IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Chile: 129 to be arrested on ‘dirty war’ charges

A Chilean judge orders the arrest of 129 former security officials in the disappearance of leftists and the slaying of the communist party leadership during the Pinochet dictatorship.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Chilean judge on Tuesday ordered the arrests of 129 former security officers on charges tied to the disappearance of leftists and the slaying of the communist party leadership during the Pinochet dictatorship.

It was the largest number of arrests ever ordered in an investigation of human rights abuses during the "dirty war" waged while Gen. Augusto Pinochet ruled in 1973-90.

Judge Victor Montiglio said the 129 were members of the army, air force and uniformed police who worked for the Dina secret police agency, which has been accused of many of the political killings and other rights violations of the Pinochet era.

The alleged crimes were said to have been committed as part of Operation Condor, the Colombo Operation and the Street Conference, campaigns aimed at the leftist opponents of military regimes in Chile and other South American nations.

"We are investigating all who have participated ... in the deprivation of liberties of the victims," Montiglio said.

"We are much nearer the end" of the process, the judge added.

The identities of those named in the warrants were not released. Officials said the 129 would be notified of the warrants between Tuesday and Friday.

Hector Salazar, a lawyer and human rights activist who has worked to bring justice for the victims of the dictatorship, praised Montiglio for his resolution in pursuing the case.

"This proceeding is quite large, (and) implies a very extensive work of investigation," Salazar said.

Pinochet led a military junta that overthrew elected Marxist President Salvador Allende in 1973 and launched a brutal campaign to root out leftists.

An official report says 3,197 suspected leftists were slain for political reasons before he left power in 1990. Many "vanished" — likely kidnapped and killed, then buried in unmarked graves — leaving relatives no word on their fate.

Several attempts were made in Chile and abroad to prosecute Pinochet for human rights abuses, but none succeeded before he died two years ago at age 91.

Operation Condor was a joint campaign by military regimes in the southern part of the continent to brutally stamp out leftist political movement.

The Colombo Operation was a program by Dina to cover up the "disappearance" of 119 leftists.

The Street Conference case involved the killing of the top leaders of Chile's Communist Party between April 30 and May 6 in 1976. In 2007, Montiglio ordered the arrest of 74 former security agents in that case — the second largest arrest order.