Pinochet's Ghost Still Haunts Chile

General Augusto Pinochet is dead, but Chile continues to wrestle with the legacy of his 17 years of brutal military rule.

Under the leadership of President Michelle Bachelet, who was herself jailed and tortured by the Pinochet regime, the elected government of Chile has launched a campaign to commemorate the Pinochet years with museums and the preservation of historic sites.

Minister of National Properties Romy Schmidt told McClatchy Newspapers: “Our plan would involve practically all the police stations and military regiments in the country, which could get uncomfortable. But that would be a meaningful step because it would show the whole government was involved in the abuses.”

The military and police forces are deeply implicated in investigations into human rights abuses under the old regime.

In May, a Chilean judge ordered the arrest of 98 suspects, many of whom were young, low-ranking soldiers at the time of their alleged crimes.

The call for arrests, the biggest since Chile returned to civilian rule in 1990, was cheered by human rights activists, but harshly criticized by others.

“What power did any of these men have at the time of the coup in 1973?” retired army general Guillermo Garin, said to the BBC last month. “None!”

And the argument over Pinochet’s legacy moved on to the next generation in a very literal way earlier this week when the General’s eldest daughter, Lucia Pinochet Hiriart, filed papers to run for local office in a wealthy, right-leaning neighborhood of Santiago.

–Will Crain/


“Pinochet’s daughter seeks office in Chile politics”
Reuters, July 28, 2008

“Pinochet’s foot soldiers in firing line”
BBC, June 9, 2008

“Chile faces its dark history by tracking down torture centers”
McClatchy Newspapers, July 29, 2008

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