Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chile Moves for Prosecutions of Pinochet Era Officials

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has moved forward with plans to eliminate an amnesty provision in Chilean law instituted by the now deceased former dictator Augusto Pinochet which would protect officials under his command from prosecution for torture and murder.
“This government, like other democratic governments before it, maintains that the amnesty was an illegitimate decision in its origins and content, form and foundation,” Ms. Bachelet’s chief of staff, Paulina Veloso, said in an interview at the presidential palace here. “Our conviction is that it should never have been applied at all, and certainly should never be used again.”

Ms. Bachelet, a Socialist, took office in March in the fourth consecutive victory for a center-left coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists since General Pinochet was forced to step down in 1990. In the past, pro-Pinochet right-wing parties have been able to block congressional efforts to overturn the amnesty, but Ms. Bachelet’s coalition has a large enough majority in both houses to make passage of such a bill almost certain.

This is a reasonable next step for Chile, I had many discussions with friends over whether Chile should pursue the Nuremburg model of post-WWII Germany or the Peace and Reconciliation model of post-apartheid South Africa. At the time it wasnt obvious that Chile would pursue either, now it appears that they intend to follow the nuremburg model of prosecuting war criminals. The potential problem with the nuremburg model is pointed out by a right leaning Chilean paper.
“Rather than contributing to social peace and national reconciliation,” the paper said, “this verdict seems to augur the reopening and perpetuation of many causes of division, due to the juridical uncertainty it creates.”

This is a positive step forward for Chile, I think I could support either this or the South Africa model of peace and reconciliation, but the Pinochet era needs to be revisited, it was one of the world's most brutal dictatorships and the full force of what happened during those years needs to be brought to light. This is a good move by Bachelet, as her Chief of Staff points out:
“This was a highly planned system of extermination, not just a solitary person,” said Ms. Veloso, a lawyer and former judge whose first husband was one of the dictatorship’s victims. “So I think the death of Pinochet will not alter the agenda.”

The entirety of Chilean society is a victim of Pinochet's brutality, and closure is needed in order to move past that terrible chapter of Chile's history, good move Bachelet.

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