The Miami Herald
Mon, Nov. 29, 2004

Victims of Pinochet's reign to be compensated

SANTIAGO, Chile - (AP) -- President Ricardo Lagos on Sunday announced compensation to thousands of victims, saying illegal imprisonment and torture were a state policy during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

He said he made his decision after studying a gruesome report on torture during Pinochet's 1973-90 regime prepared by a commission that heard testimony from 35,000 people. He said 28,000 of those accounts were accepted as true by the commission.

Lagos called the report's account ``an experience that has no precedent in the world.''

He announced he will ask Congress to approve compensation to the victims, including pensions for life for 112,000 pesos, or about $190, a month. In addition, the victims and their relatives will receive special education, housing and health benefits from the state.

Both pro-government and opposition politicians anticipated support for the proposal.

The president did not disclose details of the testimonies included in the report, but he called the details ''shocking.'' He said virtually all 3,400 women interviewed by the commission claimed to have suffered some kind of sexual abuse.

Published reports have disclosed some of the torture methods described by the victims, including widespread use of electricity, sexual abuse including the use of animals, beatings, simulated firing squads, and many others.

''How can we explain such horror?'' Lagos asked. ``I do not have an answer.''

Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship fiercely suppressed leftists, dissidents and others perceived as opponents, imprisoning, exiling, torturing and killing thousands. Many of them simply disappeared.