Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Chile Soldiers Charged in '86 Burning Death of US Resident

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Chile Soldiers Charged in '86 Burning Death of US Resident

Article excerpt

SANTIAGO, Chile - A Chilean judge charged seven former members of the military on Friday in the burning death of a 19-year-old U.S. resident who was killed in a 1986 protest against the military dictatorship then in power. Judge Mario Carroza charged six former officers with premeditated killing in the burning death of Rodrigo Rojas. They were also charged with the attempted homicide of 18- year-old Carmen Quintana. Another former soldier was charged with being an accomplice to the crime.

Soldiers doused Rojas and Quintana with gasoline and set them ablaze during a street demonstration on July 2, 1986. Rojas died four days later. He was a Chilean-born photographer visiting from Washington D.C., where he lived with his mother in exile.

Quintana, who was a university student at the time, survived and underwent lengthy treatment for severe burns at a Canadian hospital. Her scarred face later became a symbol of the atrocities committed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship.

The latest development comes after another soldier testified last year, breaking a nearly three-decade pact of silence in one of the most prominent cases of human rights abuses during the dictatorship that saw 40,018 people killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons.

"The wounds have not been kept in the past. While there's no justice, there's no way to move forward, Rojas' mother, Veronica De Negri, said after the charges were announced. "Everyone here is responsible because when silence has been kept for 29 years, everyone shares the responsibility.

President Michelle Bachelet, who was held and tortured during the dictatorship, said it's important for the truth to finally come out so that these crimes are never again repeated and go unpunished in Chile.

"The latest developments encourage us by making us feel that it's always good for the truth to arrive and justice to be served, even if it takes 29 years, Bachelet said during a public event this week. …

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