Chile: Pinochet torture centre now Allende museum
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From the Washington Post (USA):
Pinochet-Era Police Center to Become Allende Museum
By Eva Vergara
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Now it will house artwork and be dedicated to the Marxist foe overthrown by the general’s bloody 1973 coup.
The Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum, due to open next month, will exhibit work by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Roberto Matta and Joan Miro.
“This is Salvador Allende‘s revenge,” said Jose Balmes, the Spanish-born director of the museum.
The remodeling of the mansion was a journey through the inner workings of the shadowy agency responsible for many of the dictatorship’s worst abuses.
Workers found passports, papers with instructions to agents, and diagrams of places under surveillance or targeted for operations.
“In the basement, we found a communications center used to tap telephones around the country,” Balmes said.
“There was evidence many phones were tapped.”
Some of the rooms in the big, two-story house in a middle-class neighborhood near downtown Santiago were used for interrogating detainees, although the place was not a jail, Balmes said.
The mansion served as the Spanish Embassy in the 1950s but then stood empty until the secret police took it over in 1973.
That site, in a southern suburb of the capital, has been turned into a memorial to victims.
Among those held there were Chile’s incoming president, Michelle Bachelet, and her mother, Angela Jeria.
The mansion converted into the Allende museum was purchased and remodeled with financial support from the Chilean government and European countries including Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.
Spy equipment found there is being left untouched, as a reminder of what the house was before, said Balmes, 79, who came to Chile in 1939 to get away from Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in Spain.
“The place is a memorial,” he said.
Documents that the workers found were turned over to Hugo Dolmetsch, one of several judges investigating human rights abuses under Pinochet.
Many of the artworks to be exhibited come from a museum established by Allende in 1972.
After the coup, the art disappeared.
It was not until civilian rule was restored in 1990 that the collection was traced to a basement at another Santiago museum.
Some pieces had been damaged, while others were well kept, Balmes said.
A few paintings were never recovered, including one by Miro, he said.
Another by Miro, a tribute to Allende painted in 1976, will be exhibited when the museum opens.
See also here.
History of economic neoliberalism in Chile: here.
Did US Intelligence Help Pinochet’s Junta Murder My Brother? Here.
Quique Cruz sums up the story of his long life journey towards the creation of an extraordinary work of art and human testimony called Archaeology of Memory: “The day after my nineteenth birthday, I was detained by Pinochet’s secret police and spent one month as a desaparecido in the Villa Grimaldi torture centre: here.