The Miami Herald
Feb. 4, 2009

Chile: Man listed falsely as Pinochet victim

Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A man listed for years as a missing victim of Chile's dictatorship actually died in a train crash but his widow reported him as having disappeared to collect benefits, the government said Tuesday.

The deceased man is the fifth person whom government officials have identified in recent months as being a false victim of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

In the four other cases, those wrongly identified either died in unrelated circumstances or were located alive.

The government has ordered that benefit payments to the families be suspended, and courts are to decide whether criminal charges will be filed.

Deputy Interior Minister Patricio Rosende said that the latest false victim, Pedro Millas, died in a train crash in 1982 but that his widow, Lidia Reyes, reported him as having disappeared.

The government believes the woman acted ''in bad faith'' to receive cash benefits awarded to dictatorship victims, Rosende said.

''One cannot understand how a person can try to benefit from a situation that has caused such great pain to so many Chileans,'' he said.

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Many of the bodies were never found.

The post-Pinochet civilian governments awarded a variety of benefits to the victims, including cash payments, scholarships for children and free medical services.

Officials say the false-victim cases are isolated and do not change the reality of the hundreds of dissidents who disappeared at the hands of the dictatorship.