Chile to compensate Pinochet's victims

In an historical turn of its domestic human rights policy, the South American country announced is ready to compensate thousands of people tortured and imprisoned during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

Something is happening in Chile. In less than one year, this traditionally conservative society is peacefully turning the page of its darkest hour, by shifting into a modern community where human rights values are fully respected. Just to mention, after a long battle in the Congress, on November 18th entered in force a new civil marriage law which allows couples to divorce for the first time in history.

However, the fastest advances were made in the human rights field. Earlier this month, the National Army admitted tortures and crimes during Pinochet’s regime (1973-1990) where systematic and not excesses as previously presented. On Monday, it became known that following similar measures taken in neighbour Argentina, the government is ready to compensate thousands of victims of these crimes against humanity.

Currently, the Socialist President Ricardo Lagos is studying a gruesome report on torture during Pinochet rule. The report was prepared by a commission that heard testimonies from 35,000 people. The commission accepted 28,000 of those testimonies as true. With the above in mind, Lagos Confirmed the Chilean State would provide victims with compensation for the crimes against them.

According to official reports, no less than 3,000 Chileans were killed or “disappeared” between 1973 and 1990, while extra – official papers prepared by human rights groups say the number of deadly victims adds up to 30,000. Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship fiercely suppressed leftists, dissidents and others perceived as opponents, imprisoning, exiling, torturing and killing thousands.

The report on torture was the second to be compiled since the restoration of civilian rule in 1990. A 1991 examination focused on the abductions and deaths of dissidents, stating that 3,197 people died for political reasons during the Pinochet regime.

Lagos called reading the report “an experience that has no precedent in the world.'' He said he would ask Congress to approve compensations for the victims, including pensions of $190 a month. In addition, victims and their relatives will get housing and health benefits from the state.

A divided society

In Santiago, PRAVDA.Ru could know the mood of common people toward government's policy aimed to shed light on country’s recent past. As many welcome the possibility of knowing the truth on Pinochet's bloody regime, some others believe this is something of the past and should not be reviewed at all. Even further, human rights activists believe compensations are not enough if courts do not bring justice to the people by imprisoning those guilty for the crimes.

50-year-old Maria is artist coming from Chile's upper classes. She lives in Las Condes, one of the richest areas of Santiago. She is against Lagoss policy aimed to review the past. “I don’t think its good, she says. We need to look on the future not behind”. Maria says she supported Pinochet’s coup against Socialist leader Salvador Allende 1973, but then regretted. “I didn’t like communism (sic). Allende wanted to turn Chile into a new Cuba”.

On the opposite side is Patricio, a 35 year-old taxi driver. He supports Lagos and his policies. “We have to bring these criminals into jail”, he says. “This is the only way we have to make of a Chile a full democracy and a peaceful country”.

Hernan Etchaleco
Santiago, Buenos Aires

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