“I thought that now I would be able to find out what happened to my daughter, what happened to her child. She was nearly six months pregnant when she was detained in December 1976. What happened to my grandchild? Was he born or not? Or did they kill both of them?”
Reinalda Pereira’s mother in 1986
Reinalda del Carmen Pereira Plaza was a medical laboratory technician and a trade union leader. She was violently abducted in Santiago on 15 December 1976 by two armed men who forced her into a car. She was nearly six months pregnant at the time.
She was one of 13 people: 11 members of the Communist Party and two of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), arrested between 29 November and 20 December 1976 by members of the security forces. The methods used for arresting the thirteen were similar, in particular that in all but one case, the arrests took place in public. In most of the cases the government’s official response to the courts was that the thirteen had crossed into Argentina on foot via the Los Libertadores pass between the end of 1976 and the beginning of 1977.
Witnesses to the arrest of Reinalda del Carmen reported that at about 8.30pm as she was waiting for a bus, a man got out of a Peugeot car and grabbed her violently. A second man got out and as she was bundled into the car, she hit her head on the door before being thrown on to the floor of the car. She showed signs of pain and distress and shouted repeatedly for someone to help her. Two men who were identified as belonging to the Military Academy reportedly tried to intervene but were told not to get involved. The car sped off followed by another in which five security agents were travelling.
On 20 December 1976, Reinalda del Carmen’s mother submitted a recurso de amparo (similar to a writ of habeas corpus) to the Santiago Appeals Court. In January 1977, the Ministry of the Interior claimed that according to travel certificate 354, she had left the country on foot on 21 November 1976. The Appeals Court rejected the appeal and passed the case to a criminal court for further investigation.
Her mother appealed to the Supreme Court but to no avail. In response to the request for the appointment of a Special Investigating Judge by the families of the 13 people who ‘disappeared’ towards the end of 1976, the Supreme Court appointed a judge to look into eight of the 13 cases. Two other cases were subsequently added. The inquiry proceeded without much progress until it was transferred to Judge Carlos Cerda in 1982.
Judge Cerda’s persistent and meticulous investigation succeeded in establishing that the documents provided to show that the ”disappeared” had left the country were falsified and that there was no proof that they had left Chile. The judge was also able to investigate the composition and operations of the so-called Joint Command (Comando Conjunto), which operated from approximately late 1975 until late 1976 in Santiago, coordinating intelligence activities and political repression, including a number of ‘disappearances’.
The turning point came in August 1986 when Judge Cerda charged 38 members of the armed forces and another civilian collaborator with ”illicit association”. His investigation was of huge importance for all the cases of ”disappeared” prisoners. It was the first time since 1973 that a judge, of his own initiative, had successfully investigated a case. For the first time also, a judge had decided to charge not only those personally responsible for the arrests but also their superiors — including one air force general and former member of the governing junta. As the report of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation subsequently recorded, his investigations also made it possible to demonstrate ”that there was a conspiracy between uniformed troops and civilians who were kidnapping, torturing, and murdering people and that this conspiracy had budgets, funding, personnel, buildings and so forth”In addition, it was demonstrated that at least two of these people—Reinalda Pereira Plaza and Edras de las Mercedes Pinto Arroyo – had been arrested by people involved in this conspiracy. Judge Cerda’s findings also demonstrated that persistent investigations could shed light on the fate of the ”disappeared”.
Nothing is known about the fate of Reinalda del Carmen Pereira Plaza nor whether her baby was born. She was one of nine women who were pregnant at the time of their arrest and ”disappearance”.
Subsequently, we know that Reinalda was taken to the Simon Bolivar barracks where she was brutally tortured and assassinated by the Lautaro Brigade. Adrian Rivas is implicated in the aggravated kidnapping of Reinalda Pereira Plaza.
Her husband, Max Santelices died in 2007 and dedicated his life to seeking the truth about the fate of his wife and child.
Help us extradite Adriana Rivas back to Chile to face trial. Send letter to Attorney General of Australia, George Brandis.
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