Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chile: Former Members of Late Augusto Pinochet Regime Still Being Paid

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Chilean military pays thousands of dollars a month to veterans of late dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police, documents on the Chilean Army's website reveals.

Chilean lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the deputy defense minister, Gen. Oscar Izurieta, who, as army chief, assured a congressional committee in September 2009 that no former agents of the 1973-1990 regime remained on military payrolls.

Unfortunately, secret police operatives AKA “consultants” include retired Gen. Gonzalo Santelices Cuevas, who receives 1.67 million pesos ($3,270) a month as an adviser to army intelligence.

Santelices was forced out of the army in February 2008 by then-President Michelle Bachelet after a newspaper cited a court statement by Santelices acknowledging his involvement with the Caravan of Death, a mobile task force that summarily executed more than 70 political prisoners in the weeks following Pinochet’s September 11, 1973 coup.

Santelices testified that on the night of October 18, 1973, he and men under his command seized fourteen political prisoners from a jail in the northern city of Antofagasta and drove them to a remote spot where they were shot and killed.

Patricio Zambelli Restelli, who gets $2,540 a month for advising army intelligence, worked at Villa Grimaldi, one of Pinochet’s most notorious torture chambers. He was also part of a secret police unit that in 1976 abducted leaders of Chile’s Communist Party who were subsequently murdered.

Izurieta and the incumbent army commander, Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba, will face questioning from legislators, lower house member Jorge Tarud according to EFE.

COMMENT: Neither Bachelet, representing a center-left alliance, nor main rival, Evelyn Matthei, standard-bearer of the governing rightist coalition, won the required 50% plus one in the November 17 balloting and will face each other in a December 15 runoff.

Both daughters of air force generals, Matthei and Bachelet were childhood friends whose paths diverged sharply after Pinochet’s takeover of the government by force.

While Bachelet’s father, who opposed the coup, died as a result of torture by his brothers-in-arms, Matthei’s father became a member of the junta.

Bachelet and her mother were also tortured, but colleagues of her father were eventually able to have them released and allowed to leave the country.

The Pinochet Regime killed more than 3,000 people, tortured around 27,000 others and forced tens of thousands more into exile. Pinochet died in 2006.

If reelected as President, Bachelet, now 62, will no doubt stop the hiring of former military officers as consultants to the Chilean government.