Chile to sue over false reports of Pinochet-era missing
Chilean officials said they would sue families who falsely claimed that their relatives went missing during the dictatorship of the late general Augusto Pinochet.
The move comes days after three people listed as killed or missing during the 1973-1990 military regime were either found alive or were determined to have died in an unrelated manner.
Their names surfaced when investigators looked into an earlier non-victim, who was identified in November.
Officially, 1,183 people were killed or reported missing and presumed dead during the military dictatorship years. Their names appear on a special memorial at the General Cemetery of Santiago.
Because they are victims of the state, their relatives are eligible for government payments.
The Santiago Appeals Court assigned Judge Carlos Gajardo to represent the government, arguing that mistakes in the official list of Pinochet-era victims has caused "deep public consternation."
Gajardo will see if there are more people in the official government lists of missing people that are alive, or died in different circumstances, said Interior Ministry Undersecretary Patricio Rosende.
"This is an issue that requires speed and exclusive dedication," Rosende said.
The first name of a false victim surfaced in November, when the main organisation representing relatives of dead or missing victims of the dictatorship discovered that one person on the list -- German Cofre, 65 -- was living in Buenos Aires.
According to the official list, Cofre was arrested one month after the September 11, 1973 coup, held at an Air Force detention center, and vanished.
His family knew that Cofre was alive and nevertheless applied and received government benefits, the group charged.
Three other cases surfaced over the weekend.
One was Edgardo Palacios, a Socialist activist. His family discovered that he died in 2006 as a pauper but did not inform the authorities.
Another was Carlos Rojas Campos, who was found in 2005 to be living in Buenos Aires. Despite a government order to the contrary, the Rojas family continued receiving benefits.
The most baffling case is that of Emperatriz Villagra, who died in in 1955 -- 18 years before the military coup. Her family has received no government benefits, and it is unclear how her name appeared on the list of victims.
The cases have raised questions about the whole system of reparations and verification of dictatorship victims, which began soon after democracy was restored in 1990.
There have been two government studies on the issue -- the 1991 Rettig Report, which stated that there more than 3,000 people were killed or went missing, and the 2005 Valech Report, which said that some 28,000 people were tortured during the military regime.
President Michelle Bachelet, who was tortured along with her mother during the early days of the regime, vowed to set the historic record straight.
"The violation of human rights is a national shame forever etched in the history of our country, and we are not going to permit that this historic truth is thrown into doubt," Bachelet said.
Bachelet's late father, Air Force general Alberto Bachelet, was tortured to death for opposing the coup.
The two government reports were "totally trustworthy ... but the officials
who ordered the detention, who killed the people -- they never turned over
the required information to make a report 100 percent accurate," said Maria
Luisa Sepulveda, Bachelet's adviser on human rights.