In Chile, angry relatives of missing people took to the streets of Santiago on Saturday (15 September) after finding out that the authorities had buried the bodies of fifteen people murdered by the Chilean police instead of returning the remains to the families as promised.
In Chile, angry relatives of missing people took to the streets of Santiago on Saturday (15 September) after finding out that the authorities had buried the bodies of fifteen people murdered by the Chilean police instead of returning the remains to the families as promised. The bodies were found in a lime kiln at Talagante near Santiago last November. Sine then the victims have been campaigning to have the bodies returned for proper burial. A military court found eight policemen guilty of the murders and instructed the authorities to return the remains to the families.
SYNOPSIS: What was supposed to have been a funeral mass turned into a bitter demonstration in Santiago. Relatives who had expected to receive the remains of fifteen people from the authorities on Friday (14 September) were told that the remains were not available because they had been worried. This war the latest episode in a long running case over fifteen leftwing farmers shot by policemen in 1973 -- a month after the armed forces overthrew Marxist President Salvador Allende.
Monsignor Enrique Alvarez, the auxiliary Bishop of Santiago had planned to officiate at the mass which was arranged after the Government had agreed to hand over the bodies. The story of the murdered men came to light when a priest heard about a killings during a confession. The bodies were then discovered in as disused lime kiln and identified as those of farmers arrested by security forces. A judicial investigation led to the imprisonment of eight policemen, but they were released this year under an amnesty declared by General Augusto Pinochet.
Now the relatives are demanding the bodies back and their campaign has touched off demonstrations over the whole question of human rights in Chile. Both a United Nations group and the Roman Catholic church have criticised the Chilean authorities for violating human rights. It is claimed that some 640 people have disappeared since the military took power six years ago. But the Chilean Government refutes these charges, saying that no one is now detained without trial and it is doing all it can to trace the missing people. Earlier this month demonstrators occupied the Danish Embassy in Santiago and four churches to draw attention to their protests over the number of people missing.
President Pinochet has ruled Chile with a firm grip since the bloody coup of 1973. Recently he has been increasing his own power in the ruling military junta despite growing criticism which resulted in eighteen out of twenty-one generals being forced to retire when they suggested an early return to civilian government. Riot police were called out after Saturday's cathedral service when demonstrators marched through the city shouting anti-government slogans. Thousands of people took part in the demonstrations before police dispersed them.