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List of Chile dictatorship victims grows, sparking controversy

August 31, 2011 | 12:43 pm

Lorenza pizarro victims chile Chile's government has expanded its official list of victims of the Pinochet dictatorship to more than 40,000, but among the new names are victims of torture who later became torturers themselves, as well as a torture victim who fled and later returned to Chile to kill a right-wing leader.

Opposing interests contended this week that such names should be removed from the list.

The new report by the so-called Valech Commission (link in Spanish), in adding more names of recognized victims, has sparked debate over who can claim monetary compensation from the government. Victims are entitled to $256 a month as well as healthcare and other benefits.

The government now recognizes 9,795 more victims of torture or political imprisonment and 30 more people killed during the military regime led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

The dictatorship ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990. The new figures bring the total number of recognized victims during the period to 40,043.

But among those are victims who broke under torture and collaborated with the regime. One, Miguel Estay, became a notorious military torturer known as El Fanta. Another, Luz Arce, also collaborated with the dictatorship after suffering torture. Figures in the victims' movement are demanding that Estay and Acre be removed from the new list.

Lorena Pizarro, leader of a survivors organization, called the inclusion of Estay and Arce "an offense to the victims" (link in Spanish) and said the new Valech report loses legitimacy because of it.

Separately, the right-wing party Independent Democratic Union is protesting the inclusion of Galvarino Apablaza, a torture victim and later guerrilla leader who is wanted in Chile for the assassination of the party's founder, Jaime Guzman, after the return to democracy. Apablaza was granted asylum in Argentina, reports said.

A spokesman for the administration of President Sebastian Pinera -- the first conservative leader elected since the end of the dictatorship -- said the commission was independent and free to make its own findings. The commission sought only to establish who suffered violence or human rights abuses under the regime and did not take into account what a victim might have done later, the government said.

Other questions have been raised about the Valech report. Victims are being named, but what about the torturers and agents of the regime? Many are jailed and face charges for human-rights abuses, but many more remain free, critics said.

"I was tortured, and therefore someone tortured me. Where are those persons?" said Manuel Guerrero Antequera, son of one of Estay's victims (link in Spanish) and a now councilman for the Ñuñoa district of Santiago. "Today they are active in society. The Valech report has no path to justice."


Ghosts of Pinochet regime haunt Chile's president

Pablo Neruda's death to be investigated as Chile exhumes its past

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Lorena Pizarro, leader of a dictatorship survivors movement in Chile, denounced the inclusion of some new names on a list of victims. Credit: El Mostrador