At 22, Rhode Island-born Uzelle Williams was not much different from any other blue-jeaned American girl on a lark abroad after college graduation. And, like many others, she landed in deep trouble. On a Jeep tour of Chile in 1970 she met and fell in love with a handsome Santiago sculptor, then 27, named Rene Castro Ruiz. The couple set up house together (Castro was separated from his Chilean wife), and in March 1973 Uzelle gave birth to their child Sebastian, now 16 months old. The anguish began for Uzelle in September 1973. Rene, a onetime leftist student leader who had been politically inactive for years, was arrested during the violent military coup that overthrew the late Salvador Allende’s regime. Along with thousands of other citizens caught in the dragnet, he was sent off to a detention camp. “He is a prisoner of war in a war that never happened,” says Uzelle.
Unlike the Lara in Dr. Zhivago, Uzelle, now living in Maine with their son, has not simply waited patiently for his release. She began an intensive one-woman campaign to get Rene freed, pointing out he had been out of the country during the days preceding the coup. Such efforts may succeed. The Chilean embassy appears ready to make inquiries in Santiago that may lead to Rene’s freedom. If he is allowed to come to the U.S.—where he has been offered prestigious university posts—he plans to follow up his annulment with yet another happy ending: marriage to Uzelle!