Sunday 11 December 2011

Chile: Call for law banning honouring of Pinochet

Chilean daily La Tercera yesterday ran an article on the efforts to introduce a law regulating the public commemoration of Augusto Pinochet. Here's my translation:

Opposition calls for law prohibiting pro-Pinochet monuments to be pushed through

On Thursday, opposition members of parliament criticised the lack of progress on the draft law which would ban the exhibition of images and public monuments which honour the memory of the late general Augusto Pinochet.

The legislators believe that the human rights committee of the lower house needs to resume discussion of the initiative presented a few months ago, following a series of court rulings that established the existence of a conspiracy by government agencies.

The MP for the Democracy Party (PPD), Tucapel Jimenez, son of the iconic trade union leader of the same name murdered during the military regime, explained that the decisions of the courts confirmed the crimes committed by repressive bodies such as DINA or CNI, which were acting on Pinochet's direct orders.

The National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) was the first repressive apparatus of the state and was replaced years ago by the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) with the aim of reducing the harsh criticism which the former body had attracted because of its serious violations of human rights.

In fact, its mentor and director, retired general Manuel Contreras, is serving successive sentences totaling around 300 years for the deaths of dozens of opponents who were detained and in the majority of cases disappeared by that agency.

Jimenez said that "no one would imagine that, for example, in Italy there were public monuments or statues in honor of a drug lord or a criminal."

He said that approving the law, which prohibits the display of any image that honors the memory of Pinochet, "will be a very strong signal to show that Chile does not accept or honour the criminals who participated in a conspiracy."

The bill specifies that "images, statues, plaques or shields honouring or remembering the former commander in chief of the Chilean army, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, are prohibited in public spaces, institutions and educational establishments".

The text also specifies that this applies to "all members of the military junta that ruled our country from September 11, 1973 until March 11, 1990".

The document clarifies that the law will not apply to instances of strictly private memory, however, this rule shall apply also to the army, navy and air rorce of Chile.

If the initiative is approved in parliament, the complete removal of all pictures, plaques or shields in which Augusto Pinochet appears must take place within 90 days from the publication of the law.

Here's the original:
Oposición pide apurar trámite de ley que prohíbe monumentos en honor a Pinochet (La Tercera)

I live in Germany - a country where it is illegal to display a swastika except in certain educational contexts (ie in a museum exhibition) or own Mein Kampf or make the Heil Hitler salute - so this concept is very familiar to me. Of course, to some extent it may be regarded as a suppression of free speech (Holocaust denial is illegal here too) but given Germany's history, I don't think it is too much to ask that its public institutions and armed forces do not display any pro-Nazi imagery, and the same applies to Chile. I was also reminded of Argentina's move to change the names of certain streets which commemorated dictatorship figures.

No comments: