Friday, September 24, 2021

Photographer Rodrigo Rojas, burned alive 30 years ago, remembered in Chile

Assorted activities in Chile on Wednesday commemorated the 30th anniversary of the death of photographer Rodrigo Rojas de Negri, who was set on fire by soldiers during a protest against the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Rojas died four days after being set on fire, and over the years he has become a symbol of the risks to journalists existing in Chile during the dictatorship, while his family continues to call for justice after the light punishment received by those who committed the deed.

Several dozen people on Wednesday participated in a downtown Santiago demonstration called by the family, including photographers, journalists and groups of the dictatorship’s victims.

Those who turned out also demanded the release of Felipe Duran, a photographer imprisoned for several months in southern Chile and accused of crimes linked to the Mapuche Indian conflict there.

“We’re here fighting for justice to be done, so that the truth may be known, so that the memory (of Rojas) may be kept alive, so that this never happens again,” said Veronica de Negri, Rojas’s mother, said during the protest.

The photographer captured images of the anti-Pinochet protest on July 2, 1986, but he was arrested along with Carmen Gloria Quintana by a military patrol.

The soldiers doused both young people with gasoline and set them on fire, putting out the flames later with blankets. They threw them into a roadside ditch outside Santiago.

Suffering from serious burns, the pair managed to get out of the ditch, ask for help and they were taken to a hospital, where Rojas died four days later, but Quintana survived, although she bears the physical scars to this day.

The lieutenant in charge of the military patrol that attacked Rojas only served a short time in jail before being released.

Some 3,200 Chileans died at the hands of the regime during the Pinochet dictatorship, according to official figures.