SANTIAGO - The Chilean Catholic Church defended its proposal to include a pardon to soldiers convicted of crimes against human rights during the dictatorship [of Augusto Pinochet], sparking an intense debate in Chile, while President Sebastián Piñera received on Thursday a proposal by the Evangelicals.
The president of the Episcopal [Catholic] Conference, Alejandro Goic, told radio Cooperativa that the Church has maintained and kept "defending human rights, but also must have a capacity for forgiveness and mercy." "They wanted us to call to hatred? We call to forgiveness because that is essential", the priest added.
To Goic, "the Church has always upheld the truth and justice, but that's not enough to heal the wounds of a society, so a drop of love and mercy will always be necessary."
The Episcopal Conference of Chile made its proposal to the President Sebastián Piñera for a pardon for prisoners to mark the bicentenary of independence, which falls in September, and calls for not exempting military personnel involved and sentenced for violating human rights during the Pinochet dictatorship.
Piñera received on Thursday the president of the General Committee of Evangelical Churches, Bishop Emiliano Soto, who presented his own proposal for a pardon, which also excludes the military personnel convicted of violation of human rights, and the possibility of a pardon would be studied on a "case by case" basis.
For evangelicals, "a pardon should be motivated in the generation of a large social agreement" that "the country can reconcile its history and meet with their pain," however, "it will be insufficient if fundamental problems of prison reality are not solved, including overcrowding and lack of rehabilitation programs.
After receiving the two proposals church, and sending several reports to the ministries, Piñera entered into "a process of reflection" to make a decision according to the committees of the government.
But even in the ruling party's the proposal has generated division. Senator Lily Perez met with Pinera to express her rejection of the amnesty as incompatible to the executive agenda of security and crime control.
According to Perez, Piñera "on one hand will try to reconcile, and secondly, give a good signal to the country about whether we can not continue to bear this increase in crime."
The analyst at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Rodrigo Alvarez, told AFP that "Piñera will not only face strong pressure at the country level, but also could face major criticism in the international arena."
In addition to opposition from associations of victims of dictatorship and the Concertación (center-left) to including the military in the proposal for pardon, several experts have pointed out that international human rights treaties in force in Chile prohibit amnesties and pardons in cases of gross and systematic violations.
Lorena Fries, counsel for the Human Rights Institute, said that "international law is clear in saying that pardon or amnesty or statute of limitations on these crimes is not appropriate."
However Fries noted that "there are elements that have to do with humanitarian reasons" that are not a legal obligation but a consideration that might have the state "going to be the political authority which has to decide."
For his part, President of the Supreme Court, Milton Juica, said "the pardons and amnesties should not coexist in democratic regimes such as we have, but it is a personal opinion."
In the most recent census on the subject, in 2002, 70% of Chileans consider themselves Catholics, against 15% who identify themselves as evangelicals.
Ugh, I don't even. Violators of human rights do not fucking deserve cuddling or forgiveness or any of that shit. And since I'm feeling cynical today, I'm going to say Pinera's gonna let this shit happen, and then give a really Menem-esque speech about "reconciliation and healing old wounds" and other bullshit like that.