Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chile: Pinochet-era victims protest clemency plan

A Chilean Catholic Church initiative for pardon and clemency has reopened old wounds for the families of human rights abuse victims.

The plan as presented by Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz and Monsignor Alejandro Goic would grant clemency to some infirm and elderly inmates including some ex-military members who committed crimes against humanity during the 1973-1990 dictatorship.

In their letter to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, both clergymen suggested pardoning convicted ex-armed forces members so as long as they publicly repented for their crimes. "Our proposal is not meant to open up wounds of the past, nor to make them heal by decree," said Goic to the AP about the plan that has been backed by the head of a retired military officials organization.

The plan has run into strong opposition for those whose family and friends were slain and “disappeared” under the regime of the late strongman Augusto Pinochet. Hundreds of protestors gathered yesterday outside of the La Moneda presidential palace while holding placards with images of their loved ones. According to one activist for the victims of the Pinochet regime as many as 35 ex-military personnel currently in prison for Dirty War crimes would be eligible for clemency under the Church’s plan.

Pinera- who earlier this year became Chile’s first conservative president since Pinochet left power- may not be on board with the clemency initiative:
The main opposition to the pardons for former military officials comes from left-center sectors who have a majority in the Congress, but some law-and-order members of Pinera's conservative bloc are also uneasy at the idea of seeming to go easy on convicts.

Pinera himself has sought to distance his brand of conservative politics from the far-right Pinochet dictatorship.
Image- AP (“A relative of a dissident killed during former Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship holds a portrait outside La Moneda government palace in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday July 21, 2010.”)
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Reuters

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