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ABOUT DERECHOS CHILE

Welcome to Derechos Chile, a web page dealing with the history of human rights abuses in Chile, beginning in 1973 when the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet took power and continuing through today's current events.

On this site you will find testimony, photographs, articles and other interesting information.

With its link to The Santiago Times, Derechos Chile offers regular news stories about the continuing evolution of human rights issues in Chile.

Here you will find information for everyone - for those with a limited understanding of Chile, and for those who participated in making its history.

If you want to know more about the site, please continue reading.

WHY KEEP LOOKING BACK AT THE PAST?


"It is better to remain quiet and to forget. That is the only thing we must do. We must forget. And that won't happen if we continue opening up lawsuits, sending people to jail. FOR-GET: That's the word. And for that to happen, both sides must forget and continue with their work."

(Former General Augusto Pinochet, September 13 1995,
two days after the 22nd anniversary of the military coup)

The team that created this web page was motivated by a concern for the word "memory." In the years that have gone by since Chile began its "transition" to democracy, there has been a constant call for people to forget. The effort to erase the memory of a very specific part of the country's history comes most especially from one sector of the society. Still, as made evident by regular, every-day events, the contradictions from the past continue to have their effect today.

If there is a call to forget, then it must be because many still remember. Derechos Chile starts from this perspective, the right to remember. A right that some would challenge even now. But we believe, as do many others in Chile and around the world, that it is of critical importance to understand and remember the past. The past must be understood if we are to understand where we are today, who we are and how best to deal with the future.

Derechos Chile works both with past and present-day events. This web site is a tool, helping to understand the present by helping to remember the past. In Chile there are still many "taboo" subjects, unresolved conflicts and open wounds as a result of the 17 years of military government.

The current-day behavior of Chileans has been shaped by other times, other experiences that occurred in the nation's history, but experiences that are always remembered.

Based on these assumptions, we have created on this site a history of human rights violations occurring in Chile over the past quarter of a century. It is also a history of the defense of human rights during all this time, a defense made by those who refused to stand by while their rights were trampled.

The Derechos Chile team hopes this effort will help in the restoration of Chile's historic memory, so that forgetfulness will not win out. We also hope to create a memory so that what happened in Chile will never occur again. So that tomorrow the human rights of all Chileans will be respected.

THE CHILE OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY

"We have to defend our former commanders... And I don't think, personally speaking, that going back to past events helps... It should be history itself that analyzes the past, because it is not good to bring up matters that are conflictive for the country"

(Army Commander in Chief, General Ricardo Izurieta, May 27, 1998)

Chile enters this new century with the unforgettable legacy of its past. Only in 1990 did Chileans begin to again elect their political leaders, after a 17-year military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

Chile currently is living through an economic upswing, a time of great modernization. While many Latin American countries are faced with difficult economic problems, Chile's economy continues to grow, albeit more modestly than in the 1990s.

Still, the "transition" to democracy begun in 1990 continues to hide much of the past. Those responsible for the human rights violations of thousands of Chileans remain virtually untouched.

During the military government - which took control of the country by force in 1973 and returned control to the democratically elected government of Patricio Aylwin in 1990 - the basic human rights of most Chileans were systematically and massively abused. Official statistics confirm that nearly three thousand people were executed, "disappeared" or died as a result of torture and other kinds of political violence that occurred during the military regime. But there is no official record in Chile of the thousands of people who were tortured or who were jailed for political reasons during the 17-year dictatorship.

"Memory helps people so that the same crimes are not repeated, calling things by their real name, saying a criminal is a criminal... The worst that could occur in Chile is to think that by forgetting we will do away with the problem"

(Sola Sierra, President of the Families of the Disappeared,
El Siglo,February 20, 1998