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Call to exorcise Pinochet from Chilean life

SANTIAGO (SE): On September 11, the 40th anniversary of the military coup which saw the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, ousted and killed by the butcher general, Augusto Pinochet, the president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, called on the nation to commemorate the tragic event by persevering on the path of truth, justice and reconciliation.

“Beyond the different and legitimate reading of the facts, as pastors of the Church we want to remember this date and reflect on the dignity of the human person,” he writes.

“Motivated by this fundamental value, the Catholic Church, together with other Christian Churches had to assume, in a time when one abandoned dialogue, a preponderant role in the defence of human rights and protection of persecuted compatriots,” he continues.

Archbishop Andrello points out that nothing justifies the violation of human dignity perpetrated from that fateful day of 11 September 1973.

“Truth, justice and reconciliation is the path we have proposed in order to have a life of dignity and human coexistence. More than ever, today, we continue to believe in this path, despite the difficulties that arise,” he says.

“This is the path that Jesus offers us to reach the great homeland. Reconciliation cannot be imposed by decree, but comes from a merciful heart. Our belief is that small personal and institutional gestures can be vital to help heal wounds and contribute to true reconciliation,” he continues.

He concludes by recalling the words of Pope Francis. “It is not the culture of conflict that builds coexistence among peoples and nations, but this: the culture of meeting, the culture of dialogue, this is the only path to peace.”

The ghost of Pinochet still haunts life in Chile and the former president, Michelle Bachelet, has also put out a call for a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to be set up.

She herself was a victim of the coup, losing her father, a general in the Chilean Air Force, who died under torture for his opposition to Pinochet, before she was forced into exile with her mother.

Bachelet is preparing to run for president again. Her main rival, Evelyn Matthei, is also the daughter of an air force general of the Pinochet years. But her father served as minister for health under Pinochet and ended up as commander-in-chief of his air force.

She has emerged on the other side of politics from Bachelet and was a high profile defender of Pinochet when he was detained in London on suspicion of breaching human rights in the later 1990s.


If she emerges as president, it is likely that no such commission will take place.

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