Chile: Pinochet crimes to be exposed for the first time

Socialist President Ricardo Lagos is reviewing an official report containing over 35,000 testimonials of tortures

Shortly after Chile's army acknowledged that tortures and political assassinations during Augusto Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship were institutional, not excesses of a few individuals, country's Socialist President Ricardo Lagos received on Wednesday a massive official report containing 35,000 testimonials of abuses providing details of such crimes. It is the first ever government-sponsored recounting of the crimes against humanity in Chile between 1973 and 1990.

Lagos said his country could bear the soul-searching that is likely to be sparked by testimony from Chileans tortured during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 17-year rule. Human-rights groups criticized Lagos for not making the findings public immediately, as Lagos said he wanted to review them first and find ways to compensate the victims.

As in other South American countries at that time, political prisoners in Chile were held disappeared, tortured, drugged, deprived from sleep and frequently killed, in what has been known as “Operation Condor”, a plan of intelligence cooperation coordinated by Washington’s Henry Kissinger aimed to crackdown on leftist opposition. 

Today, throughout South America, left-leaning governments such as Lagos' have been elected in the past five years. They're now seeking a full accounting of human-rights abuses and disappearances in the 1970s and 1980s. However Argentina remains as the only country in the region that tried and condemned the notorious military juntas for their crimes.

Lagos, a socialist leading a centrist coalition, is the first Chilean president to investigate and seek redress for victims of the Pinochet dictatorship, which began Sept. 11, 1973, with U.S. help, and lasted until 1990. On Wednesday, Lagos said Chileans should be proud of themselves."How many countries have ventured to get to the bottom of what happened? Chile has ventured. It's a solid country, stable. We can do it," he said.

After Chile returned to democracy, an independent commission in 1991 placed the number of opponents and soldiers killed during Pinochet's rule at 3,197. But until the new report, there had been no look at offenses short of killings. In response to the report, and contradicting the statement released by the national military, the dictatorship's first intelligence chief, Manuel Contreras, denied Wednesday in Santiago that Pinochet's regime had practiced state-sponsored torture.

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Author`s name Olga Savka