Ex-agent of Pinochet dictatorship shoots himself in bathroom

SANTIAGO – A retired officer of the Chilean Air Force committed suicide Tuesday morning when he was to be arrested by PDI personnel for a crime during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Carlos Alberto Rey Cortés, 71, was indicted last week for the murder of Arturo Díaz Jiménez on January 1, 1974, in the town of La Victoria.

The incident took place around 7:00 am Tuesday morning when members of the PDI Human Rights Brigade arrived at Rey’s home in a building on Nuestra Señora del Rosario Street in Las Condes, the BioBio reported.

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The ex-officer asked the policemen to take a quick shower before going to prison, and shot himself inside the bathroom of his apartment, located on a 9th floor. As seen from the outside, the bullet left the room through the window.

On October 11, Minister of the San Miguel Court of Appeals Marianela Cifuentes convicted Rey Cortés, an ex-member of the Air Force, for the murder of Arturo Díaz Jiménez.

Díaz Jiménez was shot on January 1, 1974 while standing at the door of his house after the curfew imposed by the Pinochet military junta was initiated.

The president of the Association of Relatives of Political Executives, Alicia Lira, has termed the suicide ‘an act of cowardice’.

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This is not the first time that people linked to the Chilean dictatorship resorted to suicide to avoid prosecution or the enforcement of sentences for the crimes they played during the regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Since 1990, scores of officials from the Pinochet era have been brought to trial for kidnap, torture and murder, and the process is ongoing. For many in Chile, of course, the trial of Pinochet’s foot soldiers is entirely justified, given the crimes committed under his rule.

Rey Cortes becomes the seventh military man indicted or convicted for human rights violations who decided to kill himself.

On the morning of September 28, 2013, Odlanier Mena, former head of the CNI, who was to be transferred to Punta Peuco, committed suicide following the decision of Sebastián Piñera’s government to close the Cordillera prison.

Odlanier had been sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for the death by firing squad of three socialist militants on October 20, 1973 in the vicinity of Arica. After 15 months to serve his sentence, the former CNI took advantage of the use of a penitentiary benefit to shoot himself in the temple in his house in Las Condes.

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In 2007, retired army Col Luis Alejandrino Hidalgo killed himself after being charged with a 1973 kidnapping and retired army officer Carlos Munoz committed suicide while in custody accused of human rights abuses.

In January 2005, former soldier German Barriga leapt to his death from the 18th floor of an apartment block in Santiago while under investigation. He had been subjected to the “funa”, a tactic developed by human rights campaigners to name and shame members of Pinochet’s regime.