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Secret History of Chile

John Simkin

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This report appeared in today's Guardian.

A year-long investigation into state-sponsored torture in Chile has documented that an estimated 35,000 people were abused during the 1973-90 military regime.

The report, which has not been made public, identifies dozens of secret facilities under the control of General Augusto Pinochet, who headed the military junta.

The National Commission on Political Prisoners and Torture presented its study to President Ricardo Lagos late last week. The three volumes include hundreds of new claims about torture tactics, ranging from sexual abuse using dogs, to forcing suspects to watch as family members were sodomised or slowly electrocuted.

"This is a historic step. Now those of us who were political prisoners are recognised, both socially and officially," said Mireya Garcia, of the Association of Families of the Dead and Disappeared. "I hope that this report becomes an integral part of the [educational] formation of new generations, so that in Chile never again is there torture."

The commission, made up of eight civilians and led by Bishop Sergio Valech, was created by Mr Lagos in November 2003. A team of 60 people, including lawyers, psychologists and social workers, was involved in producing the report, which was designed to be a historical document rather than a tool for prosecutions. Chileans in 40 countries were interviewed and thousands of testimonies collected.

Mr Lagos said Chile had spent 15 years investigating the crimes of the military government. "How many countries have dared to deeply examine their own history?" he said. "How many have dared dig to the bottom of what happened?"


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  • 8 years later...

On the trail of Paul Schaefer

An investigative journalist explains how she tracked down the leader of a sect where members were drugged and abused.
Carolina Fuentes Last Modified: 07 Nov 2013 13:44


Rockets and others explosives were found in Colonia Dignidad, but classified files held by the Chilean authorities prevent more information being revealed about exactly who was involved the atrocities committed at the Colony [EPA]

Chilean investigative journalist Carolina Fuentes first broke the story about Colonia Dignidad, a German sect in southern Chile led by a former Nazi army nurse, Paul Schaefer. Residents of the Colony were often drugged and the children sexually abused. But the residents were not Schaefer's only victims. Colonia Dignidad was also an experimental torture centre where political prisoners of the Pinochet regime were interrogated, tortured and their bodies sometimes disposed of.

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