Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chilean Amnesty Law Under Fire

On Monday, leaders of Chile's major political parties, including the Socialist Party, the Christian Democrats, and the Party for Democracy, introduced a proposal to nullify the amnesty given to war criminals under the Pinochet regime.

To give a brief background, Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile on September 11th, 1973. Pinochet's rise to power was sponsored by the United States, who wanted to overthrow democratically elected Socialist president Salvador Allende. The Nixon Administration, Henry Kissinger in particular, provided Pinochet with the means to murder Allende and tear down democratic institutions in Chile. After he seized power, Pinochet began a Naziesque program of torture, asassination, and torture. He primarily targeted pro-democratic leftists in Chile, including the family of current President Michelle Bachelet. Overall, Pinochet killed thousands of innocent civilians, displaced thousands more, and destroyed any hope of a democratic society. All of this happened with full funding and complacency of the United States.

In 1978, after Pinochet had solidified power and crushed most dissent, he enacted a law that gave legal amnesty to anyone who committed war crimes from 1975 to 1978. Chile's modern political parties have called for repealing the law after three of Pinochet's military officers were given amnesty in the "Caravan of Death" trial. The "Caravan of Death" occurred in the weeks following Pinochet's coup, and over 70 of Allende's supporters were murdered in just a few days.

The vast majority of Chilean citizens came out in opposition to the amnesty law over the weekend, led by Socialist Party official Arturo Barrios.