Chile - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Country Updates


SOA Watch Latin America Communications Coordinator

The situation in Chile

According to the International Institute for Peace in Sweden, Chile is second in military expenditures in South America, only surpassed by Colombia. These expenditures are equivalent to $5.683 billion USD, 3.5% of Chile's GDP.

As Chilean army Chief Commander Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba stated, this money was invested in the purchase of replacements for obsolete materials, based on a decision made by the civil authorities on the basis of Chile's "politics of deterrence."

This policy has led neighboring countries to increase their own military investments, favoring the great global weapons industry. Among the countries that have benefitted are Israel, France and the U.S. This, at the same time, generates dependence on technology and warfare materials by our impoverished nations.

Chile is also second on the list of number of military personnel sent to the School of the Americas, also surpassed by Colombia. Chile does not only send troops to the SOA, but it has also participated in the administration of this military academy, with officials appointed as chiefs and instructors. Moreover, we have been informed that the cost of sending members of the Chilean army to SOA are covered by the latter.

It is worth mentioning that the soldiers who attend these courses are cadets in their fourth year at the Chilean Military School, who will be soon assigned command duties.

It is also necessary to remember that the military heads who led the coup d'état in Chile in 1973 and who tyrannically governed our country for 17 years, were graduates of the School of the Americas.

In addition, according to SOAW, one of the four agents of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Pinochet's secret police, was a SOA graduate. One of the agents was Manuel Contreras, one of the military leaders who led the efforts to create the Plan Condor, which made possible the coordination of the region's security forces for the purpose of political prosecution even beyond our borders, including the U.S., where Orlando Letelier was assassinated by a car bomb.

Another worrisome recent issue is increasing police repression against social movements in Chile, in particular against the Mapuche people, who are struggling for their right to land and soil.

We don't know whether the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), considered the new SOAW, is behind these actions. We can already be sure, however, that behind this modus operandi lays the logic of the National Security Doctrine, the logic of the war against terrorism that the U.S. promotes without respect for human rights, in favor of National Security.

On the same note, images of the training that personnel of the Special Operations Group (GOPE) of the Chilean police received were made public last year, in which a potential member of the GOPE was shown in plain training, hanging from his feet, tied and hooded, being submerged into water container, while the rest of his colleagues watched undaunted.

Situation of Human Rights

In the case of Chile, we need to point out that the Armed Forces have a lot of power and influence. Now that the government is on the side of the Armed Forces, with members that are ex-military or pro-Pinochet civilians, they will have enough support to continue to apply policies at their convenience.

The Armed Forces count on a law that is part of Pinochet's legacy: 10% of copper revenues, plus a high percentage of the national budget, is invested in defense.

For that reason, we were not surprised when priest Roy Bourgeois met with the head of the Defense Department, Vivianne Blanlot, in 2006, and she only committed to suggest, recommend, that the army does not continue to send troops to the SOA. The same situation can be observed in other countries where both the army and the U.S. are feared.

Even if some military members are currently in jail for violations of human rights, these cases are very few. In addition, they are in special VIP jails, enjoying special attention and still earning pensions as retired military, which gives them a clear comparative advantage over other convicted criminals, which also constitutes an implicit support to them.

In Chile the Amnesty Law is still valid. This law was conveniently passed by General Pinochet and has favored many military. Moreover, the Antiterrorist Law continues to be applied, as well as other laws inspired by the military logic of a restricted democracy, and controlled by the army, the police, and a constitutional tribunal that has more power than the Congress and the executive themselves.

We continue to live under the same Constitution that Pinochet left us with, which has slight modifications made by a political class which accepted the conditions imposed by the dictatorship in order for there to be a return to democracy.  The political class continues to comply with the conditions set by the dictatorship.

In this regard, the United States has and continues to support the policies established by the dictatorship that have subjected Chile to a neoliberal model, which has caused great economic damage to the majority of Chileans. At the same time, it has alienated us from our resources, for the benefit of transnational companies and the national bourgeoisie. The Armed Forces are great allies of their businesses and a support to their hegemony.

In brief, the U.S. influence has not brought either democracy or more democratic armed forces, or more compliance with human rights.

Our Experience

In Chile, we formed in 2006 the School of the Americas Watch after Father Roy's visit to our country, as a way to continue engaging with these issues.

During these years, we've had good and bad moments, but we continue this work.

In SOAW there are people that represent different organizations, and others that come on their own. We believe that coordination is extremely necessary in order to add volunteers to this cause, and that we need to fight all together against Chile sending military to be trained at the SOA, as well as support other efforts of SOAW.

The fact that the Chilean armed forces today are in their barracks does not guarantee that they are not going to repress our people again. What happened in Honduras in 2009 is an alarming example of what happens when our nations act towards our sovereignty and dignity. For this reason, we are convinced that the attendance of Latin American soldiers at the SOA is dangerous and does not help our people.

In these past four years of work, we have met with the heads of the Defense Department and with undersecretaries, letting our request be known.  They, surprisingly, often ignore the situation.

In 2008, as a result of the meeting that we held with the Human Rights Commission and the House of Representatives, accompanied by a U.S. Delegation, this Commission called the commander-in-chief of the army so that he would explain why we still send troops to the SOA.

Although the Commission did not take any resolution in favor of our cause, the issue was installed in public discussion.

Throughout these years we have organized forums, meetings, and publications about our campaign against the SOA. As a result, many organizations have joined to our cause, often with awe in face of the fact that "the SOA is still open."

Working Together

We believe that it is necessary to work towards a more fluid coordination and communication between organizations in the South and in the U.S., in order to both face together the issues that concern us and face in solidarity the realities and struggles of our peoples.

There are issues that appear with frequency in our nations, such as the application of anti-terrorist legislation, the criminalization of social movements, the repression of social demands, military instruction at the SOA, the application of torture to detainees, the existence of political prisoners, the prevalent impunity of human rights violators, and so on.

We propose:

- Greater coordination among peoples.

- The creation of a means of communication that helps us be informed about our potential contributions.

- The organization of international seminars where we can reunite, at least among those peoples who are neighbors, in the upcoming years.

- Carrying out international campaigns about these issues in our nations and communities.

- Mentoring groups that work as SOAW points in countries and/or organizations in order to pressure the U.S.

- Our participation in other similar initiatives.


The School of the Americas Watch, Chile