Chile recognizes 9,800 more Pinochet victims

Posted Aug. 18, 2011, at 9:05 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 18, 2011, at 10:33 p.m.

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile officially recognized 9,800 more victims of its dictatorship on Thursday, increasing the total number of people killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons to 40,018.

A similar effort in 2004 determined that 27,153 survivors deserve monthly compensation from the government for human rights violations they suffered.

Together with the 3,065 people who were killed by Chile’s military or were simply made to disappear and are presumed dead, the official victim list accepted by President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday totals 40,018.

Survivors of rights violations will get get lifetime pensions of about $260 a month. Relatives of those killed receive more than three times that amount. In all, the government will need to increase its compensation to about $123 million a year. Victims also are entitled to health, education and housing benefits.

The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture was created by Pinera’s predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, in February 2010 as one of her last acts in office. It reviewed information submitted by thousands of people in an effort similar to the one led by the late bishop Sergio Valech, which came up with the previous total of survivors in 2004.

The work of hearing from the living followed a previous effort to tally the dead, ordered by President Patricio Alywin, Chile’s first democratically elected leader following the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Both efforts were highly praised for helping Chile’s democracy settle unpaid debts, but the Valech commission also was criticized because one of its establishing principles was to keep secret for 50 years the identities of those responsible.

Pinera’s government has not said publicly whether it will maintain the same secrecy with the new report presented Thursday, but it is likely, because this commission functioned as an extension of the previous one. Pinera made no comments as he accepted the report from Maria Luisa Sepulveda, a social worker who also had participated in the previous fact-finding efforts.

This time, the commission took testimony from about 32,000 people before determining that 9,800 met the requirements to be officially recognized as a victim of torture or other human rights violations.

Thursday’s report still doesn’t resolve all of the dictatorship’s pending human rights cases. About 800 Pinochet agents, most of them former military, face trial for crimes against humanity, and 71 of them are imprisoned, the government said last year.

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