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US Says Death of US Resident in Chile Might Have Been Averted

July 9, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. resident who died recently in Chile might still be alive if Chilean authorities had permitted his transfer to a first-class hospital for treatment of severe burns allegedly inflicted by soldiers, the State Department says.

But the Chilean doctor at the emergency clinic where Rodrigo Rojas de Negri, 19, was treated has said he recommended that the patient not be moved because he had respiratory burns which would have been aggravated by a transfer.

Rojas died Sunday, four days after he and a companion were beaten, doused with flammable liquid and set on fire by soldiers during anti-government protests, according to human rights activists. His companion, Carmen Quintana Arancibia, remains in serious condition. The Chilean Army has denied any wrongdoing.

The State Department’s decision to go public with its information on a case still under investigation is being viewed as an additional U.S. effort to discredit the government of President Augusto Pinochet. He has ignored U.S. appeals for years that he adopt a democratic system.

State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said Tuesday that in response to three days of U.S. Embassy efforts to arrange for Rojas’ transfer to a hospital better equipped to treat burn victims, family members were told this would not be possible because he faced unspecified legal problems.

″It was subsequently determined that, in fact, no legal charges were pending against Rojas but still authorization for his transfer by the hospital director was not forthcoming,″ Kalb said.

He said embassy officials have been unable to provide a medical judgment regarding the implications of the ″unexplained failure to permit Rojas’ transfer.″

But Uldaricio Figueroa, minister-counselor of the Chilean Embassy here, said the director of the clinic where Rojas was sent, Dr. Raul Guzman, had told reporters in Santiago that the patient might not have survived a trip to a hospital.

Guzman said that newspaper accounts in Santiago indicate that an artificial respirator was required to keep Rojas alive.

Kalb said the United States expects the reasons for keeping Rojas at the emergency clinic to be addressed once the official investigation promised by Chilean authorities begins.

″In this regard, the information we have received on the events leading to this tragic death is deeply disturbing,″ he said.

Rojas, a photographer, was born in Chile and moved to the United States with his mother, a political exile, at age 8. He lived in Washington, D.C., and had been visiting Chile since May.

The case also evokes memories of the murder of Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen, at the hands of military authorities in Chile shortly after the Pinochet government took office in 1973.

A movie about the Horman case, entitled ″Missing,″ suggested that U.S. Embassy officials were at best indifferent about Horman’s fate, which American officials say is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

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