Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chile Gov’t to Propose Eliminating Amnesty Law

Chile’s government will reportedly propose overturning an amnesty law protecting former senior members of the country’s authoritarian military regime.

According to the Chilean media, the plan will be presented later today on the forty-first anniversary of the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet against the democratically elected government headed by President Salvador Allende.

The amnesty law has been in the books since Pinochet decreed it nearly five years following the September 11, 1973 coup that brought him into power.  Although some judicial decisions have circumvented the law and helped convict 260 people to prison for human rights abuses, only sixty have been sentenced due to protections offered by the amnesty law.

An estimated 1300 disappearances and 30,000 tortures took place during the seventeen years under Pinochet’s rule.  Most of them are believed to have taken place prior to the now-late ruler’s 1978 amnesty decree.

“Enough with the painful waiting and unjust silence...It is time to come together for the truth,” declared President Michelle Bachelet at an event this morning to as part of the commemorations of the 1973 golpe.

“Forty-one years have passed and the survivors and victims who saved their lives…are elderly people.  Most of them have died waiting for justice while others have kept silence,” added the president who was tortured at imprisoned and tortured at the infamous Villa Grimaldi detention center in 1975 and before fleeing into exile.

Bachelet previously suggested invalidating the amnesty law during her first term in office eight years ago.  Although Chile is theoretically bound by provisions of international law that prohibit any amnesty for crimes against humanity, any major changes to the amnesty law have been defeated by Congress.

Chileans are divided over the legacy of the 1973 military coup and the subsequent Pinochet regime.  Those like Bachelet remember the cruel abuses of power including repression, state-sponsored torture of dissidents and the deaths of tens of thousands of people.  Others believe the coup was necessary to halt the spread of communism into Chile and helped turnaround a country in economic chaos.

Thursday’s commemoration events were somewhat marred by vandals who clashed with Santiago police during the overnight hours.  Officers have been on high alert due to the coup anniversary but also as a result of a “terrorist” bombing that took place on Monday.

Video Source – YouTube user HuntleyFilmArchives

Online Sources – La Tercera; The New York Times; The Latin Americanist; La Nacion; Freedom House; ABC News; The Santiago Times

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