Representatives of Chile’s Broad Front issued a call Tuesday for the Punta Peuco prison to be closed. Punta Peuco is a special prison set up to house former agents of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, who have been imprisoned for committing crimes against humanity. Sept. 11 marked the 45th anniversary of Pinochet’s violent overthrow of democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende.
According to Rodrigo Echecopar of the Democratic Revolution party, the prison is “one of the greatest symbols of the lack of justice in our country (Chile).” In Punta Peuco, former state security personnel, who participated in kidnappings, torture, rape, murders, and disappearances, enjoy comforts not afforded to the general prison population, including cookouts and holding keys to their own cells.
A recent poll published by Cadem shows that 78 percent of Chileans believe that the government should close the prison and transfer the former military personnel, who committed human rights violations to regular prisons. At least 60 percent believe former soldiers and officers should have no parole benefits and serve their full sentences in prison regardless of age or health condition, while 37 percent believe they should benefit from some benefits like completing their sentences under house arrest.
Closing Punta Peuco was one of five demands presented by the center-left coalition that brings together 14 political parties. The other demands include: prohibiting parole benefits, sentence reduction, and pardons for persons found guilty of crimes against humanity; protecting Chile’s historical past; the declassification of all documents linked to the crimes committed during the dictatorship; and revoking the amnesty law.
In August, Chilean human rights groups and opposition legislators began legal action to dismiss three Supreme Court justices, who granted parole in July to seven former agents of Pinochet’s dictatorship convicted of crimes against humanity.