Chilean President Michelle Bachelet recalled Friday that many victims of the Sept. 11. 1973, coup against Salvador Allende were still waiting for justice.
“It has not been easy, but we have been able to transform a tragedy like the one we had to live 42 years ago into a victory of democracy, a defeat of death in the hands of life,” she stated during a ceremony paying tribute to former President Salvador Allende, who died during the coup.
Presidenta Michelle Bachelet: "Nunca más el poder de la muerte, solo el de la vida". pic.twitter.com/h8jjeni3D3— SERNAM (@SernamChile) septiembre 11, 2015
Bachelet announced the creation of a new Human Rights Unit as part of the Ministry of Justice, which awaits approval by the Chilean Congress.
“I will make sure that the justice will be equally achieved for everyone, and will defend human rights from new threats. Today the country is reflecting upon our history,” said Bachelet, who was imprisoned and tortured along with her mother before being exiled to East Germany.
On the same day in the lower chamber of Congress, Chilean lawmaker Ignacio Urrutia of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union said during a debate on financial reparations to former prisoners of the dictatorship, “The ones who saved Chile from the Marxist dictatorship are right here in [the prison of] Punta Peuco, wrongly sentenced for most of them. We should pay tribute to them.”
A day before, the Center for Human Rights at Diego Portales University released an advance excerpt of its 2015 report on the current judicial treatment of violations under the dictatorship. The report emphasized “important steps” in the matter of justice, as civilian complaints were treated at a quicker pace and resulted in fair criminal sentences. However, the report found that the judicial system kept failing on specific points, like reparations and protecting the rights of the survivors of political prison and torture.
The report also enumerated various highlights of 2015, including the death of former head of the intelligence service (DINA) under dictator Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Contreras, and the reopening of the investigation against military officers involved in the “Quemados” (“Burnt” gate), one of the most serious cases of state repression under Pinochet.
The report emphasized that following the latter event, Bachelet officially stated she was in favor of breaking the “pact of silence,” referring to a 2004 report entitled “Valech” that compiled the testimonies of thousands of victims of state repression, but was classified “secret” for the next 50 years.
During Chile's 9/11, the progressive government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a U.S.-backed military coup. The coup was led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who later consolidated power and ruled Chile with an iron fist until 1990.
According to official data, 903 people were reported as disappeared and 1,759 were executed during the Pinochet regime. Today, only 75 out of 1,073 former Pinochet-era agents are serving prison sentences for human rights violations.