Chile’s Naval Ship “Esmeralda” Docks in San Francisco; Protests Around Pinochet-Era Role Planned

Update Monday Jul 25 Raw video of the ship docked in San Francisco, from KTVU.

Original post Once again the Esmeralda, a controversial four-masted Chilean Navy ship, has docked here in San Francisco, and a protest against the ship’s presence will take place Saturday at noon.

The Esmeralda (Photo: Julia Bernstein/KQED)
To some, the Esmeralda is the country’s peaceful floating embassy. According to Rolando Ortega, the Chilean Consul General of San Francisco, the ship has docked in 300 ports worldwide, and this is its 7th trip to San Francisco.

But to others, the ship is a reminder of the brutal military coup that brought down President Salvador Allende in 1973. Jaime Salazar was once first sailor or ‘marinero primero’ in the Chilean Navy, training aboard the Esmeralda in 1969. He was among the first political prisoners of the new regime, was jailed for five years and ultimately exiled.

Salazar says the Esmeralda was used to detain and torture prisoners like himself during the coup, and that he was a witness to the violence. “The Navy tortured people. And I know those people. And the Navy… they raped women on board. And… they killed a person on the boat… I believe we need to protest this. Because an instrument of state terrorism cannot be our ambassador.”

Because the Navy has not formally apologized for the violence against prisoners, the ship has been greeted with global protest since 1974. Protesters want a memorial to the victims of violence to be permanently placed inside the ship by the Navy’s high command.

Salazar is one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest, at which 50 – 100 people are expected. He says he is hopeful that the Chilean government will finally meet their demands this year.

Rolando Ortega, the consul general, said that the ship is part of the country’s history. But he had no comment on the protesters’ requests.

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  • Nancy G.

    It’s shocking that the Chilean government would use a ship with such a terrible past to represent their country. It’s like sending the Exxon Valdez into the Gulf of Mexico and expecting the people to say “Boy are we glad to see you, welcome!”

    • Tall Ship

      As a San Franciscan, I feel this was a once in a life time opportunity to watch such a spectacular ship sail in to our port with all her sails flying. The crews pride shows and we should all move on from the 70s.

  • Luis Jorquera

    La Esmeralda es – como dicen en el Nuevo Testamento- un sepulcro blanqueado.
    En el interior de ese hermoso barco aún perdura la cobardía, la traición y la mentira, ya que no han tenido la hombría de pedir perdón por los asesinatos, violaciones e ultrajes cometidos para sustentar una dictadura.
    Saludos a los marineros que tuvieron la valentía de oponerse al golpe de Pinochet.

  • Pony

    Someone should just sink the boat and be done with it

    • Tall Ship

      This comment barely deserves a response~

  • Stephanie Leigh

    Why not resurrect Amistad while were at it and hold celebrations at every major port between the U.S. and Africa.

  • raquel brown

    I am startled of the stupidity and ignorance of some bleeding heart liberals! Get a life , let go the past! Chile is one of the greatest countries because of Pinochet, otherwise Chile would be another Cuba. Thank God they are not. Everything can not be perfect in life!!
    Let it go!!!!

    • Steve Body

      Absolutely right! If it wasn’t for bleeding heart liberals, Hitler wouldn’t have the bad image he does. People whining about gassing a few million Jews – pssh! Pinochet only killed about 30,000. And what’s wrong with torture? We do it, so it’s got to be OK – only UnAmericans object to it.

  • Rhetoric Frederick

    Looks like it is time for a fresh coat of paint.

  • Dan

    THE ESMERALDA SHIP:
    THE CHILEAN NAVY’S TORTURE CHAMBER
    Thirty seven years ago, on September 11th 1973, general Augusto Pinochet ousted Dr. Salvador Allende’s Chilean constitutional government in a bloody coup d’état. During the 17 years of his dictatorship, he coerced Chile into an empire of state terrorism, the cruelest of all forms of terrorism since it relies on the use of authority to commit its crimes. According to official information, during this period 3,197 men and women were brutally assassinated by state agents. This number includes 49 children between the ages of 2 and 16 –one of them, a 13 year-old boy found with 11 bullet impacts on the body and 9 impacts on the head–, 126 women –some of them pregnant–, and some fifty foreign nationals.
    According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (Report 24/OCT/74), Amnesty International (Report AMR 22/32/80), the American Senate (Resolution 361-16/JUN/86), and the Report issued by the Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Part Three, Chapter I, Section 2 f.2.), immediately after September 11 1973, the ship Esmeralda was used by the Chilean Navy as a center of detention and torture in the port of Valparaíso.
    The testimonies to the fact that the Esmeralda was indeed used as a floating torture chamber include that of Chilean lawyer Luis Vega, who died in exile in Israel (2001); the ex-government official of the National Institute of Agricultural Development, Claudio Correa, currently residing in the United Kingdom; and the college professor and ex-mayor of Valparaiso, Sergio Vuskovic, currently residing in Chile.
    According to the report of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “In the case of the ship Esmeralda, the investigations conducted by this commission established that a special unit of the navy was operational on board for the purpose of interrogating detainees who were on the ship and also those brought to her from other detention centers. As a general rule, these interrogation sessions included torture.” According to the same report, the other detention centers included the cargo ships Maipo and Lebu.
    Due to the fact that the detainees were being moved from one ship to another, the actual number of prisoners on board varies depending on the testimonies. However, the U.S. Senate (1986) indicates that there were 112 of them at one point. According to the evidence available, there were 40 women who were subject to all kinds of torture, rape, and other violations of their dignity and rights. Moreover, amongst the detainees there was a Chilean-British Catholic priest, Michael R. Woodward, who had to be taken to the Naval Hospital upon the recommendation of a navy doctor. Father Woodward eventually died as a consequence of the torture inflicted upon him. To this date, it has been impossible to determine where his remains were buried.
    Father Woodward’s assassination by the use of torture is part of Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón’s case against Augusto Pinochet for his responsibility in the crimes of genocide and international terrorism involving multiple assassinations, conspiracies to assassinate, kidnapping, torture and forced disappearances. Father Woodward’ detention on the Esmeralda was first reported by the Valparaíso newspaper La Estrella in September of 1973, while all the Chilean media, including La Estrella, were under military censorship. This fact constitutes undeniable evidence of the truthfulness and accuracy of La Estrella’s report regarding father Woodward’s detention on the Esmeralda.
    The Esmeralda’s Cóndor figurehead is not only one of the Chilean national emblems, but also reminiscent of Operation Cóndor, the international terrorist plan implemented by Augusto Pinochet and his military supporters to coordinate military repression in the countries of the Southern Cone of Latin America, Europe and the U.S. In fact, Operation Cóndor allowed them to use military intelligence services for the purpose of assassinating Chilean General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires and President Allende’s Foreign Relations Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. Operation Cóndor was also instrumental in the assassination attempt against former Chilean Vice-President Bernardo Leighton in Rome and the death of ex-President Joao Goulart in Brazil.
    The Esmeralda is not only the Chilean Navy’s Torture Chamber, as it has been thoroughly documented, but also –along with the bird of prey on its bow– a symbol of the most heinous crimes ever committed in the countries of the Southern Cone of Latin America.
    The ship’s annual visit to different ports of the world should not be welcomed until the Chilean Navy overcomes its moral cowardice, acknowledges the criminal use of the ship and other detention, torture and death centers under its control, discloses the names of the criminals involved, applies dishonorable discharge to them, and fully cooperates with the Chilean Judiciary system surrendering all relevant information and documentation.

    * Germán F. Westphal is a former Chilean political prisoner and a Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Maryland, 21250, U.S.A.

  • Holly Ell

    They’ve every right to be angry. It’s a thoughtless act and I agree it should be a memorial or a museum to honor the victims. Though I’m sure the victims would ether see it burned, I think its a haunting beauty of a ship and it should be immortalized. What an interesting story.

  • Tall Ship

    Please~ This a beautiful ship on a worthy mission. If we held this standard to our own fleet, there would have to be a protest for every ship. Not to mention what some people have done to get their personal yachts. Show some class and respect for some great people from a great country~

  • Tall Ship

    Where are all the native people that were in San Francisco and the rest of the US? If we are to destroy all pieces of troubled history, where should we start??????? Human history has some quirks, lets not take away from these proud people from a proud country on one heck of a ship.

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