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CECILIA GABRIELA CASTRO

Cecila Gabriela CASTRO SALVADORES was born to Angel Castro Cid and Edita Salvadores de Castro in Santiago Chile, on 2nd July of 1951. She went to a small primary school near her house and then gained a place in the Liceo de Niñas N°1 where she completed her secondary education.

Cecila Gabriela became a detained-disappeared on 17th November 1974, when she was only 24 years old and a Law Student at the University of Chile.

Her parents have described her as a friendly and sociable child who frequently invited her friends back to the family home. She was an excellent pupil, a talented musician and good at sport. Despite her low stature, she was selected for the Chilean volleyball team. She entered the School of Law in the Universidad de Chile, and there she openly showed her commitment to social issues. This she learnt at an early age, having been brought up in a household where politics was frequently discussed: her maternal grandmother was the first woman to join the Radical Party (a middle-of-the-road social democrat party) and her maternal grandfather was one of the founders of the Socialist Party.

She met Juan Rodríguez Araya through her involvement in the MIR party (Movement of Revolutionary Left). They were married on 25th February 1972 and their daughter Paula Valentina was born on 29th January 1973. She was in her fourth year studying Law when she was detained with her husband by the Secret Service (DINA) on 17th November 1974. Her parents witnessed her arrest, which took place at 3 o'clock in the morning in her flat (at the street Cano y Aponte No.1040). A group led by Osvaldo Romo Mena led the arrest. There is sufficient evidence of these events in the process for "pressumed misadventure" (presunta desgracia) opened under No. 90955 at the Sixth Criminal Judge of Santiago. This document contains statements by her parents; by Alvaro Varela, her classmate from the School of Law; and by Cecilia Rodriguez, her sister-in-law, who spent a fortnight in detention with her, firstly in the detention centre of José Domingo Cañas street, and secondly in the centre Villa Grimaldi.

The search for Cecilia Gabriela started immediately after her detention. Her father and her brothers, who were both lawyers, unsuccessfully lodged an appeal on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of her detention. This failure was largely due to the subservient role taken by the judiciary during the whole of this period whenever there was a confrontation with the dictatorship. However, on the third appeal, presented by her brother at the Supreme Court, they were able to obtain an order from the judge dealing with Cecilia Gabriela's case to arrest Osvaldo Romo Mena. But due to the impunity with which the secret services operated at the time, the order was never implemented.

Subsequently, Cecilia Gabriela's father-in-law, Renato Rodríguez, who worked for the International Development Bank, came to Chile and met high-ranking officials in the regime. He was able to obtain the release of his daughter Cecilia Rodríguez. Furthermore, the Head of Security in the Ministry of the Interior, Air Force Commander Di Nocera, made a formal statement that Mr. Rodríguez's son Juan Carlos and daughter-in-law Cecilia Gabriela were under detention and would soon be free from their incommunicado status. This never happened.

Owing to pressure brought to bear by the German and Colombian Embassies and the fathers of the two detainees, four contradictory statements were made by different government sources in April 1975.

Firstly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told the German Embassy that Juan Carlos and Cecilia Gabriela were under detention at the centre Tres Alamos. Secondly, this Minister informed the Colombian Embassy that they were not detained and there was not even a warrant for their arrest. Thirdly, in response to Juan Carlos's father, General Pinochet himself stated that there was nothing against his son and that he must have left the country with his wife due to the fact that he was a member of a subversive organisation. Finally, General Benavides of the Ministry of the Interior claimed, in response to enquiries by Cecilia Gabriela's father, that there was no arrest warrant for either of them and that they must have fled the country.

In July 1975, Cecilia Gabriela's name appeared on the notorious list of 119 disappeared, issued by sources close to the government. Those named, it was falsely claimed, had died in Europe or other countries in Latin America. Cecilia's husband's name was not mentioned.

From the time of the arrest, Cecilia's mother established and maintained contact with the Comité Pro Paz and later with the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, organised by the Church to support the families of the disappeared. Since then she has worked with the Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos, whose persistence and bravery she commends. Both Cecilia's parents condemn the military regime for its denial of civil liberties and its human rights violations.

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