It has been over a year since Pinochet was ousted from political leadership. At the time, I thought that public opinion would be turn strongly against him once society was liberated from the yoke of his rule and people could speak more freely. I thought that all Chileans would be able to clearly see the heinous nature of his regime. I thought that the judiciary which ceased to protect the rights of civilians during the time of the Junta would make some sort of immediate effort to hold them accountable for their blatant disregard and distortion of the law. I never imagined that the laws of the Junta, or rather the lawlessness would persist after their rule had ended.
But no. Most infuriatingly, he and his cronies have been roaming around scott free since then. The 1978 immunity legislation that protect him from accountability to his crimes under the false pretense of state security and counterinsurgency are still being upheld even after he is out of office! Pinochet is still in control of the armed forces, he still has conspirators in the Judiciary, and he even had the audacity to threaten the Chilean people further: “No one is going to touch my people. They day they do, the rule of law will end.” As if there ever was rule of law! Clearly, the fear that permeated our lives so completely in the past still is exerting control over our present.
However, I feel that there is still more hope now than ever before. President Patricio Aylwin was sworn in yesterday, so it appears that our democratic institutions are functioning. There were times over the past ten years when I never thought I’d live to see democracy in Chile again. We have come this far, and I am hopeful that he will be able help reconcile the atrocities of our traumatic past so that we can truly heal and move on. President Aylwin promised to be president of all Chileans, and to seek truth and reconciliation. I have heard that he is going to set up a commission with the purpose of investigating human rights abuses and deaths of the disappeared. I hope he has the courage to stand up to Pinochet regardless of his threats and do the right thing.
I think it is important to keep the memory of the disappeared alive and to continue to try and get as close to the truth as we can. It will allow families to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones, it will remind us all the causes that the disappeared stood for, and it will shed light on the true nature of Pinochet and his crimes. I know it will be painful and difficult, but I have hope that we can get channel our collective pain and anger into a unified front against Pinochet and his supporters.
I still feel guilt when I think back on those in the detention center who did not escape with their lives. I sometimes like to remind myself how lucky I am to still have my life, and that my family and I are still together. Emily told me that she wants to become a lawyer to help achieve justice in this country, Maria and I are so proud of her. We are going to need every bit of justice that we can get.