Ex-Chilean army chief convicted for Pinochet-era murders

'Caravan of Death'

SANTIAGO – A Chilean court has convicted the country’s former army chief for his role in the killing of 15 people during the early days of Augusto Pinochet’s military rule.

General (r) Juan Emilio Cheyre, 71, was sentenced on Friday to three years and a day under house arrest for his involvement in the notorious “Caravan of Death” following a probe by an investigating magistrate.

Cheyre is the most senior figure to be convicted for abuses committed under the 1973-90 military dictatorship.

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The Caravan was a military unit sent out by General Augusto Pinochet to kill left-wing opponents after he ousted President Salvador Allende in a coup in September 1973.

Cheyre did not form part of it but he was adjutant to the commander of the infantry regiment for the coastal city of La Serena, where the 15 people were killed.

Mario Carroza, the investigating judge designed by Chile’s Appeal Court to lead the investigation, told reporters on Friday that the conviction of a former army chief illustrated the “egalitarian” justice system Chile now enjoys.

“It has been an extensive and complex investigation, above all because we did not have the cooperation of those implicated,” he said.

On Friday, the same court sentenced Ariosto Lapostol, the former commander of the Arica regiment stationed at La Serena, to 15 years in prison for the multiple murders.

Carroza’s 335-page ruling named Lapostol the “sole author” of the killings, saying that the other accomplices were now dead. The ruling also awarded compensation to the families of the victims.

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Chile’s dictatorship ended in 1990 and Pinochet died in 2006 without ever being punished for human rights abuses committed during his rule. Cheyre served as commander-in-chief of the army from 2002 to 2006. He was the first to ask forgiveness for the military’s past excesses.

During the 1973-90 dictatorship, an estimated 3,200 people were murdered and another 28,000 tortured by the state.

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