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1978-1982

 

 


1978

 

JANUARY 4, 1978 Pinochet holds a National Consultation, "in defense of the dignity of Chile," which takes place one week after it is first announced, on December 27. The electorate is asked to reject the United Nations’ resolution condemning human rights violation in Chile. The voter is asked whether he "supports the president in his defense of the dignity of Chile and reaffirms the legitimacy of the government of the republic... or whether, to the contrary, he supports the resolution of the United Nations and its intention to impose our future destiny on us from abroad." The final vote results were 75% yes, 20% no, and 5% annulled.

The Consultation vote is held with no guarantees of fairness: among other things, voter registration lists had been destroyed following the coup and, according to Americas Watch, the Consultation is held in a climate of "extreme brutality and fear under a state of siege in which civil liberties were radically restricted." Indeed, even the Air Force, the Navy and the Comptroller General object to the balloting procedure. Nevertheless, Pinochet interprets the results as a legitimization of the regime’s policies.

 

JANUARY 10, 1978 Fourteen Christian Democratic Party (PDC) leaders are relegated to northern Chile for taking part in an illegal meeting November 16, 1977. Relegations are carried out in a climate of intense nationalism and anti-pluralism following the Consultation.

 

MARCH 1, 1978 Photographs of Juan Williams Rose and Alejandro Romeral Jara allegedly implicated in the murder of UP minister Orlando Letelier and his secretary Ronnie Moffit are published in Chilean newspapers. The following day, anonymous readers declare that the Williams Rose photos are actually of Michael Townley, US citizen and former member of Patria y Libertad, a rightist paramilitary group which opposed the Popular Unity government. Later, the other photograph is identified as being that of Army Captain Armando Fernández Larios, a DINA member since 1975, who is a close collaborator of Arellano Stark. Throughout March, the Letelier-Moffit murder case evolves, with the designation of a special prosecutor to investigate the possible falsification of passports for Townley et al. US Attorney General Eugene Propper arrives in Chile toward the end of March.

 

APRIL 8, 1978 Michael Townley is expelled from Chile. During this month, Gen. Manuel Contreras, in charge of the DINA at the time of the Letelier-Moffit murders, voluntarily resigns from the Army.

 

APRIL 19, 1978 An Amnesty Law is declared. The Decree Law drafted by Justice Minister Mónica Madariaga, pardons all individuals who committed crimes between September 11, 1973 and March 10, 1978, that is, throughout the state of siege period. This law includes authors of crimes, their accomplices and those who covered up crime. In effect, it shields from prosecution all those who committed human rights violations throughout the five-year period. It also benefits some political prisoners, sentenced throughout that period, and who are granted amnesty. Interior Minister Sergio Fernández, appointed April 14, describes it as "the beginning of national reconciliation." The law specifically excludes those eventually found responsible for the 1976 Letelier-Moffit murders.

 

MAY 22, 1978 Relatives of the disappeared stage a hunger strike to pressure the regime to reveal the whereabouts of their loved ones, missing from the moment they were arrested by security forces. The strike takes place in locations belonging to the Catholic Church and lasts a total of 17 days. In response, Interior Minister Sergio Fernández says, "We were and we are almost in a process of war. In any war people disappear and nobody asks for, nor does anybody give, explanations."

 

JULY 8, 1978 The Washington Post suggests that Pinochet is involved in the Letelier-Moffit murder.

 

JULY 24, 1978 Gen. Gustavo Leigh is demoted. General Augusto Pinochet, and the other two Junta members, Generals Jose Toribio Merino and César Mendoza accuse him of "backtracking on numerous occasions on the principles that inspired the September 11 movement," in reference to the military coup. Indeed, Leigh had strongly opposed the National Consultation the previous year. His demotion is sparked off by an interview with an Italian journal in which he openly expresses his discrepancies with the absolutely totalitarian nature of the regime. He goes as far as to say that he supports the existence of leftist political parties "in the same manner as the Swedish do," adding that the Chilean experience proved "ideas cannot be abolished through decree laws." Leigh is replaced by Gen. Fernando Matthei, who had been Health Minister until then.

 

AUGUST 1, 1978 The U.S. ’ courts request the extradition of Manuel Contreras, Pedro Espinoza and Fernández Larios, believing them to be involved in the murder of Letelier and Moffit.

 

SEPTEMBER 1978 The Vicaria de la Solidaridad (Vicaria) announces the existence of 613 proven cases of disappearances after arrest by security forces. The report, which took one year to draft, is submitted to Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez.

 

OCTOBER 19, 1978 Seven labor confederations representing 550 trade unions are forced to close by the regime.

 

NOVEMBER 9, 1978 The Episcopate Permanent Committee issues a harsh declaration on human rights and the disappeared in Chile. Those that are disappeared, said the declaration, "must be presumed to have been detained by the government’s security forces... we have reached the conclusion that the government will not conduct an in-depth investigation into what happened." The declaration added, "We are sorry to say that we have also reached the conclusion that many, if not all the disappeared, have died outside the bounds of the law."

Christian Precht speaks at human rights symposium, Photo: L.NavarroNOVEMBER 22, 1978 The Vicaria inaugurates an international symposium on human rights despite strong pressure from the regime to suspend it.

NOVEMBER 26, 1978 The Regional Inter-American Workers’ Organization, ORIT, approves a boycott of port exports to Chile to protest the regime’s October 19 decision to close down seven trade union confederations. The original proponent of the boycott was the AFL-CIO in the United States.

NOVEMBER 30 1978 The remains of 15 disappeared are discovered in Lonquén. The Vicaria publicly announces the discovery of an illegal burial ground in an abandoned limestone mine in Lonquén which has been used to conceal the bodies of 15 people who had disappeared since the onset of the military regime in 1973.

DECEMBER 10, 1978 The United Nations awards a human rights prize to the Vicaria. Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez travels to New York to receive the award from Kurt Waldheim. On the same date, the Cardinal makes a surprise announcement, requesting that the director of the Vicaria, priest Cristián Precht, resign from his post. According to Precht, the request for his resignation was due to the Vicaría's growing power: "There was only so much the government could tolerate, and we went too far."

DECEMBER 10, 1978 The Chilean Human Rights Commission is created, giving rise to the grassroots organizations, "comités de base," whose work concentrates on the defense and promotion of human rights. The Commission also recognizes unemployment, homelessness and poor housing as well as lack of health care and under-nourishment as human rights violations. 

DECEMBER 19, 1978 Human remains belonging to disappeared people are found in Cuesta Barriga. An ad-hoc committee, led by Bishop Jorge Hourton and Vicaría attorney Jorge Molina, makes the announcement. The coroner’s office, the Legal Medical Institute (IML), claims the bodies have been removed from a cemetery, an action described as "a profanation" by IML director Claudio Molina. However, an unexpected witness comes forward to reveal that immediately following the September 1973 coup, he and six other detained individuals were removed from the Curacaví police headquarters and taken to a hut by Cuesta Barriga where they were shot. The bodies found by the Vicaria corresponded to two of the five who were killed there. Those who died were Edmundo Manso and Jorge Toros, whose remains were returned to their families, and Justo Mendoza Santibáñez, Nicolás Gárate and Jorge Gómez whose bodies were never found. One of the two survivors, José Barrera, reappeared six months after the incident, on March 13, 1974, at a police station but is arrested, never to be seen again. The other went underground, and reappeared only to tell his story.

 

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1979

 

JANUARY 2, 1979 A new labor plan is enacted. The new program - designed by recently appointed Labor Minister José Piñera - reflects the neo-liberal economic model being applied in Chile, restricts negotiating rights and allows for lower salaries.

 

MAY 1, 1979 Three hundred and sixty-five people are arrested in unauthorized Labor Day marches.

 

JUNE 20, 1979 Hoy magazine is suspended for two months because, according to Gen. Enrique Morel, two interviews published in the magazine, with leftists leaders Clodomiro Almeyda and Carlos Altamirano, made a mockery of the regime’s decision to ban political parties.

 

AUGUST 1979 The National Union Coordinator (CNS), alongside other trade unions, creates the Command for the Defense of Union Rights, which sets out to devise a program to counteract the negative effects of the new Labor Plan.

 

OCTOBER 1979 The Supreme Court rejects the United States’ petition to extradite Army officials Manuel Contreras, Pedro Espinoza and Fernández Larios. Up to this point, many opposition sectors believed the Letelier-Moffit case would seriously damage the regime’s international credibility, but the regime manages the conflict successfully.

 

OCTOBER 2, 1979 The remains of 19 human bodies are discovered in the Yumbel cemetery. In the inquest that follows, it is established that they belong to the 19 missing people from Laja and San Rosendo, who had been arrested September 18, 1973 by Carabineros.

 

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1980

 

MARCH 7, 1980 International Women’s Day marches result in 118 arrests. Five of the detainees are sent to internal exile on March 23.

 

MARCH 21, 1980 The leader of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, cancels Pinochet’s official visit to his country after the Chilean entourage is already en route, forcing Pinochet to abruptly return to Chile. The failed trip results in the dismissal of Foreign Affairs Minister Hernán Cubillos. Marcos claimed the tour had been canceled for security reasons, but the Associated Press quotes a Manila source as saying that Marcos was uncomfortable with the visit even before it began.

 

MAY 1, 1980 Trade unions march to commemorate Labor Day. The event is considered by organizers to be a success, gathering almost 3,000 marchers.

 

JUNE 9, 1980 The Laja and San Rosendo case is closed by the Military Court of Concepción, applying the 1978 amnesty law. The 15 Carabineros charged with the 1973 murder and secret burial of 19 people in the two southern towns, walk away free.

 

JULY 15, 1980 The head of the Army Intelligence School, Colonel Roger Vergara, is shot dead as he travels to work in his car. The MIR later claims responsibility for the murder. The assassination sparks off a change of leadership in the CNI, and Odlanier Mena is replaced by Humberto Gordon as director of the regime’s intelligence service.

 

JULY 23, 1980 Fourteen people are kidnapped in "response" to the murder of Colonel Vergara. The so-called Revenge of the Martyrs Command, Covema, a paramilitary organization supporting the regime, interrogates and tortures its victims for several days, after which they are all set free. However, journalism student and MIR member, Eduardo Jara Aravena, dies hours after his release from the effects of prolonged torture. Three weeks later, on August 11, the regime announces that Investigations personnel are responsible for the Covema kidnappings. Around that same time, Investigations police Director Gen. Ernesto Baeza, resigns. Eduardo Jara's murderers go unpunished.

 

AUGUST 12, 1980 The regime announces a plebiscite for September 11 to approve a new constitution drafted by Pinochet’s collaborators. The constitution proposes that Pinochet’s mandate be prolonged for another eight years followed by presidential elections, to be carried out according to the procedure set out in the constitution. The announcement puts an end to a period of power struggles within the regime, consolidates the person of Pinochet as the head of "government" and opens the way to the institutionalization of the dictatorship. The regime’s opponents call on the population to vote against the constitution.

 

AUGUST 27, 1980 Former president Eduardo Frei Montalva leads the movement to reject the new constitution proposal with an event held at Santiago’s Teatro Caupolicán. So many people attend the event that hundreds are forced to remain outside the theater, listening to the speeches on loudspeaker.

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 1980 The constitutional plebiscite results in 67 percent in favor and 30 percent against the new constitution. This result gives legitimacy to the regime and its plans for a future transition to democracy. According to the new constitution, Pinochet begins a new eight-year term of "presidency." The constitution also controls any future civilian governments until well past the year 2000 by granting Pinochet and the political right disproportionate representation in Congress once the governments of the "protected democracy" are elected. The election is held without voter registration lists or political parties and thus, no party-appointed poll watchers. It is also held in a climate of fear and intimidation which annuls any attempt at creating debate around the issue. Furthermore, there are no guarantees to safeguard the fairness of the plebiscite, giving way to widespread fraud.

 

OCTOBER, 20, 1980 Andres Zaldivar, president of the Christian Democratic Party, is expelled from Chile for claiming, while in Mexico, that the new constitution is illegal.

 

DECEMBER, 20, 1980 Five Chilean bishops excommunicate torturers, as well as all those who ordered torture and those who could have prevented it but did not.

 

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1981

 

MARCH 12, 1981 Pinochet takes possession of the La Moneda presidential palace upon completion of the repairs and renovations that were undertaken due to the destruction caused by bombing eight years earlier during the military coup. The day before, Pinochet had been sworn in as "president" for another eight years. Until then, the junta had ruled from the Diego Portales building in Santiago.

 

MARCH 28, 1981 Communist Party (PC) leaders declare their support for "armed struggle’ against the regime. The "El Mercurio" newspaper prints declarations by PC leaders Luis Corvalán and Volodia Teiltelboim supporting the use of violence to overthrow the regime. The PC’s new "rebellion of the masses" policy is a response to the constitutional plebiscite, which they consider closes all possibilities of a quick path to democracy, by institutionalizing the regime for many years to come.

 

JULY 15, 1981 Captain Ingrid Olderock survives a murder attempt by the "Popular Resistance Militia," which accuses her of training dogs used in torture.

 

AUGUST 11, 1981 Four opposition leaders are exiled. The Christian Democrat human rights lawyer Jaime Castillo, Radical Party leader Orlando Cantuarias, Socialist Party leader Carlos Briones, and Christian Left party leader Alberto Jerez, are all expelled from Chile, for having "a defiant attitude that the government will not tolerate."

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 1981 The new constitution is enacted.

 

SEPTEMBER 24, 1981 The regime informs of new armed confrontations in Neltume, Valdivia, south of Chile, between the MIR and state agents. The regime says seven "terrorists" die in the latest shoot-outs, but journalists later maintain that the dead MIR members had bullet wounds on the back of their heads.

 

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1982

 

FEBRUARY 27, 1982 Renowned labor leader Tucapel Jímenez is murdered by three men who break into his car and stab and shoot him several times. The charismatic leader of the National Association of Public Employees (ANEF) was a protagonist of the re-emerging unionist movement.

 

JUNE 20, 1982 Comeva abductors are identified in cross-examination. Cecilia Alzamora, one of 14 people kidnapped by Comeva in July 1980, recognizes CNI agent Eduardo Campos Araya as one of her abductors. Despite this, and the petition by lawyer Jaime Hales, prosecutor Alberto Echavarría frees the accused.

 

AUGUST 10, 1982 The first march for "Pan, trabajo, justicia y libertad" ("Bread, work, justice and freedom") is held, in which 32 people are detained.

 

OCTOBER 1982 Opposition magazine APSI is closed down by the regime.

 

DECEMBER 3, 1982 Labor leaders are expelled from the country. This time, the objects of the measure are Manuel Bustos, Hector Cuevas, and Carlos Poldech. During the same days, the regime orders massive raids of "poblaciones" in the Santiago communities of La Cisterna and La Florida in what they regard as a "clean-up" operation.

 

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