By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, Chile — An event in an upscale neighborhood honoring former military officer Miguel Krassnoff left seven people injured on Monday, including six police officers, as approximately 1000 human rights activists protested against the ceremony. Krassnoff has been imprisoned since 2005 after being convicted of homicide, kidnapping and torture during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The event, which was first announced last week, was meant to serve as a platform to launch a book paying homage to Krassnoff and written by historian Gisela Silva Encina. Several hundred people were in attendance. The event was organized by right wing mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district, Cristian Labbe, who, like Krassnoff, was a former member of the Pinochet-era National Intelligence Directorate.
Director of the association for Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, Mireya Garcia, believes Labbe should not have been involved in a ceremony of this particular nature. “He was elected by popular vote and as such it’s his duty to represent all residents of Providencia, not just one sector,” he said. Juan Antonio Coloma, head of Chile’s right-wing UDI party, also believed this ceremony was a mistake.
Activist Lorena Pizarro, president of a group of families of the detained and disappeared, is planning on suing Labbe if she finds that he used public funds to plan the event. “The possibility of paying homage to Miguel Krassnoff … is a product of the impunity we’re living with in the country,” she states. Despite the criticism, Labbe is still planning on seeking re-election in October 2012.
Demonstrators protesting against the homage clashed with Krassnoff supporters and police who used tear gas to control them. Many protestors threw rocks and eggs at police, and two protestors, including the daughter of a torture victim, assaulted a local Krassnoff supporter who was chanting “Long live Pinochet.” A total of nine protestors were arrested.
Krassnoff is currently serving a 144-year sentence at a special prison at an army base for crimes against humanity during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). He was charged in 23 separate cases, and has been connected to 128 deaths or disappearances and 18 instances of torture. He has not yet expressed any remorse for his big role in the kidnappings and tortures of government opponents during Pinochet’s rule.
Krassnoff’s victims include among many others: social historian Gabriel Salazar, head of the Chilean Legal Medical Service Patricio Bustos, Socialist Dep. Osvaldo Andrade, board member for Chile’s public television station, TVN, Marcia Scantlebury, and possibly former President Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet has stated that she believes Krassnoff was present during her torture but is not completely sure because her eyes were covered the entire time.
Approximately 3,095 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet’s dictatorship according to a national commission.
Criticism from human rights groups regarding the event has affected some members of Chile’s current government. Despite having declined the invitation to attend the event, Chile’s President Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera has been criticized for not taking action to stop the event from occurring. His advisor, Andrea Ojeda, who also declined the invitation, resigned after being criticized for writing “best wishes of success” in her RSVP letter.
For further information, please see:
ABC News – Chileans Protest Pro-Pinochet Tribute; 7 Injured – 22 November 2011
Fox News Latino – Anti-Pinochet Protest In Chile Leaves 7 Injured – 22 November 2011
NTDTV – Major Clashes in Chile over Tribute to Controversial Former Official– 23 November 2011
Santiago Times – Chileans Gather to Honor, And Shame, Former Pinochet Agent – 22 November 2011
Washington Post – Tear Gas Fired, 7 Hurt as Chileans Protest Tribute to Ex-Colonel of Pinochet Regime – 22 November 2011