Al Jazeera & Associated Press – 2011-01-30 01:14:02
Chile to Probe Allende’s Death
(January 28, 2011) — Chile is launching its first investigation into the death of President Salvador Allende, 37 years after the socialist leader was found shot through the head during an attack on the presidential palace.
Allende’s death, during the bloody US-backed coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power on September 11, 1973, had until now been ruled a suicide.
The investigation is part of an investigation into hundreds of complaints of human rights abuses during Pinochet’s 1973-1990 rule.
Beatriz Pedrals, a prosecutor in the appellate court in Santiago, said on Thursday that she had decided to investigate 726 deaths that had never previously been explored, including Allende’s.
“What has not been investigated, the courts will investigate … This will finally establish what happened,” she said.
‘More than Important’
Chile’s “truth commission” reported in 1991 that the Pinochet dictatorship killed 3,797 people. Most of those cases have been investigated, leading to human rights trials for about 600 military figures and a small number of civilian collaborators.
The task of investigating the previously unexamined 726 deaths now falls on Mario Carroza, an experienced investigative judge who already is handling hundreds of other human rights cases.
Judge Carroza described it as “work that is more than important, a tremendous responsibility”.
He told reporters that he would seek information from a variety of sources, including a judge now investigating the deaths of Allende’s comrades, who disappeared after surrendering to the military outside the palace.
Allende became Chile’s first socialist president when he came to power in 1970 after winning a narrow â€¨election victory. But his ascent to power was not welcomed by all.
Conservatives in Chile and Washington feared his attempts to pave “a Chilean way toward Socialism” — including the nationalisation of US mining interests — would usher in a pro-Soviet communist government.
Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state under then president Richard Nixon, made quite clear what US intentions were after Allende’s election. “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves … I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people,” Kissinger said at the time.â€¨â€¨
Allende was found dead in the presidential palace as soldiers supporting the coup closed in and warplanes bombed the building.
An official autopsy ruled that he had committed suicide, although the results have long been questioned by some politicians and human rights groups. Osvaldo Andrade, the president of Allende’s Socialist Party, applauded the decision to investigate.
“Truth and justice remains a pending subject in Chile and whatever is done so that the truth comes out will always be well received by us,” Andrade said. “There remains a deficit of truth and a deficit of justice in Chile and we hope that the deficit becomes ever more small.”
Pinochet governed as a dictator until March 11, 1990, and died in 2006.
Key Government Witness Again Testifies in Posada Trial
Will Weissert / Associated Press
EL PASO, Texas (January 27, 2011) — To the prosecution, Gilberto Abascal is a star witness, proof an elderly ex-CIA operative and anti-communist militant lied about how he sneaked into the U.S. in 2005. To the defense, Abascal is little more than a tax cheat with a history of mental problems.
Both sides agree, however, that Abascal may hold the key to whether Cuba native Luis Posada Carriles — considered former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s nemesis — is convicted of the 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud he faces in federal court in West Texas.
Abascal, a paid government informant, returns to the witness stand Thursday for the fourth straight day. He claimed — and showed snapshots to back it up — that he was on a converted yacht that helped Posada reach Miami from Mexico illegally in March 2005, though Posada told immigration officials he came across the Texas border.
Posada, 82, is accused of lying during immigration hearings in El Paso about how he got to the U.S. and about his involvement in a series of 1997 bombings in Cuba that killed an Italian tourist, saying under oath he wasn’t involved even though he claimed responsibility in an interview with The New York Times. Although Posada spent a lifetime using violence to destabilize communist political systems, he is not on trial for his Cold War past.
Trying to discredit Abascal, Posada attorney Arturo Hernandez on Wednesday introduced a medical evaluation from the Social Security Administration that indicated the witness suffered from “severe schizophrenic symptoms.”
Those stemmed from head injuries Abascal suffered after falling from a building at a construction site in 2000, and he went to a hospital emergency room in June 2004 with hallucinations.
Abascal, a 45-year-old Cuba native who now lives in Miami, said he sometimes suffers from insomnia and depression — but not schizophrenia.
Upon repeated questioning from Hernandez, however, he told the defense attorney: “I’m afraid of you.”
“You’ve had me under surveillance for six years,” Abascal snapped, alleging that Hernandez’s Miami-based firm has watched him.
Abascal is central to the government’s case because he testified that he was on the boat that traveled to the resort island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico, picked up Posada, and helped him slip into Miami — testimony that contradicted Posada’s account to immigration officials that he paid a people smuggler to drive him from Honduras to Houston.
Abascal admitted paying no federal taxes in 2005 and said that, despite his claims of being indigent, he made about $100,000 as co-owner of a Florida chicken farm.
Hernandez also introduced bank files showing Abascal falsely claimed to have no income so he could receive disability payments.
Once in the U.S., Posada applied for citizenship and underwent a series of immigration hearings in El Paso, leading to the charges against him. He has been living in Miami since 2007.
Posada worked for the CIA in the 1960s and helped support U.S.-backed “contra” rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s. He also was jailed in Panama for a 2000 plot to kill Castro during a visit there.
Cuba and Venezuela accuse Posada not only of the 1997 Cuban hotel bombings, but also of organizing an explosion aboard a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. A U.S. immigration judge has previously ruled that he couldn’t be deported to either country because of fears of torture.
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