Olga Weisfeiler as Determined as Ever in Chile

Hopes To Make Progress In Case Of Brother's Disappearance

Santiago Times/March 28, 2006
By Geoff Burt

For the fifth time, the sister of Boris Weisfeiler is back in Chile, trying to attract attention to her brother's strange disappearance in 1985 and push his case forward. Olga Weisfeiler plans to meet with officials from all areas of government, adding that she is "optimistic about the new faces" in power in Chile.

Boris Weisfeiler, who was a math professor at Pennsylvania State University, is the one U.S. citizen still unaccounted for among 1,119 people who disappeared during the 17 years of Chile's dictatorship (1973-1990).

On Monday, Olga delivered a letter to La Moneda, signed by a group of 14 US Senators and Representatives, urging President Michelle Bachelet to "continue the investigation of Professor Weisfeiler's disappearance, so that a resolution to this tragic case can finally be achieved."

Early Tuesday morning, she will meet with Judge Zepeda, who is in charge of her brother's case. Olga says that she is frustrated by the number of times the case has been transferred from one judge to another, and she hopes that Judge Zepeda will finally be able to make some progress.

Later this week she expects to meet with U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly and Chile's State Defense Council, the legal arm of the Chilean government. She also hopes to meet the president of Chile's of the Supreme Court and President Bachelet herself, whom she met in 2002 when Bachelet was the Minister of Defense.

Olga hopes that her persistence will pay off. "We have come here to push every possible government agency forward," she said, adding that, "if you don't push, nothing will get done."

Olga recalls that her brother Boris had said he would call her upon his return from a hiking trip in southern Chile in January, 1985. Days passed with Olga waiting anxiously for a call that never came. Finally, a friend of Boris called her to say that he had not returned and that his green backpack had been found on the banks of the Nuble River in southern Chile.

The Pinochet government conducted a cursory investigation, concluding that he had drowned in the river. Olga never believed that account.

Then, in 1987, a Chilean military informant told U.S. embassy officials that he was a member of a patrol that arrested a foreign hiker two years earlier and concluded he was a Russian spy. According to the informant, he was alive and being held in Colonia Dignidad, a secretive colony founded by a known paedophile and former member of Nazi Germany's air force. Colonia Dignidad is now known to have been a torture centre used by the military regime.

Olga visited Colonia Dignidad in November of 2004 to learn more about her brother's disappearance. But she wasn't able to find any answers. "They were evasive. We saw almost no people there. They (the new leaders) are not saying that he isn't there, they just say that they are too young to know what happened 20 years ago. It is very depressing. I kept looking and thinking in which corner, under which tree is my brother kept," Olga told The Santiago Times.

She remains focused on uncovering the truth behind her brother's disappearance, despite years of indifference from the Chilean government, and inaction by the U.S. embassy and government.

Olga says that during the crucial months and early years after her brother's disappearance, "They didn't do anything, the embassy. They did nothing."

In April 1986 - more than a year after Weisfeiler's disappearance - Consul Jayne Kobliska wrote in a memo, "the real danger in this case is that we will delay action until it is too late to either save Weisfeiler's life or to determine the true circumstances of his death."

Weisfeiler says now, however, that things are changing and that in recent years the U.S. Embassy in Santiago has been "active and supportive for a change."

On March 8, the same group of 14 Senators and Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging her to address the disappearance when she met with newly elected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

There is hope that Bachelet - who was herself a victim of torture under the Pinochet regime - will push harder for answers than her predecessors. Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman, said that Rice did address the issue with Bachelet. "She (Rice) emphasized the importance that the U.S. government attaches to this case," Higgins said. "And the Chilean president said it was important to Chile, as well."

Bachelet told Rice that new investigations in the Colonia Dignidad case are yielding new information, Higgins said.

Until the details of her brother's disappearance are brought to light, Olga Weisfeiler will not rest: "we must leave no stone unturned," she said.

The Santiago Times - News about Chile

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