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The Foul and Bloody Story of the Esmeralda

The Foul and Bloody Story of the Esmeralda

Wellingtonians may be pleasantly surprised on Tuesday 5 June by the arrival of a beautiful Chilean naval ship commonly known as the Esmeralda, but what might be even more surprising is its blood-stained history that the Chilean embassy in NZ and the Chilean Navy neglect to acknowledge.

According to a report published by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, known as the Rettig Report, several ships belonging to the Chilean Navy were identified as having been used as detention and torture centres in the months following the bloody 1973 military coup, led by Pinochet in Chile.

The Esmeralda, ironically known also as the "White Lady", is a Chilean naval training ship which is notorious for its use as a floating torture chamber and prison. Over a hundred people were subjected to cruel and brutal interrogations and torture including Father Michael Woodward, a British-Chilean priest who was tortured to death aboard the vessel.

Despite its horrific past, each year the Esmeralda visits ports around the world acting as a "good will" ambassador on behalf of Chile, but her tradition as a patriotic symbol of honour has long since been tarnished by the Chilean Navy and its despicable actions. In fact, the Chilean Navy continued to deny the use of the ship for torture and detention for over 30 years!

Despite the victims' testimonies and the navy's acknowledgement of the atrocities committed, those responsible for these crimes have yet to be brought to justice. The ongoing use of the vessel not only adds insult to injury for the victims of this violence and their families, but also reaffirms the Chilean Navy's lack of respect for human rights and lack of remorse for actions that have been condemned around the world.
It is unjust to expect victims to forgive and forget when the perpetrators do not express regret and remorse.

It is for these reasons that we demand that the "White Lady's" voyages be put to an end permanently, that the Chilean Navy apologise to the victims for these abuses and that the perpetrators - protected by the navy and the Chilean government - be brought to justice for their crimes.


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