Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Cheyre Controversy

I think it is fair to say that Juan Emilio Cheyre is widely considered the commander in chief (he was in the position from 2002-2006) who helped push the Chilean army to accept its past more than anyone else and to condemn human rights abuses. In a forthcoming chapter in a book, I argue that he was one of a generation of younger officers, like Oscar Izurieta, who worked to depoliticize the army and focus it more squarely on professional issues.

After retiring from the army, he went into academia (he has a political science Ph.D.) at the Catholic University. I met him last year at the Latin American Studies Association conference, and exchanged a few brief emails with him afterward. He was very intelligent and friendly. I am guessing all of these qualities led to him being named to what seemed an odd position, the president of the Consejo Directivo of the Servicio Electoral, which runs elections in Chile.

He recently resigned from that position because of events from the past that have just come to light. In 1973, not long after the coup, he was a lieutenant in Arica, the assistant to a colonel. In that capacity, he was given a two year old, Ernesto Lejderman, to take to nuns. The child eventually ended up in Argentina and was raised by his grandparents (his father was Argentine and his mother was Mexican).* Their parents, his superiors told him, were subversives who committed suicide rather than accept arrest. Cheyre says he believed that for a long time, but now knows he was lied to.

Lejderman grew up in Argentina and was told his parents died in a car crash. He later learned otherwise. The soldiers involved were given a few years in prison, but not until 2009. The bottom line, though, is that his parents were murdered, the Chilean army knew it very well, and no one said anything.

Now this is in the spotlight. The two even went on a TV show together. And it will now hover over everything Cheyre does from now on.

The past hovers over Chile too, no matter how many other advances it makes.

* given how many Argentine children of murdered leftists were given up for adoption, especially to military families, I am curious about why this did not happen in Chile, or at least in this case. Lejderman actually ended up with relatives.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP