Letter from Chile

By Kornbluh, Peter | The Nation, January 31, 2005 | Go to article overview

Letter from Chile


Kornbluh, Peter, The Nation


Santiago

The marbled corridors of the venerable Tribunal of Justice in downtown Santiago, deadly silent during the years of the military dictatorship, are now filled with the bustle of lawyers, clerks, police detectives and ministers pursuing past crimes of state. Chilean judges are not known for giving press conferences, but on December 13 several dozen reporters from local and international news organizations were waiting when Judge Juan Guzman stepped out of his office at 1:35 pm after filing his decision on prosecuting Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"Pinochet has been declared mentally fit to undergo criminal investigation," Judge Guzman told the large crowd, which included victims of repression and their families. He then announced that he had ordered Pinochet placed under house arrest and indicted for nine disappearances and one murder relating to Operation Condor--a Chilean-led consortium of secret police agencies that conducted hundreds of acts of state-sponsored terrorism in the Southern Cone and around the world in the mid- and late 1970s. Gasps echoed through the hall, then a ripple of applause, and then the sound of shrieks and tears as those who had lost husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, during Pinochet's seventeen-year regime reacted. When the Chilean Supreme Court announced on January 4 that it had rejected Pinochet's appeal of Guzman's ruling, mayhem once again broke out in the same hall.

The indictment has the most immediate meaning for those directly touched by the actions of Pinochet's military. For the relatives of those missing and murdered, and those who survived the torture camps, the Pinochet prosecution is a vindication of their efforts to keep the cause of truth and justice alive in a society that has largely preferred to dismiss, rather than confront, Chile's dark past. Coming the same week that the Chilean Congress was finalizing a law that would provide a modest monthly payment as compensation to thousands of people imprisoned and tortured during the Pinochet era, it offered a far more important moral reparation to these victims: the possibility that Pinochet would actually be judged.

The decision to prosecute Pinochet comes amid a flurry of activity around the cause of human rights. Since November, almost every day has brought a groundbreaking legal ruling, new indictment, dramatic announcement or event that has maintained the focus of the nation on the horrors of the past. The debate on whether and how to redress the human rights crimes of the Pinochet era--a debate long repressed by the Chilean military, right wing and post-Pinochet civilian governments--has escalated exponentially. "This is a Pandora's box," says Elizabeth Lira, one of Chile's leading psychologists and a member of the national commission that recently compiled a massive report on torture by Pinochet's forces. "I don't know where it stops."

The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture on which Lira served, known as the Valech Commission for its chairman, Monsignor Sergio Valech, submitted its findings to the government in November. The 1,200-page report catalogued more than 27,000 confirmed cases of imprisonment and the most grotesque forms of torture, which, it noted:

   was used as a tool for political control through suffering.
   Irrespective of any possible direct or indirect participation in
   acts that could be construed as illegal, the State resorted to
   torture during the entire period of the military regime. Torture
   sought to instill fear, to force people to submit, to obtain
   information, to destroy an individual's capacity for moral,
   physical, psychological, and political resistance and opposition
   to the military  regime. In order to "soften people up"--according
   to the torturers' slang--they used different forms of torture.... The
   victims were humiliated, threatened, and beaten; exposed to extreme
   cold, to heat and the sun until they became dehydrated; to thirst,
   hunger, sleep deprivation; they were submerged in water mixed with
   sewage to the point of asphyxiation; electric shocks were applied to
   the most sensitive parts of their bodies; they were sexually
   humiliated, if not raped by men and animals, or forced to witness
   the rape and torture of their loved ones. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Letter from Chile
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.