Chile: familiar forces behind attacks on Communist Party
by Bob Briton As the Communist Party of Chile (CPC) prepares for the country's parliamentary elections, a clearer picture is starting to form about which forces were responsible for the recent brutal eviction of the Party's Central Committee from its building in Santiago. Progressive people and organisations from around the world have roundly condemned this latest attack on the Chilean Party. It involved the storming of the building located in the San Pueblo district of the capital on November 27 by more than 300 police (Carabineros). They were accompanied by trucks carrying water cannons and tear gas equipment. The police isolated the headquarters by cordoning off the four city blocks surrounding the building. Inside, the Carabineros left a trail of destruction. Paper and broken glass litter all three floors and computers and other equipment that wasn't stolen were simply destroyed. The occupants were physically and verbally abused during the eviction. Women were dragged out by the hair. Altogether 50 people were brutalised, arrested and detained including the Party's General Secretary Gladys Marin. Five of the detainees were seriously injured. Throughout the night Party activists and supporters continued their brave efforts to re-enter the building. A small group actually achieved this goal. In the port city of Valparaiso, demonstrations which broke out at news of the eviction were ruthlessly suppressed by baton-wielding police, water canons and another wave of arrests. The Party was given no notice of the eviction. The first they knew of the event was when a reporter came to the building and announced his intention to cover the forced evacuation of the building. The Party was thus able to call its lawyers to the headquarters but their intervention was to be ignored by the invading Carabineros. The series of events leading up to the eviction points to the operation of forces hostile to the Party. The saga began in 1975 when the leadership of the then clandestine Party sought to buy a property for its eventual use in the name of some friends of the CPC. To further obscure the Party's ownership, its nominal "ownership" was transferred from one supporter to the next. Unfortunately, at a certain point one of these stand-in "owners" placed the property in their family company, which later incurred debts requiring the sale of the building. The court authorities in Santiago ordered that the building be auctioned. It was eventually bought by a company identified only as "JQ", which has as one of its principals a person who has been imprisoned on a number of occasions for fraud. JQ had not been properly incorporated and, aside from buying the building that housed the CPC's Central Committee, had shown no evidence of any other financial activity. Taking advantage of an improper leasing agreement with the Party, JQ sought and was given an eviction order by the courts. This document was signed by none other than Silvia Papa who was accused by prosecution lawyers in the recent trial of Augusto Pinochet of falsifying the medical records of the former dictator in an attempt to thwart the proceedings against him. As was previously mentioned, no notice was given to the Party of the impending eviction. When the appointed court official first met with the CPC's lawyers outside the building immediately prior to the eviction, witnesses attest that she agreed that the Party's lawyers ought to be given 24 hours to try to sort matters out. She was promptly escorted to a police bus and the barbaric rampage ensued. Government figures from President Largos through to the new director of the Carabineros, General Cienfuegos, have denied knowledge of the eviction plans or involvement in them. Some commentators have suggested that the heads of the Carabineros took part in the ransacking as a protest for being removed from the authority of the military and placed under the control of the Minister for the Interior. Others suggest it was a gross misunderstanding caused by transfer of power to the new police chief. In any case, the Government has felt guilty enough to provide a temporary headquarters for Party. This was crucial seeing that Chilean law requires a Party to have its HQ's address lodged with the electoral authorities at least a fortnight before the election date. Could opponents of the Party have been unaware of this potential for additional inconvenience for the CPC? The Party has now moved into its temporary accommodation with barely any equipment and without its list of activists and helpers. It is severely handicapped in its preparations for the forthcoming elections. However, militants of the Party have shown great courage in the face of this latest challenge and are committed to do their utmost for the eventual liberation of their people.