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Latino Daily News

Monday November 25, 2013

Members of Pinochet Secret Police Still on Army Payroll

The Chilean military pays thousands of dollars a month to veterans of late dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police, documents on the army’s official Web site show.

Chilean lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the deputy defense minister, Gen. Oscar Izurieta, who, as army chief, assured a congressional committee in September 2009 that no former agents of the 1973-1990 regime remained on military payrolls.

Besides erstwhile secret police operatives, the “consultants” include retired Gen. Gonzalo Santelices Cuevas, who receives 1.67 million pesos ($3,270) a month as an adviser to army intelligence.

He was forced out of the army in February 2008 by then-President Michelle Bachelet after a newspaper cited a court statement by Santelices acknowledging his involvement with the Caravan of Death, a mobile task force that summarily executed more than 70 political prisoners in the weeks following Pinochet’s Sept. 11, 1973, coup.

Santelices testified that on the night of Oct. 18, 1973, he and men under his command seized 14 political prisoners from a jail in the northern city of Antofagasta and drove them to a remote spot where they were then shot.

Patricio Zambelli Restelli, who gets $2,540 a month for advising army intelligence, worked at Villa Grimaldi, one of Pinochet’s most notorious torture chambers.

He was also part of a secret police unit that in 1976 abducted leaders of Chile’s Communist Party who were subsequently murdered.

Izurieta and the incumbent army commander, Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba, will face questioning from legislators, lower house member Jorge Tarud told Efe.

“This information makes it clear that the army remains committed to those who violated rights under the dictatorship,” Mireya Garcia, vice president of a group representing victims of the military regime, said Monday.

The two women vying to become Chile’s next president are strongly associated with the Pinochet era.

Neither Bachelet, representing a center-left alliance, nor main rival Evelyn Matthei, standard-bearer of the governing rightist coalition, won the required 50 percent plus one in the Nov. 17 balloting and will face other in a Dec. 15 runoff.

Both daughters of air force generals, Matthei and Bachelet were childhood friends whose paths diverged sharply after Pinochet’s coup.

While Bachelet’s father, who opposed the putsch, died as a result of torture by his brothers-in-arms, Matthei’s dad became a member of the junta.

Bachelet and her mother were also tortured, but colleagues of her father were eventually able to have them released and allowed to leave the country.

The Pinochet regime killed more than 3,000 people, tortured around 27,000 others and forced tens of thousands more into exile.

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