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Hector Salgado is an former political prisoner from Chile. After spending three years in prison he was exiled to the United States by the Pinochet regime in 1976. In the U.S. he has worked as an artist and as a human rights and political activist . As a musician he toured the U.S., Canada, Europe and Central America as a member of the latin folk group Grupo Raiz based at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. The group performed with U.S. folk musicians such as Holly Near and Pete Seeger in concerts halls in Berlin, Managua, New York, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Salgado is the subject of the documentary "Special Circumstances," which tells about his story and his search for justice. (By director and producer Marianne Teleki)
The team was a casualty of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's bloody power grab. Pinochet's military dictatorship, which lasted 17 years and left a painful legacy in the South American country, resulted in the murder or "disappearance" of more than 3,000 people. Nearly 30,000 more were victims of officially sanctioned torture - including Salgado's soccer team. The coach, Salgado and seven others on the team were tortured and imprisoned for opposing the military state. Some, like Salgado, were sent into exile. Two were executed by firing squads.
"We'd never seen anything like that," Salgado said 34 years later at a sidewalk cafe in his adopted hometown of Berkeley. "Such a brutal and determined violence."
Salgado remembered seeing images of military planes bombing the country's capital.
"For us it was like science fiction," he said.
For the past seven years, the musician and human rights activist has been working to turn the script of his past into a film. Salgado and his wife, Marianne Teleki, both first-time filmmakers, have made a documentary about his quest to track down and confront the men directly responsible for what happened to the soccer team of Tomé.
"We need to have justice," Salgado said. "We need to have the truth. Those criminals need to say what they did."
Their documentary, "Special Circumstances," will be shown Saturday night , at the Berkeley Video & Film Festival, later this month at the United Nations Association Film Festival in San Jose and Palo Alto, and at the San Francisco Latino Film Festival in November.
Chilean author Isabel Allende, a Bay Area resident, lauded the film.
"Marianne Teleki is a sensitive and talented filmmaker who has been able to record, in Salgado's personal tragedy, the troubles of a country under a brutal dictatorship," Allende said.
More invitations to American and Chilean film festivals are rolling in - four this week alone - and Teleki said that they are "all on cloud nine" about the documentary's growing success.
"You feel validated," she said. "To be accepted finally in Chile is a dream come true."
Especially for Salgado, whose life became a nightmare under Pinochet. A few days after the coup d'etat, the boys of his neighborhood held a secret meeting. They had heard a rumor about a stash of dynamite hidden in the nearby countryside, and decided to find it and give it to people fighting the military.
"We knew it was risky," Salgado said. "We knew it was very dangerous. But we were willing to do the job because we were angry."
Most involved in the dynamite heist were caught by the naval authorities, including Salgado and his neighbor Fernando Moscoso, 20, a university student and natural leader.
"He was an idol for a lot of people in my neighborhood," Salgado said, who noted Moscoso opted not to wear a blindfold when he was shot by a firing squad.
Salgado said that his decision to speak out publicly occurred during a visit to Moscoso's grave in 1976, just before he was exiled to the United States.
"I made a promise to Fernando that one day I was going to tell this story, about what happened to the people of Tomé," he said.
The documentary is both historical and timely, as Chile continues to deal with the repercussions of the Pinochet regime. Pinochet died last December while under house arrest for human rights violations, and more than 30 of his generals are now in prison or under criminal prosecution.
But the men Salgado confronted - most at their comfortable homes in wealthy neighborhoods - did not appear concerned that their pasts would catch up to them. The slow pace of Chile's official reconciliation process is one reason Salgado was driven to make the documentary.
"The judicial system is a disgrace," he said. "Everybody else (besides Pinochet's generals) is free and living well."
Salgado found his targets using a 1970s Chilean military document that listed names, and Google.
"Google was my best friend," Salgado said.
The first person he located was Anibal Aravena-Miranda, a former Navy captain who was appointed governor of Tomé after the coup.
The elderly captain answered his door when Salgado knocked and invited him inside for a chat. The tape on Salgado's hidden microphone rolled as the former official explained his role in the atrocities.
"What I don't want is for you to look at me as if I'm some sort of murderer," Aravena-Miranda says in the film. "I am perfectly calm here with a clear conscience. If you were detained, you have my most sincere apologies. That was an injustice. But that was another time. You need to forget about that time."
That is the one thing that Salgado can't do.
"For me, I cannot afford to forget," he said. "If we want to prevent these things from ever happening again, we need to remember our collective story."
by Franz Harland
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