Dignidad.

A few days ago, police were alerted to the arsenal’s whereabouts by some of the colony’s settlers, who were being questioned in connection with human rights abuses that allegedly took place at the enclave during Chile’s military dictatorship. About 50 people from Colonia Dignidad have been interrogated in the past month.

On Tuesday, cranes dug near the colony’s guest house and found two bunkers, which contained 85 submachine guns, 60 hand grenades, 14 FAL rifles, 18 antipersonnel mines, 18 cluster grenades, rocket launchers, telescopic sights and lots of ammunition. Sources involved in the dig said that mortar bombs and a land-to-air missile were also found.

Also included in the arsenal were rods that can fire ammunition and an Elektric-L camera that had darts hidden in its casing.

On Wednesday another weapons container was found, but its contents have not yet been revealed.

The government said the weapons discovered – that appear to be between 20 and 30 years old – confirmed the colony’s “complicity in paramilitary operations” during the military dictatorship.

Judge Jorge Zepeda, who is investigating alleged human rights violations in the enclave, arrived at the colony on Wednesday to analyze the findings.

The weapons were taken to the Investigaciones police station in Los Angeles (Region VIII). Michael Müller, the spokesperson for Villa Baviera, as Colonia Dignidad is now called, accompanied police to the station.

Preliminary studies determined that the arms were made in Argentina, Italy, the United States, Austria, Germany and Spain. There were also weapons made by Famae, a Chilean weapons manufacturer, and submachine guns and grenades that were produced in Colonia Dignidad.

The Interior Ministry’s Subsecretary Jorge Correa Sutil said such a large collection of weaponry must have been stored with military motives.

“I believe it will end up being the biggest private arsenal ever found in Chile,” Correa said.

Correa explained that the weapons would help the courts to prove that the German enclave – the leaders of which have already been charged with sexual crimes against children – was also party to paramilitary crimes.

“We trust that this finding will help us to convince the judges that, as well as an association with sexual, fiscal and financial crimes, we are also dealing with complicity to paramilitary actions,” Correa said.

Sources at the dig also say that files containing information on leftists dissidents during the military dictatorship were found among the weapons.

The Investigaciones police have been examining these files to see if they can be linked to any of the military government’s institutions or to individuals “disappeared” during the military regime.

Interior Minister Francisco Vidal reiterated the government’s commitment to discovering Colonia Dignidad’s true role during the Pinochet dictatorship. Vidal also promised that the government would never again let even one meter squared of Chilean land be exempt from State laws as Colonia Dignidad was.

The current government is eager to bring charges against those responsible for the colony’s role in Pinochet-era human rights violations. Chile’s failure until just recently to locate and arrest the colony’s former leader Paul Schaefer has been a nagging issue to the center-left Concertación alliance government.

The discovery of the arsenal, which Judge Zepeda says are “from the time when Schaefer was in charge,” adds more weight to investigations into the torture and disappearance of political prisoners at Colonia Dignidad during the military regime.

After the 1973 coup in which Augusto Pinochet took power, the colonists began to forge links with the military and, according to the Valech Report, Colonia Dignidad became a “detention and torture center” used by the DINA and the CNI, the secret police of the military government.

But the strong protection net around Schaefer has always kept him clear of the courts, and residents at the colony have not admitted to tortures until recently. Müller recognized in March that torture took place inside the colony, and said he was willing to collaborate with the courts to clarify what happened in the enclave.

Former leader of the colony Schaefer was recently apprehended in Buenos Aires (ST, March 11) and then deported to Chile. He is believed to have sexually abused as many as 10,000 young children over a 40-year period. He was also allegedly involved in numerous human rights violations, including torture and forced disappearances.

Schaefer has also been wanted by German authorities since 1961, when he fled child molestation charges and moved to Chile to found the colony, a 17,000-hectare farming and religious community, in Chile’s southern Region VII.

The Sixth Santiago Criminal Court is considering a lawsuit filed by the Socialist Party (PS) against Schaefer and the former head of the now-dissolved Chilean Secret Police (DINA), Gen. Manuel Contreras, which accuses them of the kidnapping, illicit association and illegal burial of three Socialist Party leaders (ST, April 6).

The PS wants to accelerate the investigations into the disappearances of Carlos Lorca, Ezequiel Ponce and Ricardo Lagos Salinas, who disappeared after they were transferred to Colonia Dignidad following their arrest in Santiago and detention at the Villa Grimaldi torture center.

The colony is also accused of the disappearance of Russian-born U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler. He was last seen Jan. 4, 1985, camping near the boundaries of the German colony.

Schaefer’s successor, Dr. Hartmut Hopp was also arrested on May 25 in connection with the discovery of two buried cars, thought to belong to people who were disappeared at the colony (ST, May 27).

SOURCE: EL MERCURIO, LA TERCERA, DIARIO SIETE
By Emily Byrne (editor@santiagotimes.cl)

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The Santiago Times Team