Chilean President Gabriel Boric promised on Thursday to continue the search for just over a thousand people who disappeared during the military dictatorship, although he admitted that it is unlikely to locate them 50 years after the coup that took democracy away from Chile.
The dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), which overthrew President Salvador Allende, left a balance of close to 40,000 victims, according to official figures from various truth commissions. The figure includes 3,095 assassinated opponents and just over a thousand detainees who later disappeared.
Boric pointed out that his government is committed to a national plan to search for the disappeared but acknowledged that “it will be difficult, success is unlikely.” However, he added, there is a moral duty “to never stop looking for those who are missing.”
The president spoke from Pisagua, 1,880 kilometers north of the Chilean capital, a fishing cove where in the mid-1990s the bodies of some twenty people disappeared during the dictatorship were unearthed from a clandestine grave.
Boric, accompanied by some relatives of the disappeared, toured the place of the grave where a memorial is erected in memory of those who died there. The design of the search plan considers the participation of relatives of the victims and public entities.
The desert climate of the north mummified the remains that were stuffed in sacks, with their hands tied and their eyes blindfolded. In some, the impacts of the bullets with which they were executed were notorious.
Pisagua, once a prosperous port, has a horrible past. On three occasions it has been used as a concentration camp. The first was in 1947 when Pinochet, who was a captain at the time, served for a couple of months as manager of the place, and in 1956 and after the 1973 military coup he returned to fulfill the same role.
Around 1,500 uniformed officers were investigated for their responsibility in human rights violations during the dictatorship, a few hundred were sentenced by the courts of justice to sentences to be served in freedom. Another 129 are imprisoned in Punta Peuco, a comfortable prison exclusively for them. Most are around 80 years old.
Boric did not rule out a possible closure of the prison when he was recently consulted by the press after the increase in rumors about its closure, a demand that is resurrected in view of the proximity of September when it will be 50 years since the military coup.
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