Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Former head of DINA Manuel Contreras denies torture and disappearances in dictatorship era

Interviewed by CNN Chile at the Penal Cordillera, former head of DINA Manuel Contreras denied the routine practice of torture and disappearance of socialists during the dictatorship era, adding that he vouched for the organisation as he had never ordered torture.

As Chile commemorated the 40th anniversary of the ruthless dictatorship which fragmented the country into divergent memory frameworks, Contreras sought to contradict the evidence of committed atrocities either by vehemently denying the confirmed facts by seeking to demean the credibility of torture survivors and evidence relating to the desaparecidos, or else projecting blame upon other forces of the dictatorship, such as the air force. The Valech and Rettig reports were also disregarded with Contreras simply claiming he was not ordered to impose torture practices upon detainees and that no one died while in custody.

It is estimated that over 1200 sites were turned into detention, torture and extermination centres during the dictatorship.

According to Contreras, the desaparecidos can be located at the Cemeterio General in Santiago, adding that all bodies were taken to the Servicio Medico Legal prior to burial in mass graves. The practice of disappearing the bodies of murdered socialist militants into the sea was also denied, with Contreras claiming that 'DINA had no ships or aircraft or helicopters', thus striving to impart the assumption that there was no collaboration with other powerful structures within the dictatorship. The desaparecidos, according to Contreras, 'died in combat'.

The Chilean Ministry of Interior dismissed Contreras' interview as 'having no significance or relevance', adding that the imprisoned general imposed destruction upon Chile, reminding people that his rhetoric has been dispelled by the Chilean courts.

The remarks uttered by Contreras elicited outrage in social media, compounded by the fact that right wing supporters clamoured online for the freedom of former military offices, who they described as political prisoners.

DINA's covert operations manual, known as 'Secreto 28', instructs agents to take advantage of instances when people believe the law is not being violated, as it allows further freedom to infringe. The 108 page document instructs DINA to violate the law and ensure that all traces of such violations should be appropriately concealed in order to avoid the possibility of implicating the state and authorities.

President Sebastian Piñera condemned the human rights violations which occurred during Pinochet's era; however he expressed the opinion that both sides of the political spectrum should assume responsibility, adding that Salvador Allende's government 'broke the legality and rule of law'.

Meanwhile in Santiago, activists are determined to continue the struggle for the memory of the desaparecidos. It has been reported that Santiago will be 'bombarded' with thousands of photos bearing the faces of Chile's desaparecidos in various places, including the notorious detention and extermination centre, Cuartel Simon Bolivar.


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