When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

CLARIN

The Proof That Pinochet Spied On Schoolchildren

A newly unearthed trove of documents linked to the reign of Augusto Pinochet reveals the regime's obsession with controlling its youngest members. Some parents even reported on students.

Always watching
Always watching
Araceli Viceconte

SANTIAGO - Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile spied on children, teenagers, and young adults in their own schools, whether these were public, private, or religious institutions.

It closely monitored “suspects” and ordered the firing of teachers “disloyal” to the military dictatorship, as revealed by an investigation by the German news agency DPA released yesterday.

DPA’s journalist, Mauricio Weibel, had access to some 30,000 documents from the intelligence organization, National Information Center (Central Nacional de Informaciones, CNI), which reveal a wide network of espionage. The network was coordinated between this intelligence organization, successor to the former Chilean national intelligence agency (DINA), and the Ministry of Education under Pinochet’s regime (1973-1990).

The CNI, which was responsible for numerous kidnappings, tortures, and murders of opponents to the dictatorship, maintained “a daily, administrative relationship with the Ministry of Education,” Weibel explained to Clarín.

A Ministry typically just dedicated to educating young people was instead an integral part of the “War Plan at the Home Front,” and had a Security Office whos members regularly attended courses with the intelligence bureau. Furthermore, the Minister at the time would send a daily bulletin to the secret police. “At the end of the month, the documents were burned, but this destruction itself was also recorded,” said Weibel.

This was part of system obsessed with “controlling everything that could represent a threat to the regime.”

Reverberations today

In parallel to this systematic plan, individuals' turning in potentially disloyal people was strongly encouraged. Some of Pinochet’s followers denounced others with a devotion similar to that of Nazi collaborators in France during the Vichy regime. Some of the documents investigated by DPA include incidents of parent and teacher letters personally addressed to Pinochet. These reported, for example, on the leftist tendency of a student or on a teacher’s democratic vocation.

Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, like Jorge Rafael Videla’s in Argentina, penetrated practically every public and private sphere, including education. Even though it had long been suspected of extending its expansive intelligence reach to schools, there had been no physical proof until now.

“Now nobody can deny that this happened, that such espionage existed,” said Weibel, who discovered records of thousands of teachers fired from their jobs for political reasons. There are shocking cases. For example, a young man, Iván Salinas, was a “suspect” among other things for organizing a painting workshop at his school. There are other very troubling details, such as the fact that various members of Pinochet’s Ministry of Education were armed with weapons bought with public money. “The image of a minister with a pistol in his belt selling State schools to private enterprises is a very strong one,” commented the DPA’s journalist.

In fact, it was in the 1980s, while this spy network was active, that the Chilean government closed down many schools and colleges. It sold them to private investors or transferred the primary and secondary schools to the municipalities. This system continues today where only 35 percent of students attend public schools. This is one of the main reasons for the student protests that started in 2011 against Sebastián Piñera’s government, and continue in full swing today.

At the same time, while this network kept a lookout for possible opponents, the Pinochet regime tried to form a loyal cadre of youth. It organized conferences and courses of indoctrination on subjects such as National Security. According to Weibel’s revelations, several current officers were among the speakers at those meetings. Interestingly, they include current Interior Minister, Andrés Chadwick, and the leader of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), Patricio Melero.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Coronavirus

As COVID Explodes, An Inside Look At China's Gray Market Of Generic Drugs

COVID infections have skyrocketed since China eased restrictions as public health policy has not been able to keep up. Unable to find medications, many have turned to generic drugs of questionable safety. It's the culmination of a longstanding problem.

Photo of a pharmarcist walking past shelves with medication in Yucheng, northern China

A pharmacy in Yucheng, northern China

Xian Zhu and Feiyu Xiang

BEIJING — When her grandfather joined the millions of infected Chinese, Chen quickly decided to buy COVID-19 drugs to limit the effects of the virus. She woke up early to shop on Jingdong, one of China’s biggest online shopping websites, but failed in snatching the limited daily stocks made available.

Fearing COVID's effect on her grandfather, who suffers from dementia, she contacted an independent drug agent and bought a box of generic pharmaceuticals.

With China having suddenly ended its zero-COVID policy, infections have peaked. According to the latest estimates by Airfinity, a British medical information and analysis company, severe COVID outbreaks happened over Chinese New Year with 62 million infections forecast for the second half of January.

In a press conference held by China's State Council on Jan. 11, COVID-19 pills were mentioned as part of the new epidemic control mechanisms. In late 2021, Pfizer developed Paxlovid, the world's first potent COVID drug, with one 100 mg white ritonavir and two 150 mg light pink nirmatrelvir tablets taken every 12 hours. China imported the first batch of Paxlovid for clinical use in March 2022 and included it in the ninth edition of the treatment protocol.

But the first 21,200 boxes of Paxlovid were dispersed to only eight provinces, and no further information is available on where the drug ended up and how much it was used.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest