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About Derechos Chile


Welcome to Derechos Chile, the web site that traces the history of human rights in Chile from 1973, the year of the military coup, through to the present. This site brings you testimonies, documents, photographs, and other information of interest. Derechos Chile also offers an up to date news service on human rights in Chile. You will find this site has information for people who are just beginning to learn about Chile and human rights as well as for those who are part of its history... if you want to know more about the site, read on!





Why look At The Past?

"It is best to remain silent and to forget. It is the only thing to do: we must forget. And forgetting does not occur by opening cases, putting people in jail. FOR-GET, this is the word, and for this to occur, both sides have to forget and continue working"
(Former General Augusto Pinochet, September 13, 1995, two days after the 22nd anniversary of the military coup)

The team that is developing this site is guided, above all, by the word "memory." Since Chile began its "transition" to democracy, in 1990, constant appeals have been made to forget the past, appeals to a specific group of people about a specific period in their history. Yet the contradictions of this recent past are still visible today and are part of daily life. If people are asked to forget, it is because they have memory. Derechos Chile works on the premise that to remember, to have memory, is in itself a right that some have tried to deny Chileans. But we believe, as do countless others in Chile and around the world, that it is of utmost importance to acknowledge the past in order to recover the clues needed to understand the present.


Derechos Chile works on the past parallel to the present. It provides a tool for understanding the present by way of the past. As a consequence of 17 years of military rule, many issues remain untouched and taboo, conflicts unresolved and wounds still open. The behavior of Chileans has been shaped by other days and other experiences that have a place in history, but which continue to influence today’s events. With this in mind, we have created this site to chronicle the history of human rights in Chile during the past 25 years as well as the history of the defense of those rights by those who did not passively accept the abuses.


We hope Derechos Chile will contribute to the recovery of historical memory in Chile. We also hope to contribute to the process of building roads to a future where the rights of all Chileans are respected.



Chile: Past and Present

"We have to protect the previous Army leadership ... and in my personal opinion, I do not think it is advisable to look back at things that happened in the past... these situations must be analyzed by history itself, because it is not convenient to get into situations that will provoke confrontations in this country"
(Commander-in-chief of the Army, General Ricardo Izurieta, May 27, 1998)

Chile approaches the year 2000 with the unforgettable legacy of a recent past marking its footsteps. In 1989, the Chilean people participated in free, democratic elections for the first time since the installation, 17 years earlier, of a military regime. The man who led that authoritarian government, General Augusto Pinochet, is the same man who, since his retirement in March 1998, occupies the nation’s first ever lifetime seat in the Senate.


At present, Chile is going through a period considered by many to be one of economic boom and sophisticated "modernization." Yet the democracy that has existed in Chile since 1990, known as "the transition," is built upon concealment of the truth and upon the impunity which protects those who committed human rights abuses that have scarred the lives of thousands of Chileans.


During the dictatorship years - which had its violent beginning in 1973 and ended in 1990 when power was handed over to Patricio Aylwin - Chileans were subjected to systematic and massive violations of their most basic human rights. Official figures indicate that nearly 3,000 people were executed, disappeared or lost their lives as a result of torture and political violence. There is no official tally, however, of the thousands of people who survived politically-motivated imprisonment, torture, and other forms of human rights violations during those years.

"Remembering helps the people of a country avoid committing the same crimes, calling things by their name; a criminal is a criminal... The worst thing that could happen in Chile... would be for oblivion to do away with this problem"
(Sola Sierra, president of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared, El Siglo, February 20, 1998)



Who We Are and How We Work


The Derechos Chile site is produced by compiling part of the vast body of information that already exists in the form of testimonies, documents, books, articles, and others. Our focus is limited to a specific groups of rights - the right to life, the rights to personal integrity, liberty and security, the right to live in one’s own country and the right to participate in government. The exclusion of other rights does not undermine their importance. Indeed, we recognize that other human rights are being violated day after day in Chile. These will be addressed in the "Features" section of the "Newsroom" where we will present articles and essays related to a broader definition of human rights.


The Derechos Chile site is developed by Louise Egan, Maxine Lowy and Isabel Toledo with funding from the Ford Foundation and is administered by the Chile Information Project..


Our work is guided by a group of advisors - many with a long and distinguished career in human rights-related fields - who contribute their time voluntarily. We thank them for the valuable contribution their expertise makes to the site.


We would also like to thank the photographers - Helen Hughes, Nelson Mu�oz, Luis Navarro and Marcelo Dauros - whose images give witness to the obstinacy of memory. For more information about these photographers and their work