Juan Bustos: An icon for the defense of human rights

The historic Socialist Party (PS) deputy was exiled for 14 years during the military regime and, upon returning to the country, played an important role in cases of Human Rights violations.

SANTIAGO.- Born on December 8th, 1935 in Santiago, Juan Bustos Ramírez was one of the most respected members of Parliament among his peers, due to his extensive career as a Human Rights attorney.


Married to Claudia Chaimovich, with whom he fathered seven children, Bustos was in his third term as a deputy and had become one of the longest-standing members of Parliament.


During his schooldays, Bustos was a classmate of former President Ricardo Lagos at the Instituto Nacional.  Additionally, the two men studied Law together later on at the University of Chile.


Later, during his time as a member of the “Unidad Popular” government, he worked as a legal advisor for the Ministry of Interior and became very good friends with President Salvador Allende, whom he always claimed to admire.


His life in exile


Juan Bustos´ links to socialism made him one of the most persecuted politicians following the military coup, prompting him to flee to Argentina. Even so, he was arrested and tortured during the “Condor Operation” until diplomatic processing allowed him to seek exile in eastern Germany.


Bustos spent 14 years in exile in Honduras, Argentina, Germany and Spain.  In Europe, he had a successful career as a lawyer and even taught criminal law courses.


After returning to the democratic government of Chile, Bustos was appointed as a member of the National Television Council and an attorney at the San Miguel Court of Appeals.


During the nineties, Bustos worked as an attorney for the family of ex-Chancellor Orlando Letelier in the case against retired General Manuel Contreras.


Cooperation with Garzón


In 1998, Bustos became a part of Congress when he was elected with 27.6% of the votes within the Quilpué-Limach district.  In November of 1998, Bustos traveled to Spain along with Deputies Juan Pablo Letelier and Isabel Allende, to work with Judge Baltasar Garzón during the extradition process carried out by the Spanish Judiciary against Augusto Pinochet.


As a lawyer, Bustos represented the victims of the regime’s secret police force known as the “Caravana de la Muerte” (Caravan of Death) and focused his arguments on the idea of kidnapping as an “ongoing crime” that only ends when the bodies are found.


In March of last year, after a political agreement was reached between the Alianza and the Concertación, Juan Bustos was appointed as president of the Chamber of Deputies.


His fight against cancer


Upon taking his position as the head of Congress, Juan Bustos mentioned that he was suffering from liver cancer, which had been diagnosed by doctors in August of 2007.


During an interview with “El Mercurio” Bustos downplayed the illness, indicating that it was “in early stages and completely treatable”.


“I don’t expect it to be a problem in the future”, the president of the Chamber of Deputies stated on that occasion.

El Mercurio Online
Thursday, August 07, 2008
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