Cristóbal Jimeno was 12 years old when he found out how his father had died. It had been 10 years ago, without his mother being able to tell him what had happened. At a summer camp, the teenager picked up an abandoned magazine in a shared room to help him fall asleep. He came to a report on September 11, 1973, the day of the coup in Chile. He devoured the story that described the bombings against the government palace, the negotiations and the speeches, until he reached a scene in which President Salvador Allende summoned a small group of people to let them know that they could leave La Moneda. They all said no. The article put name and surname to each one. Among them was the sociologist Claudio Jimeno, 32 years old. One of the 3,065 dead and disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship. Christopher’s father.
To understand why his father chose to die, Cristóbal began to engage in imaginary conversations with him. They talk in pairs. Sometimes the son plays the father. He questions him, looks at him as someone irresponsible, questions him. Claudio calmly refutes everything, although sometimes he loses patience. Conversations always end the same way: “Son, if you’re so angry, why do you keep looking for me?”
The story of the death of Claudio Jimeno, the pain of the family -he left two children-, and the exhausting judicial process that they have lived through for almost half a century is what the book narrates The search (Planeta, 2022), co-written by Cristóbal Jimeno and his wife, the journalist Daniela Mohor. Until now, they had kept the story private. “But six years ago things began to happen that changed my perception,” explains Jimeno, sitting next to Mohor in the living room of his house located in the upper neighborhood of Santiago. Some were allusions to torture in marches or the double standard of a political class towards human rights violations in Latin American countries. “But the trigger was that two ministers of State referred very disparagingly to the Museum of Memory [que relata la dictadura a través de la experiencia de las víctimas]. They talked about staging”, adds Cristóbal, a lawyer specializing in litigation.
For three and a half years the couple worked on the book that intersperses Jimeno’s personal life with the “La Moneda case”, as the legal case on Allende’s final circle is known: the 23 advisers who were arrested, tortured, murdered, and made to disappear by the putschists. “We discovered many things. I knew that my father had a good relationship with President Allende, but not that he was so close, ”says Jimeno. Claudio, a socialist militant, was a member of the management team of the Center for National Studies of Public Opinion (CENOP), an organization that advised Allende “under complete secrecy.”
Mohor interviewed survivors of La Moneda who had been with Claudio, friends, relatives, who are also his. “It was a difficult process because I have a good relationship. It’s sad to do an interview that makes them suffer, especially my mother-in-law. In the first interviews she came back with a stomach ache, a headache”, he describes.
In the detailed description of the facts, without an agenda behind it, as the couple points out, an important part is what has happened with the case since the return to democracy. The blunders that the Legal Medical Service (SML), the ineffectiveness of the judicial system, the neglect of politicians and the few findings of the Truth Commission reconstruct the difficulty that the Jimeno family has had in finding the truth and doing justice, mainly due to the pact of silence of the guilty. “It is not an event that occurred 50 years ago, it is an event that has been occurring for 50 years,” Jimeno remarks.
“We have had to face outrageous situations. One example is that the SML handed over more than 100 bodies with wrong identification, which is crazy,” says the lawyer. “It was also not public knowledge for 10 years. Only 307 of the 1,469 missing detainees have been found,” adds Mohor.
Isabel Chadwick, Cristóbal’s mother, was one of the people who filed the first appeal for amparo under the dictatorship, on September 14, 1973. “That decision that my mother made, I also made: what happened to us, we did not I was going to throw it away,” Jimeno replies about where they have found the strength to continue battling in court. “I also wanted to have an answer for when my daughters grew up and asked me what we did about it,” he adds. “The rage with the slowness of the processes, with the errors, I believe that it is also a motor to continue investigating, seeking justice,” says Mohor.
The couple would have liked to write the book once the Supreme Court ruling was known. “But 49 years of processing is enough.” assures Jimeno. Now it remains to wait for the hearing in the Supreme Court on the resources filed by the military, convicted of homicide and others for kidnapping and homicide. “The search continues,” he clarifies. And she remembers that Minister Amanda Valdovinos, head of the team that found the only two remains that have appeared of Claudio, suspected that there was a second burial in that area before the investigations stopped. Claudio Jimeno’s son warns: “My decision is not to stop until I know the whole truth.”
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