Protesters prepare for torture ship’s arrival

Chilean ship Esmeralda visits Victoria next week

The Esmeralda

The Esmeralda

Chilean torture ship Esmeralda visits Victoria Aug. 1 to 5

Roszan Holmen

News staff

Protesters under the banner of No Torture Ship in B.C. will be setting up early this morning (Friday) in preparation for the arrival of the Chilean navy’s Esmeralda at Ogden Point.

Under Augusto Pinochet’s regime the ship was used as a torture vessel. Now, this history haunts the Esmeralda as it tours the world as a goodwill ambassador and is met with protesters demanding accountability.

In Victoria, those protests are taking shape under the leadership of Carlos Flores.

“We have a four-day plan to have a very robust presence when the ship is here,” Flores said.

Along with members of Amnesty International, CUPE, Survivors of Torture and the Catholic community, he will be holding banners and handing out leaflets to visitors coming to tour the ship.

Flores said they will not impede visitors, but rather will be explaining the ship’s history.

“We are certainly not there to cause any disturbance,” said Flores. “We do have a letter for the captain of the ship and for the members of the Esmeralda.”

The ship will be in Victoria from Aug. 1 to 5.

The Canadian government, which has had a diplomatic relationship with Chile since 1941, extended the invitation to the Esmeralda.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada did not respond to a request for information by the News.

When the ship’s visit was first announced, CFB Esquimalt spokesperson Gerry Pash said the base will be showing them Canadian hospitality. He said the visit would be “marred by some people who have an experience that they feel they need to bring attention to.”

Many local politicians, however, have called on the federal government to rethink its invitation, including Victoria city council, NDP MLAs Carole James and Rob Fleming, and Saanich Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has no authority to prohibit the ship from docking at its facility. It can, however, determine the best location for the visit.

CEO Curtis Grad has decided to accommodate the vessel at Ogden Point, rather than Wharf Street marina as originally planned.

The move has nothing to do with keeping the protest out of the downtown public eye, he said. Rather it has to do with ensuring protesters have a safe and adequate space to stage their event.

Grad has met with the Chilean community, and said he recognizes his “moral and legal” responsibility to facilitate peaceful protest.

The downtown is a more confined, and multi-jurisdictional space, making a protest more logistically challenging.

It’s an argument Flores accepts. “I believe they are sincere,” he said. “Regardless of the location, whether it be Ogden Point, Sooke or Timbuktu, it really doesn’t matter. Wherever the ship is, we will be there.”

 

rholmen@vicnews.com