She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: ““We should preserve in adults the confident and joyful attitude of small children.”
Patricia Verdugo Aguirre – Chile
Patricia Verdugo is a Chilean journalist and writer. She has oriented her work towards human rights, covering the period before, during and after the military government (1973-1990), and to the promotion of democracy. Since 1979, she has written more than ten books concerning what happened during the dictatorship in Chile. She has received a number of awards: in 1997, in Chile, the National Journalism Prize; in 1993, in the United States, the María Moors Cabot Prize; and in 2000, the Latin American Studies Association recognized her work.
Patricia Verdugo: journalist, writer and academic. She has risen to prominence because of her fight for human rights, because of her indeclinable journalistic stand against the dictatorship and for the return to democracy. She was the daughter of a Christian Democratic leader, executed for political reasons.
In 1977 she co-founded the magazine Hoy (Today), a publication that among other written media maintained an independent and critical position in face of the dictatorship regime led by General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
She has always worked and still works today, in different aspects of the media, both in Chile and abroad. For example, Análisis, Apsi, El Mostrador and National Chilean Television; El País and El Mundo (Spain); L’Unitá (Italy); and the Mexican Network Televisa.
She received a number of awards: in Chile in 1997, with the National Journalism Prize; the María Moors Cabot Prize of the United States in 1993 (one of the best awards granted to journalistic professionals who are not United States citizens); and the Latin American Studies Association recognized her work in the year 2000.
With more than ten books concerning the atrocities committed during the 17 year period of the military regime, the memory of the dictatorship in Chile has been really enriched:
- “De la Tortura (no) se habla” (Editorial Catalonia, Chile, 2005)
- “Allende: Cómo la Casa Blanca provocó su muerte” (Editorial Catalonia, Chile, 2003-El Ateneo, Argentina- Editorial Revan, Brazil- Baldini y Castoldi, Italy- Editorial Tabla Rasa-Spain)
- “A caravana da morte” (Editorial Revan, Brazil, 2001)
- “Chile, Pinochet and the caravan of death” (North-South Centre Press, EEUU, 2001)
- “Caravana de la muerte: Pruebas a la vista” (Editorial Sudamericana, 2000)
- “Bucarest 187” (Editorial Sudamericana, Chile, 1999; Editorial Sudamericana, Spain, 2001; Baldini y Castoldi, Italy, 2005)
- “Golpe in Diretta” (Edizioni Unicopli, Italy, 1999)
- “Interferencia Secreta” (Editorial Sudamericana, 1998)
- “Conversaciones con Nemesio Antúnez” (Ediciones Cesoc, 1996)
- “Operación Siglo XX” (Ediciones Ornitorrinco, 1990)
- “Detenidos-desaparecidos: Tiempo de Días Claros” (Ediciones Cesoc, 1990)
- “Los zarpazos del Puma” (Ediciones Cesoc, 1989)
- “Quemados vivos” (Editorial Aconcagua, 1986)
- “André de La Victoria” (Editorial Aconcagua, 1985)
- “Detenidos-desaparecidos: Una herida Abierta” (Editorial Aconcagua, 1979)
From the time of her father’s assassination, she worked in unison with many other women to demand truth and justice. In 1983, she co-founded the Women’s Movement for Life (Movement against the dictatorship, constituted by women of different political parties), which among other women’s groups, organized protests against general Augusto Pinochet. She was the author of numerous acts carried out by the opposition.
In the winter of 1976, when she received notification that the body of her missing father had been found in the Mapocho river (the river which crosses Santiago, the capital of the country, and where many of the murdered were buried), she decided, emotional with grief, but secure of her convictions, to begin an investigation of the assassination, that had been obscured by familiar interests and fears. There is a military man in the family, her brother. The book ‘Bucharest 187’ was born from this determination. Profound, but written without hate, it is one of the most outstanding books on the history of the dictatorship.
Concerning her father’s death, she remembers that the suffering for the family began the same day the agents of repression arrested him: “We did not even have the right to know which clandestine jail or concentration camp he had been taken to. The dictatorship had a decree, dictated by the military themselves, which gave them the ‘right’ to arrest a person for five days and not inform anyone of his whereabouts”. Patricia Verdugo remembers: “I prayed each minute of each hour, that they would not torture him. No, it is not the truth. I knew they were torturing him. I repeated inside myself a single phrase again and again, ‘Resist, father, resist!’ But the truth is, he could not resist. He died during the submarine torture (a type of torture where the head of the person is repeatedly put in a container filled with liquid)”.
Patricia’s suffering has been prolonged all these years, and it lasts until today. “Sometimes I cannot manage to control my thoughts and an image appears in my mind, the image of a hand on the nape of my father’s neck, pushing his head inside a container of water. I have to pray a lot in order to send that image away. I cannot answer your questions any more. By doing so, I am crying… and that is torture. Until today”.
Her books, based on rigorous journalistic studies, are crucial for the judicial trials of those held responsible for the atrocities, since the information about the people responsible for the repression and the violation of human rights was never given; they have maintained a conspiracy of silence. Los Zarpazos del Puma (The Claw-marks of the Puma), (1985), for instance, served as a basis for investigating the so called “Caravan of Death”, which involved the detention of top intelligence chiefs. The Caravan of Death, is the name given to the military retinue that, after the military coup of the September 11th , 1973, and by order of General Augusto Pinochet (at that time chief of the Military Junta), traveled across the country, from the North to the South of Chile, arresting, torturing, “vanishing” and assassinating people.
Pinochet was considered not guilty in the case of “The Caravan of Death”, and Patricia Verdugo responds: “When I found out about it, I cried for a long time. But just as in the past, I knew that I would have to gather even more strength and continue. I again met with the lawyer Carmen Hertz and the engineer Víctor Pey, and we left the meeting re-animated. We knew we had to go on with our fight; and that is what we have done. It’s our duty”. Los Zarpazos del Puma became to be the best selling book in Chile.
“We cannot go on hiding secrets and sweeping the names of those who committed crimes and swept them under the rug. We cannot continue leaving crimes unpunished. Chile is falling mentally ill due to the schizophrenic dissociation of its leaders. If the political leaders had their way, General Pinochet would be a lifetime senator, an example of cunning lack of ethics in politics for the new generations of Chileans. We have managed to avoid that. Some day, a new generation of politicians will be grateful for what we did.”
Another book, De la Tortura (no) se habla. Agüero vs. Meneses, was born from a phrase uttered by a victim of the torments, the political scientist Felipe Agüero, who maintained: “I know my torturer”. Patricia chose this man’s case to illustrate the suffering of hundreds of political prisoners. This book, on which she worked as editor and writer, was compiled thanks to the contributions of professionals of different fields, lawyers, physiologists and sociologists, among others. They gave an expert view of the tortures in Chile and the systematic way in which they were perpetrated. Concerning this group project, she clarifies that “it was just one of the ways to approach this matter. I liked this way of working. It appeared to be the most serious way”. Among other things, she demonstrated that the application of methods of torture was systematic and generalized and not, as the military declared, applied only in “isolated cases” neither was it the result of the behavior of “middle managers” acting on their own initiative”.
There is something in which Patricia Verdugo does not believe. “Reconciliation is not a possible goal. The truth is that this word is used in an incorrect manner. Even I have used it the wrong way. What is desirable and possible is that Chile should be a country that respects its diversity. I was 16 years old during the presidential campaign in 1964. With my youngest brothers we went out to stick posters on the poles. There was no fear. We met other children doing the same thing but for other candidates. And we laughed. There was no violence. That is what I wish for my grandchildren, the ones that have yet to be born”.
And there is another thing that gives her energy to keep working. “Injustice moves me and the feeling of working efficiently for justice gives me energy”. And in the meantime there is “a world of contrasts: the real one, where human rights of the majority are violated; and the other one, the ideal, where they are guaranteed to every one”. (Read all on this page of 1000peacewomen).
Premio Nacional de Periodismo (a Google cache);
Patricia Verdugo: Cómo Estados Unidos abortó el proyecto de la UP;