Students Staff

28 October 2013

Presidential frontrunner supports special week focused on Chile at University of Essex

Michelle Bachelet

Presidential frontrunner Michelle Bachelet, pictured receiving her honorary degree, is backing the week of events

A week of events dedicated to Chile will be launched at the University of Essex with a special message from Michelle Bachelet, favourite to win the upcoming Chilean presidential election.

Bachelet, who received an honorary doctorate  from the University in 2008, was president of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and is now leading the opinion polls as leader of the New Majority Coalition.

The University’s Latin America Week starting on Monday 18 November will involve talks, films and events focusing on Chile’s experiences over the past 40 years.

The week comes at a pivotal moment for the country as it tries to reconcile its painful past with a promising future as one of the expanding economies in South America although this runs parallel with a continuing struggle for social equality.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, which removed the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Official figures indicate more than 3,000 Chileans were killed under the Pinochet regime and close to 40,000 suffered human rights abuses including torture, detention and exile.

Several Essex staff were among the Chileans forced into exile in the 1970s who have forged successful careers in the UK. Academics within the Human Rights Centre have also worked on cases relating to the Pinochet regime including this year’s landmark Leopoldo García Lucero hearing, art historians at Essex have analysed the artistic response to the coup in Chile and the rest of the world and Professor Todd Landman , Executive Dean for the Social Sciences, is an expert on human rights who has written about the situation in Chile.

Professor Nelson Fernandez, a leading immunologist based in the School of Biological Sciences at Essex, was one of the victims of the Pinochet regime and imprisoned in the notorious Villa Grimaldi and concentration camp Tres Alamos.

He said: “This week of events is being held at Essex because of the international recognition for its work on human rights and the transition to democracy in the aftermath of repressive regimes. The talks, films and discussions will highlight how topical the issues of human rights are in today’s world and how essential it is to continue working on improving the legislation on human rights worldwide.. The international reaction to human rights abuses in Chile saved thousands from being killed by the Pinochet regime including me, but the country is still dealing with the legacy from those years of terror.”

The week is titled Chile 1973-2013: Memory, Accountability and Reparation and is a collaboration between the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), ESCALA (Essex Collection of Art from Latin America), the Essex Transitional Justice Network (ETJN) and the Human Rights Centre at Essex.

Events include:

Monday 18 November – a talk by Sheila Cassidy, who raised awareness in the UK of human rights abuses under the Pinochet regime in the 1970s by writing Audacity to Believe about her experiences of being imprisoned and tortured in Chile. This will be followed by a panel chaired by Dr Julian Burger, with Essex-based Chilean staff Professor Nelson Fernández, Gladis García Soza and María Elena Heed. 4pm to 6pm, LTB 1, Lecture Theatre Building, Colchester Campus..

Tuesday 19 November – a panel discussion on Chilean torture survivor Leopoldo García Lucero’s landmark legal case seeking justice and reparation for his treatment under the Pinochet regime, which eventually led to his family being forced into exile. Panellists include: Mr García and his wife, Director of Redress Carla Ferstman and from the Human Rights Centre Lorna McGregor and Dr Clara Sandoval. 3 to 5pm, TC 1.10, Tony Rich Teaching Centre, Colchester Campus.

Tuesday 19 November – a film screening of Nostalgia de la Luz (2010), presented by the Centre for Film Studies and the Essex Transitional Justice Network. 7pm to 9pm, LTB 1, Lecture Theatre Building, Colchester Campus.

Wednesday 20 November – Panel discussion: 'Chile, the UK, and the visual arts: Cecilia Vicuña, Artists for Democracy and the legacy of the Coup'.Panellists include Professor Dawn Ades, Cecilia Brunson, Professor Valerie Fraser, and Peter Griffin. 4pm to 6pm, LTB 4, Lecture Theatre Building, Colchester Campus.

Wednesday 20 November – Film screening of No (2012) , presented by the Centre for Film Studies and the Essex Transitional Justice Network. 7pm to 9pm, LTB 10, Lecture Theatre Building, Colchester Campus.

Thursday 21 November – Talk by Professor Todd Landman titled 'A Most Unlikely Case: Chile, Pinochet and the Advance of Human Rights'. 4pm to 5pm, LTB 4, Lecture Theatre Building, Colchester Campus.

There will also be an exhibition organised by ESCALA of two recently acquired drawings by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña which will travel to various locations at the University’s Colchester Campus. Vicuña made the two drawings, palabrarma (1974) and eman si pasión/parti si pasión (1974), while exiled in London following the coup in 1973. Vicuña was also one of the founders of Artists for Democracy (1974-77), a group which pledged to support, through visual art, both Chilean and other worldwide liberation fronts. 

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