In Chile, the scene has been set for another ten years of military rule following the recent national referendum which resulted in massive support for president Augusto Pinochet and his military government.
In Chile, the scene has been set for another ten years of military rule following the recent national referendum which resulted in massive support for president Augusto Pinochet and his military government. The referendum was called by General Pinochet after the United Nations condemned alleged violations of human rights in Chile. Voting was compulsory and the opposition unable to campaign, but just over 20 per cent of the electorate voted against. Shortly after the results were announced, General Pinochet said he would allow the United Nations to investigate the human rights allegations.
SYNOPSIS: General Pinochet, now 66, became President in December 1974, 15 months after leading the military coup that ousted Marxist President Salvador Allende. President Allende died in the takeover. General Pinochet was chosen President by a junta of army, navy, airforce and police commanders. The Pinochet government, which has its headquarters in Santiago's Diego Portales complex, now appears to be improving its human rights image.
Although the former Moneda presidential palace still bears the scars of the violence surrounding the coup, outside observers have detected a gradual liberalisation in ChIle. According to Church sources quoted by Reuters News Agency, the number of unexplained disappearances of government opponents was down significantly towards the ene of last year. And the DINA secret police have gone from their base in Penalolen street. The organisation, whose members were accused of torturing political detainees, had now been abolished.
DINA, also based in Jose Doming Canas street, had been replaced by the National Information Centre. It will play a secret police role, but unlike DINA will not be able to make its won arrests.
For many in Chile as well as in the outside world, the starkest reminder of the 1973 coup is the National Stadium, once famous for the soccer played there. After the takeover it became notorious for the torture and brutality alleged to have taken place behind its walls. Following the coup, journalists were allowed in to inspect the conditions of the thousands of prisoners who had been round up during the strict political crack-down. About a thousand prisoners could be seen. The authorities said the many others also detained were either away on trial in military court, or being interrogated elsewhere in the stadium.
This former hospital in Santa Lucia street was said to be another site of interrogations by the DINA secret police.
A force to be reckoned with outside the government in Chile is the progressive Roman Catholic church. From colonial days, the Chilean church has always acted as a watchdog on government activity. And the junta, mindful of its influence among the 10 million predominantly Catholic population, has been careful not to crack down too hard on it.
Although many Chileans appear to support the Pinochet government, outspoken criticism form some Church sources continues. The sources, quoted by Reuters News Agency, say that over the past four years, about 1.300 people have either disappeared, been held without trial, or been sentence for political offenses.