Zita Cabello-Barrueto, Ph.D.Cabello v. Fernandez Larios
Zita Cabello is a filmmaker, activist, and professor born in Chile in 1950. Her brother Winston was born in 1948. He was a regional planning director with the Allende government. Following the coup in September 1973 led by General Pinochet, he and Zita's husband, Patricio Barrueto, were arrested and held in a prison in the northern town of Copiapo. On October 17, 1973, in the early morning hours, a Chilean military death squad known as "the Caravan of Death" murdered Winston Cabello and twelve other prisoners who had been incarcerated by the Chilean Army.
Following Winston's murder, Zita and her family were eventually able to secure Patricio's release in early 1974. Zita and Patricio immediately fled to the United States where they obtained asylum and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.
Zita has spent the last 18 years conducting interviews and researching and gathering evidence to confirm the facts of her brother's brutal death as well as others who were murdered or disappeared by the Pinochet regime. While honoring the 25th anniversary of Winston's death on October 17, 1998, Zita learned the historic news that former General Pinochet had been arrested in London on the very same day. To provide evidence to support his prosecution, she gave a deposition in San Francisco, armed with notes that reflected her years of research into human rights abuses in Chile.
During the process, a lawyer from the Center for Justice & Accountability informed her that she might be able to file a lawsuit in the U.S. against Chilean officers who were directly involved in her brother's murder if any of them were living in this country. An investigation revealed that one such officer, Major Armando Fernández Larios, was living in South Florida.
Fernández Larios, in addition to being a former member of the "Caravan of Death," was also a former agent of Chile's notorious secret police (the DINA) during the Pinochet years. Fernández Larios entered the U.S. in 1987 pursuant to a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in which he confessed to aiding the perpetrators of the 1976 Washington, D.C. car-bomb assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant Ronni Moffitt - arguably the most notorious terrorist act committed on U.S. soil before September 11, 2001.
In February 1999, Zita filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Miami against Fernández Larios, alleging that he directly carried out, or participated in bringing about, Winston's murder. The trial against Fernandez Larios ended in victory on October 15, 2003. A Miami jury found Fernandez Larios, in his role as a member of the “Caravan of Death”, liable for torture, crimes against humanity, and extra judicial killing. They found Fernandez Larios guilty of conspiring to commit, and aiding and abetting in, the torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, and extra-judicial killing of Winston Cabello. The trial marks the first time any Pinochet operative has been tried in the United States for their role in human rights abuses committed in Chile, as well as the first jury verdict for crimes against humanity in the United States.
In addition to bringing the case against Fernández Larios, Zita has been active in examining the wider effects of torture and disappearances on the social fabric of Chile. From 1995-1998, Zita traveled back to Chile on numerous occasions to interview survivors of Pinochet's policy of terror. These encounters became the basis for a film documentary that Zita produced in 1998, entitled "Never Again Shall We Say "Never Again". The film focuses not on acts of torture and terror, but rather encourages reflection on our role, as individuals, in the construction of the world we live in.
Ultimately, crimes against humanity are committed by individuals, and it is the individual's role in mass violence with which Zita is most concerned.
As Zita stated recently in a speech delivered at the University of Chile on the anniversary of her brother's death, "Winston's capacity to act with conscience in the face of the horror of his own death should serve as an example for all of humanity. Winston taught us that even against the most repressive moments of our lives, human beings do not lose their power to make decisions based upon ethical and moral principles." She said that she wanted "to honor the men and women who have had the moral courage to challenge the inevitability of injustice; to all of those who have come to the realization that peace based on accommodation rather than on accountability necessarily leads to the repetition of past tragedies; to those who have chosen to work in favor of human dignity, peace, solidarity and justice.”
Zita has a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Chile, and a Masters Degree in Public Health and a Doctorate in Developmental Economics from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1989, she became a professor of Latin American Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She now lives with her family in Foster City, California.
Winston Cabello Bravo received a graduate degree in economics from the University of Chile in approximately 1968. Prior to the coup d’etat on September 11, 1973, Winston Cabello worked as an economist appointed by the Allende government to serve as the Director of the Regional Planning Office for the Atacama-Coquimbo region in northern Chile; the Office was located in Copiapó.
On September 11, 1973, Chile’s armed forces staged a coup d’etat that ousted the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende, who died during the takeover of the Presidential palace. Following the coup, four military commanders, including General Augusto Pinochet as Commander-in-Chief and President, seized control and ruled Chile as a military junta. Military authorities throughout Chile, including the defendant and his superior officers, immediately launched a systematic assault on those perceived to be potential opponents of the new regime, including former cabinet officers, government appointees, elected officials, physicians, university professors, industry officials and others.
On September 12, 1973, the day after the coup, Winston Cabello was arrested and incarcerated in the Copiapó jail. Some time within the first two weeks after he was detained, Winston Cabello was transferred from the local jail to the Copiapó military garrison.
Winston Cabello Bravo was tortured and murdered on October 16-17, 1973. He was one of thirteen civilian prisoners killed in the northern Chilean city of Copiapó five weeks after the military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (“Pinochet”) overthrew the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende. Copiapó was one of a number of cities victimized by the “Caravan of Death,” a select group of Pinochet’s operatives responsible for the murder of at least 72 civilian prisoners of the junta.