Chileans imprisoned, tortured during Pinochet regime to be compensated
SANTIAGO, Chile – Three decades after being imprisoned and tortured during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Mireya Garcia is among 27,000 Chileans who will finally get government compensation.
“It’s very special for us, who were kept anonymous for almost 31 years, that the state admits that we were tortured,” Garcia told The Associated Press Monday. “Telling the nation that we were tortured is the first act of reparation. Little by little, this begins to be a healing process.”
While the payments are small – about $190 a month – they will double the pensions of many former victims. In addition, victims and their relatives will receive free education, housing and health benefits. The program, which still must be approved by Congress, will cost the government some $70 million a year.
Still, Garcia and other victims said monetary compensation was not enough, and the accused torturers should be punished.
President Ricardo Lagos announced the plan Sunday following the release of a gruesome report on torture during Pinochet’s 1973-90 regime prepared by a commission that heard testimony from more than 35,000 people.
The report described the main torture methods used at 1,131 detention centers established throughout the country after Pinochet seized power in a bloody coup. He launched a fierce repression against suspected leftist dissidents that included beatings, electric shocks, sexual abuse, simulated firing squads and forcing people to watch relatives be tortured.
“How can we explain such horror?” Lagos asked in a nationally televised address Sunday night. “I do not have an answer.”
Garcia, who became a human rights activist after her release from prison, said there is still a long way to go.
“For the reparation process to be complete, the report should not be just put on the Internet, but printed and sent to all schools in Chile, to all public libraries,” she said.
“We also want a memorial to the victims and a monument with the motto ‘Never again torture in Chile.”‘
Garcia’s brother is among 1,200 dissidents who remain unaccounted for after being arrested by Pinochet’s security services.