By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, Chile—The first official investigation into former President Salvador Allende’s death has begun. A Chilean judge opened the investigation decades after Allende died in 1973 in the midst of a military coup led by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s subsequent dictatorship lasted 17 long years.
The judge’s order is just one of numerous investigations into 726 human rights violations that have yet to be prosecuted. Beatriz Pedrals, judicial prosecutor of the appeals court, explained that these inquiries into human rights crimes will seek “uniformity of criteria; in other words, what has not been investigated, the courts will investigate. This will finally establish what happened.” Judge Mario Carroza, in charge of Allende’s death inquiry, calls his obligation, “more than an important duty.”
Allende, a Socialist president, was democratically elected and then found dead at age 65 by armed forces who had captured the presidential palace. The military troops had attacked the palace for hours using firearms and bombs dropped by air force jets. In a radio broadcast he made as his palace was under attack, Allende predicted: “I will not resign. Placed in this historic juncture, I will pay with my life the loyalty of the people.”
At first, the results of an autopsy pointed to suicide. Allende apparently died from a bullet that was fired into his mouth from a short distance away. The autopsy report surmised that the gunshot wound “could have been made by himself.” But since 1973, many of the deceased president’s supporters have disagreed with the autopsy’s findings, suggesting instead that Allende was murdered by soldiers or snipers. Three years ago, an expert who examined the autopsy report concluded that Allende may have sustained injuries from two separate weapons.
According to Alicia Lira, president of the Association of Relatives of Politically Executed Persons, “Allende was murdered.” During Pinochet’s notorious military dictatorship, 3,000 people vanished or were murdered, and 50,000 were tortured or held captive. Pinochet, 91, died of a heart attack in 2006 while under investigation for a myriad of human rights abuses.
For more information, please see:
Radio Cadena Agramonte-Investigation of Allende Death in Chilean Political Spotlight-29 January 2011
NY Times-Chilean Judge Orders Investigation Into Allende’s Death-27 January 2011
BBC-Inquiry into 1973 death of Chile’s Salvador Allende-27 January 2011