Update Monday Jul 25
Raw video of the ship docked in San Francisco, from KTVU.
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.
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.
- Esmeralda protests in San Diego (NPR)
- The name Esmeralda (Chilean Navy)
- Torture and The Naval Training Ship The “Esmeralda” (Amnesty International)