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This article is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

The Balaclava Man Leonardo Sciascia
 
In June 1977, a young man turned up at the Vicariato della Solidarietà di Santiago in Chile to make, he said, a confession: and he wanted to tape-record it for the benefit of posterity. The Vicariato della Solidarietà had been founded by the Archbishop as a sanctuary for victims and families of the coup d'état: so it was barely tolerated by the ruling junta. The suspicion that this man was some kind of agent-provocateur was thus more than understandable. So he was rejected. He returned once more and was again rejected. When he came back for the third time, he was allowed - perhaps out of the conviction that a real provocateur would not have insisted with quite such desperation - to tape-record his confession. And so they identified - name, background and immediately after, fate - the most fearsome figure from the days of oppression and the coup d'état: one that seemed to hail from the Inquisition: a horrifying phantom, a horrifying symbol. The man with the hidden face, the balaclava man. He who would choose - without uttering a word, with but a gesture of the hand - which of the prisoners huddled together in the National Stadium should be killed or sent for torture. As one who escaped remembers it:


Accompanied by the military, this sinister character inspected the thousands of prisoners. Despite his unimpressive stature, his new, ill-fitting clothes and his hesitant step, the balaclava man weighed on us like a ...


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