Chile's president rebuffs Church's call to pardon officials


From the New York Times. SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, abruptly rejected calls on Sunday from the Roman Catholic Church to pardon dozens of imprisoned military officials convicted of human rights violations during the era known as Chile’s dirty war.

Mr. Piñera, Chile’s first right-wing leader since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet ended two decades ago, had promised during his campaign last year to crack down on crime and have a “zero tolerance” policy toward criminal offenders.

On Sunday he put an end to months of mounting pressure from the Catholic Church and some in the country’s right-wing establishment to make a grand healing gesture to the country by issuing sweeping pardons.

“While we value the debate generated by these proposals, we cannot ignore that they continue to produce a climate of tension and division in Chilean society that many times reopens the old wounds and bitterness of the past,” Mr. Piñera said in a televised address from the presidential palace in Santiago.

Standing up to Chile’s Catholic Church was seen as a bold move, considering the church’s well-acknowledged role in challenging the military dictatorship of General Pinochet and in harboring many human rights victims and people sought by the military.

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