My Week: Five days in the life of Carlos Reyes, the head of Chile Democratico

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The Independent Culture
CARLOS REYES, 53, is head of Chile Democratico and is also a photo- journalist. Arrested and tortured under Pinochet's regime during the 1970s, he has been co-ordinating a legal fight for Pinochet's arrest and demonstrating outside the general's hospital clinic.


Take my dog for a walk at 6.00am and reflect on recent events. I can't believe that 25 years ago I was so weak and Pinochet was so strong. I was a member of the Socialist Party when Pinochet was in power and anything democratic was illegal. In March 1974, I was arrested and tortured for six months, then spent two years in concentration camps. Then, we would never have dreamed that Pinochet would be arrested. It's wonderful news, even if the arrest only lasts a matter of days or weeks.

Go to court in the afternoon to hear details about the case - which amazes me because there's not a single defence of his crimes. There was never a single word of apology from him or his legal team.

After court, return to my office - we're trying to co-ordinate a legal team to test the validity that Chileans have the right to put a case to court. Then it's on to the hospital clinic where Pinochet's staying. In a way it is upsetting in that it brings up past memories. Some of my friends are here whose loved ones disappeared under Pinochet's regime and they still don't know what happened to them. But it's also liberating because people from all round the world are here.


Took the dog for a walk again. Went to the office and spoke with Amnesty International. Then off to the High Court to hear the allegations against Pinochet - the language is so interesting, the way they can hide so much.

Back to my office for a media interview. The point we're trying to make to them is that Pinochet has been found guilty in international courts many times and still needs to respond to charges. But he always finds ways of escaping - the army still clearly support him. I don't think I could ever go back to Chile - I'd probably be shot.

Only yesterday I got an anonymous call. Someone said: "Don't forget we're waiting for you in Chile." I tried dialling 1471 but I couldn't trace him.


My bank manager came round for a couple of hours and then a private collector who wanted to buy one of my photographs of a father and son outside a shop in Brazil. More phone calls and interviews. I don't really enjoy all these press interviews. My life feels dislocated by them. I'm used to being on the other side of the lens. My message is usually in my photography, not in what I say.


Asked to photograph a Christian church and a Muslim mosque in the same street - I find one on Kingsland Road in East London. After that I rush back to court for the verdict.

It's 3.30 and I've just heard that they've ruled Pinochet's detention as illegal. I never suspected that the outcome would go so much against our requests. I was outside when they told us and everyone was crying in anger and disappointment. I also find out that we have the chance to appeal against the House of Lords, which slightly balances the bad news.

Spend rest of afternoon in constant interviews. People call me wanting to know what to do next. Spend a lot of time comforting people. Find myself being very positive. I'm positive by nature and I keep telling everyone that we haven't lost; we must keep going and get to the next stage. I still think there's hope and see it as a victory that he was arrested.


Interview with a radio journalist from Brazil. People start calling me from Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, asking about my reactions. We're trying to put a brave face on events. At the end of the day, it's wonderful news just that he was arrested.

Meetings and more meetings. People in Europe are picking up cases against Pinochet and I'm trying to co-ordinate all the information. Do another interview in the evening for CNN. Feel exhausted but optimistic - we've reached a historic time. Over the last week, people have become so much more aware of what happened in Chile since his arrest - it's been very symbolic. He'll go back to Chile but that will be his prison. It will remind him every day of what he did there.