Friday, June 01, 2007

Torture ship visits Wellington

The Chilean naval vessel Esmeralda will be visiting Wellington on Sunday. It's a very pretty ship, but it has a dark past: during the Pinochet regime it was used as a floating torture chamber, in which hundreds of people were subjected to beatings, water toture, electrocution, mock-execution, and rape for their supposed opposition to the regime (Amnesty International has some background, including statements from some of those tortured on the Esmeralda, here).

Chile has moved on from that era, but it has not yet fully acknowledged the atrocities committed aboard the Esmeralda, or held those responsible to account. Until that happens, this ship should not be allowed to visit civilised countries.

There will be a protest on Sunday to mark the Esmeralda's arrival, from 12ish at Queen's Wharf.


"In January 1979, [Frank] Bainimarama embarked on the Chilean naval training ship, the Buque Escuela Esmeralda, which spent six months circumnavigating South America. On his return to Fiji in August, Bainimarama was appointed Executive Officer of HMFS Kiro."

While this was after the ship was used as a torture chamber, it seems likely that some of the naval trainers were aware of the methods. A violent culture like that doesn't disappear overnight. Perhaps that's where Frank learned to tolerate the kind of violence that was displayed in the November 2000 mutiny and has resurfaced since he took power.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/01/2007 08:07:00 PM

next time the Japanese navy visits I look forward to seeing you shivering your bums off on the wharves. They've never really said sorry either and they did much much worse to our grandparents and their families.

We're talking about events over 50 years ago, they have a completely differnt govt now. Murdering IRA terrorists sit in government in NI but, much as it gripes my gizzard, that's democracy and change is taking place

Same in Chile and all you care about is that they have not said sorry enough.

Sad sad sad. Take Helen's advice - time to move on.


Posted by Anonymous : 6/01/2007 09:42:00 PM

National is 25 points ahead of the No Left Turn Government; the liberatian vegetarians greenie youths want to do a deal with the party (mainly of their parents and grandparents) that promised until yesterday to pull out of Kyoto and ran a campaign that killed the carbon tax, and you want us to protest against a ship belonging to the navy of social democratic-led Chile?


Posted by Anonymous : 6/01/2007 10:16:00 PM

Noticed on your world map of most peaceful nations that Chile is like New Zealand coloured blue.

As noted in Anon's post how long do you have to put an embargo on a visiting traing ship before all is Ok again?

One generation, maybe two?

The ship is an inanimate object. It did not torture anyone, it was the people on board. Those peole still on board? No. So what is the gripe?

Posted by Anonymous : 6/02/2007 07:34:00 AM

As I recall Insider, in response to the Japanese crimes, we (the West) nuked Japanese cities, killed hundreds of thousands of its civilians and hanged or jailed its leaders. And yet you figure there's an outstanding imbalance because we haven't made them apologise enough?

In Northern Ireland, perhaps you didn't notice but both sides were a bunch of murdering terrorists, so finding a govt without any in it is pretty unlikely.

As it happens I agree with you that holding some kind of grudge against the current Chilean govt on behalf of emigres of the 70s doesn't make much sense. But holding a grudge doesn't make any sense in the above two cases either.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 6/02/2007 08:31:00 AM

not sure how you're going to mark its arrival on sunday... it was already there when I walked past last night!

Posted by peteremcc : 6/02/2007 02:45:00 PM

I think the problem is that the Chileans continue to grant immunity to members of the former regime. That's the problem.

Recognising their crimes needn't involve jail or a criminal trial. The Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa showed one way to approach this.

Despite what extremists a long way from Ireland think, Northern Ireland is another model. Amnesty was never given to the paramilitaries (or to soldiers and police). What happened was that sentences for paramilitary activity were truncated to two years (from the date of one of the peace agreement milestones).

Martin McGuiness served a six month jail sentence during the Troubles. He hasn't been convicted of anything since (probably because as a political leader he avoided direct involvement in paramilitary activity, and the British government sensibly avoided introducing "thoughtcrime" offences during the Troubles). And people vote for him. If they didn't, he wouldn't get elected.

Posted by Rich : 6/02/2007 02:55:00 PM

The protest was called by members of the Chilean community in Wellington. The events are actually just over 35 years ago 'insider' and still being dealt with by the people of Chile.

The original email included the following details which might help with the context for those who are hard of caring...

"As some of you may already be aware, the Chilean cadet ship "Esmeralda" also known as "the White Lady" will be making a visit to Wellington between the 3rd and 5th June; and, as many of you may already know, the "White Lady" has a dark past that many Chileans are all too familiar with: over 120 people were detained and brutally tortured on this vessel during the first months of the 1973 military coup in Chile. Consequently, the vessel's former symbolic honour has since been tainted and stained with the blood of its vicitms, including British Priest, Michael Woodward, who has illegally detained on the Esmeralda and died as a result of the torture he suffered at the hands of his naval captors.

Despite attempts by the Chilean Navy to deny the vessel's involvement in many horrific crimes, it was forced to finally admit what happened after more than 30 years (a reflection of the slow working road to transition and true democracy in Chile - remember that not even Pinochet was brought to justice before dying!!) Unfortunately, the Esmeralda continues to be used today as a training ship for its cadets and sails around the world despite opposition. Many detention centres in Chile have now been transformed into memorials and historical sites used as a reminder of the human tragedies, and the Esmeralda should be no exception to this."

John A.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/03/2007 12:02:00 PM

What I don't get is what precisely, or even generally, you are trying to achieve with a protest about the Esmeralda visiting Wellington.

Is this about disatisfaction with the precise details of an apology for events that happened 20+ years ago in another country or is it due to a lack of other things to proest about over the long weekend?

Posted by Anonymous : 6/04/2007 01:44:00 AM

I'm sorry that from your seeming position of comfort and privilege that you can not understand that with 3000 people killed and over 30,000 people tortured while living in a police state leaves an indelible mark on people's lives.

People DIRECTLY affected by these events are protesting against the continued use of this ship by their country's navy. It is also part of an international campaign to get this ship decommissioned and possibly used as a memorial.

People who are not from Chile would like to show solidarity and support with this effort. Show some humanity Oliver, or at least comprehension skills. John A.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/04/2007 09:30:00 AM

While we understand that actions aboard the White Lady --in the past-- have deeply upset many families etc etc... do not take it out on the Chilean crew!! We met them, they are lovely men who do not deserve all this angst over something that they were not even involved in. The Esmeralda is currently being used as a training ship, not for the use of torturing people. We say go visit the ship. Its beautiful, despite what may have happened in the past.

Hasta el ano proximo Chile

Posted by Anonymous : 6/04/2007 08:06:00 PM

I do not think that anyone who is not directly linked to what happened in Chile during Pinochets rule, have the right to have a say on the matter. My grandparents had to become refugees,live in camps and eventually flee to New Zealand because of the atrocities going on and in fear for their children. Back to the subject, yes the Esmeralda was used for torturing and so forth, but that was many years ago and now is a reputable navy ship we as Chileans are proud of.
The government in rule now is completely the opposite to Pinochets years and Chile are prospering.
As long as people are still holding these "protests" (most who werent even involved in the tragedies!), how are those directly affected supposed to move on??? It is just a constant reminder all these stupid goings on, and all they want to do and go and see this ship,something from their country that is beautiful and that they are proud off. for once just give them peace.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/14/2007 08:33:00 PM