Clara is from Chile. She moved to London around thirty years ago and since then she goes back to South America only rarely. She is disappointed by the course her country is taking under a right wing government supervised by the US. She is also outraged by the number of nostalgic Chilean citizens still supporting their former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Fourteen years ago, since October 1998, Clara and other hundreds of citizens from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Ireland, campaigned in London for 503 days for the extradition from Britain to Spain of the Chilean torturer and assassin, while he was under house arrest. They would go to protest in Parliament Square requesting that Pinochet would be tried and sentenced for his crimes. In the weekends they would also vigil and show their outrage outside the mansion in Virginia Water where he resided during that time. Jim, an Irish activist who also campaigned for the extradition of the dictator, recalls that at the protests, to overcome language barriers, some English speaker would shout ‘Only one decision!’ and the huge Spanish speaker crowd would continue ‘Extradition!’. Also Clara remembers some of the most popular Spanish chants from those 1998-2000 events: ‘We will not forget you, we will not give up, we will keep on fighting until your time is up!’. Another, more unequivocal, simply said ‘Asesino!’
Today Clara is one of the activists who maintain a daily vigil in front of the Ecuadorian embassy in Hans Crescent, London, to show her support to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The journalist and editor is wanted in Sweden at all cost despite his many past attempts of been interviewed. He has been inside the embassy for nearly four months, threatened of arrest by the Met Police notwithstanding he was granted political asylum in Ecuador.
After fourteen years, at least six of the campaigners against Chilean dictator Pinochet met again at the Ecuadorian embassy in support of Assange. Apart from the historical impact and repercussions of the two cases, it’s interesting the recurrence of some of its actors. Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón who in 1998 issued the international arrest warrant to extradite Pinochet to face his crimes towards Spanish citizens tortured and killed in Chile by his regime (and then charged him with genocide and terrorism), is the same Garzón that today offers his legal support to Assange. It is also the same English barrister Clare Montgomery who represented assassin and dictator Pinochet, that now wins her extradition case against Assange (at least in the courtroom). And unsurprisingly, the same group of activists, Clara among them, who yesterday were opposing torture, political persecution and dictatorship, are still here today, fighting for truth and freedom of information.
Photos from those 503 days of protests in London, 1998-2000: Memoriaviva.com
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We will not forget you, we will not give up. Courage is contagious.