Linked with Derechos Chile.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Since 1976, when her father was kidnapped by the Chilean Armed Forces, Viviana Díaz has never stopped looking for him. Along with the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Political Prisoners, she broke the wall of silence that tried to hide the facts from the world and from Chilean society’s conscience. Her constant claims and protests saved uncountable lives from the claws of the Chilean dictatorship. Her fight for justice reached its highest point with the capture of General Pinochet, in London, in 1998 … (1000 peacewomen 1/2).
She says: … “We would give our own lives in order to know what happened to our missing relatives and to make the executioners assume their responsibility” …
She says also: … “On September 11, 1973, my life changed for ever. That morning my father left the house and never came back. I was 22 years old. I believe that the love and the happiness he gave us in my childhood and afterwards, gave me the strength to live life with the intensity that I have” … “When we claimed that our relatives were being tortured they said: That does not happen in Chile. Three months after the disappearance, the president of the Supreme Court suggested that I write a book because as he said: You have a great imagination” …
And she says: … “Until ´78, we still believed in the possibility that they were alive, but then the rest of 15 farmers that had been shot were discovered. They had been left in a limekiln where they had been incinerated. Then I sensed that I would never see my father alive. As those in power erased all the tracks after them they condemned us to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what had actually happened. A lot of people could not understand us and asked: But if you already know that they are dead, why do you look for them? Because we want to know what happened and we want the military forces to be held responsible for their acts and because we do not want those terrible deeds to be repeated ” …
Viviana Elisa Díaz Caro – Chile
… One cold dawn in May 1976, Víctor “Chino” Diaz, trade union leader and under-secretary of the Communist Party, was taken by force from his place of refuge. They tied his hands behind his back. One of his eyes had closed up. His lower lip was swollen as a result of the blows he had received and he could only breathe with difficulty. He had spent the last three years living clandestinely, far from his adored family. Since then they have never stopped looking for him.
While she was studying pedagogy at the University of Chile, the political activity of Viviana Diaz was sporadic, although she participated in the presidential campaign dedicated to Salvador Allende in 1970.
The first time was difficult. The ‘powers that be’ denied that he had been arrested.
The search for their dear disappeared relatives brought families together. They met each other in the penitentiaries, the jails and the hospitals and joined together in their fight. Thus was developed the first Committee for Peace and in 1975 the Association of Relatives of the Detained and the Disappeared (the AFDD) was given a name. Our aim was to find out where our dear ones were kept and save their lives.
The AFDD began an untiring campaign of protest during which women chained themselves to the doors of the Ministries, began numerous hunger strikes and even went to the UN.
In 1978, as a result of the investigation into genocide, the de facto power sanctioned the Law of Amnesty. The AFDD responded with a hunger strike that lasted 17 days.
Until 1977 the disappearance of people was a systematic practice. When the AFDD initiated international hunger strikes and denunciations, the murders continued, but they could not hide the bodies anymore. That fight prevented more prisoners being taken and forced the dictatorship to modify its repressive strategy.
On March 8 of the same year, 1978, on Woman’s International Day, a group of women relatives of the disappeared, among them her own sister Victoria, formed the Folklore Group of the AFDD. Inspired by the beaten and brave hearts of their people, they have accompanied the popular mobilization all these years with songs like the “Lonely Cueca”, that gives testimony to the absence of both a life and dance partner:
“I ask constantly
Where they are holding you back
And nobody responds
And you do not come…”
In 1981 the AFDD participated in Costa Rica in the constitution of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Prisoners (the FEDEFAM). The demonstrations in front of the Palacio de la Moneda, the presidential seat, followed one another without faltering throughout the 80’s, until 1990 when Chile was able to celebrate the recovery of democracy.
In 1998, and as a result of the worldwide dissemination of the accounts of what had been happening in Chile, general Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London. Viviana travelled to meet the leaders of the English Parliament and to warn them of the danger of failing to obtain justice if the ex- dictator was sent back to South America. “It was a pathetic paradox that our government invoked humanitarian reasons to repatriate him and negotiated with England and Spain to judge him in the country. When he returned we had to fight in order to take away his privilege as a life senator “. Pinochet lost his privilege and was judged in the process called “Caravan of the death”. That process was interrupted because of the judgement that he was suffering from senile dementia.
In 1999, when she was chosen as president of the association, Viviana was threatened with death, and a judge instructed that she should be protected by a customs officer. “If we could survive the dictatorship and overcome the fear, I will not worry about what is going to happen to me now “.
With the “Report Lagos”, (a list of names of missing prisoners given by the Armed Forces to the president of the republic), Viviana received, in 2001, part of the answer that she had been looking for. The information was very brief: name, identity card, date of execution and final destiny. “The army gave information on 175 cases, among which appears my fathers, indicating that he was thrown into the sea. But the report is insufficient because the army does not assume its responsibility and does not recognize thousands of other cases. That information exists but it is hidden under a pact of silence that guarantees impunity “.
Awarded a prize by Amnesty International and by the metropolitan administration in 2001 as Outstanding Woman in the area of Human rights and Justice, the recognition of Vivianas work comes also from the street. It happens “when a bus driver does not take the money for my ticket, or when they give me flowers or embrace me and say: We hope you will find him, señora.”
Viviana spends 24 hours a day in her search for justice for the missing prisoners. ” There are always things to do to fight against the impunity that prevails here “.
This woman makes clear the difference between her militancy in the Communist Party and her role in the AFDD, where she acts independently of partisan criteria. ” I would say that I am a very special militant. Although I have been a communist since I was young I have had even more conviction since the transition to democracy “.
The case against Pinochet has been reopened and the details of the capture and disappearance of Víctor Diaz continue as part of the judgment in the case of ” Calle Conferencia “. “There was a very important verdict in December, 1994 and for the first time there was a sentence in the case of a missing prisoner. The Penal Room of the Supreme Court indicated that the amnesty law that had been decreed was not applicable because it violated the Geneva agreements and international law. It was an enormous achievement after 30 years “. The verdict of the Supreme Court stated: “The crime of kidnapping has permanent character, because the action created a criminal state that was extended in time, subsisting the injury of the affected legal interest”.
Today Chile recognizes that those crimes were really committed. “And Pinochet may be an old man, but he is not innocent of introducing with blood and fire a terrible Constitution the effects of which are still seen today.”
In a public act in May, 2002 Viviana Diaz pronounced these words: “Beloved father, your family, companions and friends render to you a deserved and just tribute. We will recover you from the Earth, from the silence of those who, using their power arrested you and tortured you until you died. There are so many that we have not found yet. They give us the motivation to continue walking along this path that will allow us to recover the dignity of our country as we recover the entire truth and reach full justice”. (1000 peacewomen 2/2).
Depuis 1976, lorsque son père a été enlevé par les forces armées chiliennes, Viviana Diaz n’a jamais cessé de le chercher … (full text).
FEDEFAM – Fighting Against Forced Disappearances in Latin America, and: Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Una herramienta en la lucha contra la desaparición forzada;