During a press conference yesterday a Chilean reporter asked Obama if he would be willing to apologize for the U.S. involvement with the 1973 coup d’état led by late dictator Augusto Pinochet. “I cannot discuss the politics of the past…It’s important that we do not remain trapped by history” replied Obama.
Nonetheless, Obama pledged that the U.S. would cooperate with Chilean authorities to investigate human rights abuses under the Pinochet regime. (Nearly 3200 people were estimated to have been either killed or “disappeared” under during Pinochet’s seventeen-year rule). Obama’s promise to help “clarify” the deaths of former presidents Salvador Allende and Eduardo Frei Montalva satisfied the son of the latter, congressman Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, who praised Obama’s “commitment to democracy and human rights.”
Prior to Obama’s comments one group representing victims’ families and several legislators penned a letter seeking a mea culpa from Obama as well as “declassifying all archives pertaining to U.S. intervention in Chile.” Additionally, several hundred protesters marched in the Chilean capital city of Santiago against Obama’s visit and U.S. cooperation with Pinochet.
By not apologizing, however, Obama may have avoided adding more wood to the fire being stoked by opposition at home:
Obama’s decision not to offer an explicit apology may have been aimed avoiding another round of criticism from Republicans at home, who have previously accused him of being on an “apology tour” during his past travels. They have cited remarks he made about the “arrogance” of past U.S. attitudes toward Europe and even some comments on Latin America, though none have appeared to be outright apologies.Image- La Cuarta (Monday afternoon’s press conference between the U.S. and Chilean presidents took place at the same presidential palace where Salvador Allende died in a 1973 coup).
Online Sources- noticias123.cl, ElPais.com, Reuters, La Tercera, La Nacion, El Nuevo Herald, Voice of America, Politico