When I received my Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970, I could not have envisaged that a few years later, I would become a political prisoner in my native Chile. Nor could I have imagined that Henry Kissinger would get my case into his hands as a result of UC’s intervention.
On December 15, 1974 (forty-five years ago), I was abducted by Pinochet’s infamous DINA secret police. I was first taken to a torture house in south-east Santiago, Chile’s capital, known as “La Discothèque” or “Venda Sexy” (Sexy Blindfold).
Later, I spent five months in three concentration camps in Santiago and the Valparaíso region: Cuatro Álamos, Puchuncaví, and Tres Álamos. My wife Nora Guillén, a ballet dancer, was also imprisoned for political reasons and followed a similar path. Neither she nor I was charged with any offense.
Thanks to the diligence of colleagues at the University of Chile, the news of my detention promptly reached my former Ph.D. supervisor at Berkeley, the late Professor Alan Portis, who convened UC authorities to discuss my case.
In parallel, a group of over 100 European scientists wired Pinochet, demanding my release. The arts community also rallied, organizing a dance gala in Mexico City’s National Auditorium to raise awareness of my wife’s situation.
The news of my detention hit Washington via UCLA’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Elwin Svenson, who at the time chaired a well-established scientific exchange program between the University of California and the University of Chile.
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