Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Curious Case of Gen. Cheyre

As Chile's armed forces have evolved from being the country's rulers to becoming subordinates of elected presidents, the role of Gen. Juan Emilio Cheyre stands as a milestone. While Cheyre was commander of the Army in 2002-2006, he published an essay in which the Army accepted responsibility for human rights abuses during the military's rule. His vow that the Army would "never again" commit such acts effectively distanced the military from former strongman Augusto Pinochet. But today, Gen. Cheyre is fighting accusations that he himself took part in abuses. Earlier this year, he was cleared in the case of an orphaned infant he was ordered to take to a convent in December 1973. The controversy forced him to quit his post as head of the national elections service. Now, investigators are looking into accusations by three sisters who say Cheyre was one of the officers who kidnapped and tortured them as children. It's hard to imagine that a champion of human rights would be a perpetrator himself. Yet, that's the conundrum facing the retired general. Meanwhile, the military officers who led the anti-communist war during Pinochet's rule are becoming more isolated. President Sabastian Pi├▒era shut down an exclusive prison where several officers convicted of human rights abuses were being held. They will serve the rest of their sentences in a regular prison, although one of them committed suicide rather than accept life with common criminals. Many Chileans view these officers as heroes who battled leftist terrorists and whose work was not much different than the CIA's or SOCOM's. Indeed, the government has launched a probe into more than 100 attacks by leftist extremists.

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