Death squad killer gets state pardon from Chilean president

Chile pardons death squad criminal
Carole Concha Bell

Chile’s right-wing president, Sebastián Piñera, has sparked international condemnation after issuing a state pardon to convicted death squad killer René Cardemil.

Cardemil [Spanish] was serving a ten-year sentence for the murder of six people in 1975, during the Thatcher-backed Pinochet regime. The death squad stormed a block of flats in central Santiago de Chile on 17 October 1973. They arrested six people, who were led away and executed.

One of the victims [Spanish], 26-year-old Beatriz Díaz – an Argentine national, was pregnant when she was executed along with her partner Carlos Adler, 25. The other victims were Víctor Garretón, 60, Cristian Montecinos 27, Julio Saa Pizarro, 37, and Jorge Salas, 25.

Blood money

Presently, those who have been found guilty of human rights crimes during the Pinochet regime are being housed in a “luxury jail” – ‘Punta Peuco‘. They are allowed weekend family visits to the ranch. A number of them are even claiming million-peso pensions. In contrast, victims of the Pinochet regime receive compensation of around £157 per month. Many have been left with life-changing injuries as a result of torture.

Cardemil died in April at a military hospital, having never shown any remorse for his victims. On the contrary, he invited a journalist to film him on his death bed. Referring to the Chilean left, his message [Spanish] to the public was “they will never win”.

Alicia Lira, who represents the families of detained and disappeared people in Chile, said of Piñera’s posthumous state pardon:

We are outraged. We never thought that he’d be pardoning human rights criminals within the first few days of his presidency. Cardemil was free for 40 years even though he executed 6 people, including a pregnant woman.

‘You will never find them’

Chile’s fight for justice has been hampered by a military ‘pact of silence‘. Those who are found guilty of human rights violations are sent to Punta Peuco instead of prison.

Just last week, meanwhile, Pinochet supporters stormed Chile’s chamber of deputies chanting pro-Pinochet slogans. They left shouting “you will never find them”, in apparent reference to the victims of the dictatorship.

An estimated 4,000 detained and disappeared victims are yet to be found. The long list of missing victims includes British priest Michael Woodward and Charles Horman, who was featured in the film Missing.

As yet, there has been no coordinated state effort to find the missing. Chile’s new president, however, is pardoning human rights criminals – while the families of the victims continue to search for justice.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ Kena Lorenzini

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