The Middlebury Institute community mourns the loss of Honorary Degree recipient and friend of the Institute, Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, who first prosecuted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for killings and human rights offenses.
Judge Guzmán died on January 22 at the age of 81. His courageous efforts to uncover the true extent of crimes committed by the Pinochet regime and to pursue justice in the face of great odds was recounted in the award-winning documentary, “The Judge and the General,” as was his own personal reckoning with previous support for the regime.
“He was the only judge who dared to indict the brutal dictator, Pinochet,” shares his good friend Middlebury Institute Professor Emerita Jan Knippers Black. “Only he would have failed to recognize the heroism in that move. When I asked why he did it, he said, “I was just doing my job.””
Professor Black collaborated with Guzmán on several projects including winter term courses in Chile. Julia Kelley MAIEM ’16 called meeting Guzmán the highlight of her experience in Santiago. “It was inspiring to meet someone who has done such great work and is also such a kind and humble person.” Black adds that Guzmán “was a most extraordinary man — a saint with an out-of-the-box sense of humor. A best friend of mine and of the quest for Human Rights, his influence and inspiration infuse the world, but his heart was in Chile. There he sought justice, serving particularly as protector of the indigenous.”
Guzmán also served as a member of the international advisory board of Global Majority, a Monterey based non-profit organization with close ties to the Middlebury Institute. Judge Juan Guzmán was awarded an honorary degree at the Institute at the spring commencement in 2006.
“We are saddened by the news of Judge Guzman’s passing,” says Professor and former California State Senator Bill Monning, a co-founder of Global Majority. “Juan was a courageous and accomplished jurist who faced death threats to him and his family as he investigated and prosecuted Gen. Pinochet for crimes against the Chilean people. He was a kind, generous, and humble man who made many friends in his connections with the Institute and as a member of the International Board of Global Majority. We will miss Juan greatly, but his memory will continue to inspire all who knew him to fight for human rights, peace, and justice.”
Assemblymember Bill Monning, who taught international negotiation at the Monterey Institute before winning election in California’s 27th District, will play a key role in implementing health care reform as the new chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.