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UNEMPLOYMENT RATE INCREASES IN CHILE

(May 31, 2006) Chile’s National Institute of Statistics released unemployment figures for the past three months Monday placing the nation’s unemp[loyment rate at 8.3 percent. The figure is up 0.1 percent over the same time period in 2005 and up 5.45 percent since the last report at the end of March.

The figures coincide with business sector expectations which estimated the unemployment rate at somewhere between 8 and 8.3 percent. According to the report the increase in unemployed workers is due to the admission of 94,470 new workers, representing a 6.84 percent increase in the labor pool since the INE released figures in March.

The report also detailed unemployment rates between sexes, showing a 0.5 percent increase in female unemployment and a 0.1 percent decrease in male unemployment. The overall figures for these two groups are 6.7 percent unemployment for men and 11.2 percent for women.

SOURCE: EL MERCURIO

BERRIÓS CASE: JUDGE INVESTIGATES PINOCHET’S SON

(May 31, 2006) The investigation into the murder of Eugenio Berríos has uncovered links between Augusto Pinochet Hiriart, the eldest son of the former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and various military organizations in Chile and Uruguay suspected of taking part in the 1993 homicide of the former secret police chemist.

Investigative Judge Alejandro Madrid released previously undisclosed information relating to the 1991 “Pinocheques” incident that caused Pinochet Jr. to flee Chile rather than testify why the Commander in Chief – his father Gen. Pinochet – paid him $971,000,000 pesos (approximately US$1.8 million) to act as the intermediary between the Chilean military and a then bankrupt weapons factory.

The case was closed after government administrators pressured the State Defense Council (CDE) to dismiss the charges saying that the case threatened the democratic stability of the government. At the time Chile was beginning the transition to democracy after 17 years of military dictato…

BACHELET ADMINISTRATION REACTS TO REPORTS OF U.S. THREATS

(May 31, 2006) Government spokespeople downplayed U.S. Department of State threats against Chile in the event that Chile supports Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Ricardo Lagos Weber, Chile’s government spokesman, indicated that Chile would not be pressured by the U.S., but instead seek regional consensus on the issue before indicating which way Chile will vote on the issue.

“These are distinct issues that have nothing to do with each other,” said Lagos Weber. “I do not see how a country could be penalized for exercising its international rights.”

According to a story that was published in La Tercera on May 28th, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told Chile’s Minister of the Exterior Alejandro Foxely that Chilean support for Venezuela as a member of the U.N. security council in October’s elections would “decisively damage” bilateral relations between Chile and the U.S. The report went on to quote Zoellick as saying that, in the event that C…

BERRIÓS CASE: JUDGE INVESTIGATES PINOCHET’S SON

(May 31, 2006) The investigation into the murder of Eugenio Berríos has uncovered links between Augusto Pinochet Hiriart, the eldest son of the former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and various military organizations in Chile and Uruguay suspected of taking part in the 1993 homicide of the former secret police chemist.

Investigative Judge Alejandro Madrid released previously undisclosed information relating to the 1991 “Pinocheques” incident that caused Pinochet Jr. to flee Chile rather than testify why the Commander in Chief – his father Gen. Pinochet – paid him $971,000,000 pesos (approximately US$1.8 million) to act as the intermediary between the Chilean military and a then bankrupt weapons factory.

The case was closed after government administrators pressured the State Defense Council (CDE) to dismiss the charges saying that the case threatened the democratic stability of the government. At the time Chile was beginning the transition to democracy after 17 years of military dictato…

PRESIDENT OF CHILE MEETS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

(May 29, 2006) President Michelle Bachelet made a historic visit to the headquarters of the Families of Disappeared Detainees (AFDD) on Friday to speak with leaders of the group about human rights issues. The visit was the first time since the transition to Democracy in 1990 that a Chilean president has personally visited the organization dedicated to discovering what happened to the thousands of people who were disappeared by Chile’s military dictatorship.

At the meeting, Lorena Pizarro, director of AFDD, gave the president a detailed review of human rights cases currently in litigation as well as a 22-point list of demands for Chile’s new government.

“I would like to highlight the disposition of the President to analyze our demands with experts and those versed in these issues,” said Pizarro. “This is not an issue she takes lightly and, at least we hope and felt today, that this (meeting) translates into concrete decisions on the government’s part to advance justice, remembrance, and …

MAPUCHES END HUNGER STRIKE

(May 29, 2006) Senator Alejandro Navarro convinced four Mapuche prisoners on a hunger strike to end their protest last Friday after the group resumed the strike on May 15th. All four prisoners are under medical supervision at the intensive care unit of the Temuco Regional Hospital because of organ damage due to the prolonged fast.

Juan and Jaime Marileo, Juan Carlos Huenulao and Patricia Troncoso resumed the hunger strike last Saturday (ST, May XX) claiming that Chile’s government had failed to uphold a bargain that ended the first hunger strike on May 15. The agreement, negotiated by Senators and clergy from the Catholic Church, promised that the Congress would review their cases and decide on a resolution, proposed by Sen. Navarro, within 10 days.

The group initially agreed to the compromise but unexpectedly resumed the strike five days before the agreed upon deadline. In addition, the group protested the government’s demand that they renounce violence as a political tool using the d…

PRESIDENT OF CHILE MEETS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

(May 29, 2006) President Michelle Bachelet made a historic visit to the headquarters of the Families of Disappeared Detainees (AFDD) on Friday to speak with leaders of the group about human rights issues. The visit was the first time since the transition to Democracy in 1990 that a Chilean president has personally visited the organization dedicated to discovering what happened to the thousands of people who were disappeared by Chile’s military dictatorship.

At the meeting, Lorena Pizarro, director of AFDD, gave the president a detailed review of human rights cases currently in litigation as well as a 22-point list of demands for Chile’s new government.

“I would like to highlight the disposition of the President to analyze our demands with experts and those versed in these issues,” said Pizarro. “This is not an issue she takes lightly and, at least we hope and felt today, that this (meeting) translates into concrete decisions on the government’s part to advance justice, remembrance, and …

Barrick Gold Backs Out Of Cerro Casale Project

(May 27, 2006) Representatives from Barrick Gold, a Canadian owned gold mining company announced that they were backing out of the Cerro Casale project and leaving the way open for two other mining companies interested in the project.

The Cerro Casale project is a series of open-pit gold and copper mines located in Region III of northern Chile. The project was initially run by Placer Dome, another Canadian mining company, until Placer was bought out by Barrick Gold.

Barrick Gold decided to leave control of the project with two minority investors who were previously working with Placer Dome, Bema Gold and Arizona Star.

“We think that, during the acquisition process, the best thing to do is respect the contracts of the company we bought, said Igor González, President of Sudamérica de Barrick.

Barrick is also involved in the controversial Pascua Lama project, a planned open-pit gold mine located on the border between Argentina and Chile (ST, May 18). Barrick is currently trying to negotiate …

FUJIMORI: PERU REQUESTS GAG ORDER

(May 26, 2006) President Michelle Bachelet requested that Chile’s Supreme Court keep ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori quiet after a series of comments on Peru’s upcoming elections provoked an outcry from government officials in Lima. Since being released on bail, Fujimori has generated a whirlwind of controversy between the two countries as well as confrontations with a group of high school students in central Chile.

The ex-dictator, wanted in Peru on corruption and human rights charges, was detained in Chile after arriving in Santiago unexpectedly on Nov. 7, 2005. Fujimori’s arrival in Chile marked his first return to South America after he fled Peru in 2000 and resigned from the presidency by fax from a Japanese Hotel. (ST, Nov. 8).

Since being released from prison on May 18, Fujimori has given several interviews with national and foreign news agencies. In the interviews Fujimori spoke at length about Peru’s upcoming June 4 run-off elections between Alan García and Ollanta Humal…

FUJIMORI: PERU REQUESTS GAG ORDER

(May 25, 2006) President Michelle Bachelet requested that Chile’s Supreme Court keep ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori quiet after a series of comments on Peru’s upcoming elections provoked an outcry from government officials in Lima. Since being released on bail, Fujimori has generated a whirlwind of controversy between the two countries as well as confrontations with a group of high school students in central Chile. The ex-dictator, wanted in Peru on corruption and human rights charges, was detained in Chile after arriving in Santiago unexpectedly on Nov. 7, 2005. Fujimori’s arrival in Chile marked his first return to South America after he fled Peru in 2000 and resigned from the presidency by fax from a Japanese Hotel. (ST, Nov. 8).Since being released from prison on May 18, Fujimori has given several interviews with national and foreign news agencies. In the interviews Fujimori spoke at length about Peru’s upcoming June 4 run-off elections between Alan García and Ollanta Huma…

OPERATION COLOMBO: CONTRERAS RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS

(May 24, 2006) Gen. Manuel Contreras, former director of Chile’s secret police, will appear before Santiago’s Constitutional Tribunal Thursday to appeal the 258 human rights violations currently filed against him. Gen. Contreras’ lawyer, Fidel Reyes, is expected to argue that the charges against his client are inapplicable because of due process violations arising from the use of both Chile’s old (1980) and new (2005) constitutions.

“We cannot have uniformed citizens indicted under a system that does not guarantee due process,” said Reyes.

While ironic given the accusations that Gen. Contreras took part in the summary executions of left-wing dissidents during his tenure as chief of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), the court is expected to hear the new appeal before taking action on the charges against the retired general.

Contreras is currently serving 12 years and one day in prison for the “disappearance” of Miguel Ángel Sandoval, a left-wing activist of the Movement of …

GOVERNMENT PERPLEXED BY MAPUCHE HUNGER STRIKE

(May 24, 2006) Senator Alejandro Navarro will travel to Araucanía in southern Chile on Thursday to figure out what went wrong with a government negotiated agreement that ended a 63-day hunger strike of four Mapuche prisoners. The strikers resumed their protest last Saturday criticizing the government for failing to hold up their end of the bargain (ST, May 21).

“We are in a very critical situation and I want to know who has given [the strikers] their information about these events,” said Navarro. “What we have done…is exactly what we said we would do, we have kept our side of the agreement to the letter.”

All four strikers are currently under medical supervision and their condition is considered critical because of the prolonged fast. Wednesday marks their 67th day without food.

SOURCE: LA TERCERA

ESCONDIDA MINE ANNONCES NEW WATER PLANT IN ANTOFOGASTA

(May 24, 2006) Escondida mine, one of Chile’s state owned cooper mines, announced it will open the nation’s largest water desalination plant in the city of Antofogasta in August, 2006. The water plant will generate 525 liters of industrial quality water per second and cost approximately US$160 million.

The project includes the installation of 170km of pipes to push water from Antofogasta up to the Escondida mine 3,000 meters (9,800 ft.) above sea level. The water will be used in a process called lixiviation where water is mixed with sulfuric acid to extract copper from oxidized minerals.

Scarce water supplies in Chile’s northern desert where the Escondida mine is located have forced mining executives to look for new sources of water to supply the mine’s needs. “This is a complementary solution, not a substitute,” said Pedro Correa, a manager at the mine. Correa said that the water from the new plant will “only be used for the lixiviation process” as it is much more expensive to pump wat…

NEW DOCUMENTS SHED LIGHT ON RIGGS BANK CASE

(May 22, 2006) An unknown man delivered a series of bank statements and personal letters to Chile’s police last December that detail the involvement of Gen. Ricardo Izurieta, Chile’s former commander in chief, in the Riggs Bank case. The letters were made public for the first time in El Mercurio on Sunday and suggest that Gen. Izurieta served as a go-between for former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and the President of the Riggs Bank in Washington, Joseph L. Allbritton.

According to Sunday’s El Mercurio, Chile’s Investigations Police received an anonymous phone call in December claiming to have information about the Riggs Bank case. Police officials set up a meeting in Santiago’s Apumanque Mall where an unidentified man handed a police representative a manila envelope then disappeared before he could be identified.

Inside the manila envelope was a 1995 bank statement from the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C. sent by the then military attaché in Washington, D.C. Gen. Izurieta advising Gen…

MAPUCHES PROTEST AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

(May 22, 2006) The Mapuche hunger strikers renewed their protest against Chile’s anti-terrorist law Saturday after accusing government officials of failing to uphold their side of the agreement that ended a 63 day hunger strike on May 14. The four prisoners refused meals Saturday and called for a general Mapuche strike throughout the country.

The group went without food for over two months to raise awareness about the unequal treatment of Mapuches under Chilean law. The group was sentenced under Chile’s anti-terrorist law in 2005 to 10 years and one day in prison and a fine of $400 million pesos (US$765,000) each for starting a fire that burned 100 hectares of timber in southern Chile.

Indigenous rights activists claim that the application of the anti-terrorist law in this case is discriminatory and reflects a broader government bias against Chile’s indigenous communities, a claim that is supported at the highest levels of the government.

“If a youth threw a Molotov Cocktail at a police …

MAPUCHES PROTEST AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

(May 22, 2006) The Mapuche hunger strikers renewed their protest against Chile’s anti-terrorist law Saturday after accusing government officials of failing to uphold their side of the agreement that ended a 63 day hunger strike on May 14. The four prisoners refused meals Saturday and called for a general Mapuche strike throughout the country.

The group went without food for over two months to raise awareness about the unequal treatment of Mapuches under Chilean law. The group was sentenced under Chile’s anti-terrorist law in 2005 to 10 years and one day in prison and a fine of $400 million pesos (US$765,000) each for starting a fire that burned 100 hectares of timber in southern Chile.

Indigenous rights activists claim that the application of the anti-terrorist law in this case is discriminatory and reflects a broader government bias against Chile’s indigenous communities, a claim that is supported at the highest levels of the government.

“If a youth threw a Molotov Cocktail at a police …

PINOCHET INTERRORGATED IN OPERATION COLOMBO CASE

(May 19, 2006) Former Dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was questioned in his Santiago mansion Tuesday for the third time about his role in the murders of a group of left-wing political activists. The former dictator is being investigated for the murders of 47 people who were killed in Operation Colombo, a joint operation between the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil to eliminate left-wing dissidents in 1975.

Judge Víctor Montiglio conducted the interview with the 90-year old general after Chile’s Supreme Court approved the addition of 32 victims to list of crimes Gen. Pinochet could be tried for. The general has already been indicted on nine of the 47 counts of “disappearing” dissidents.

The investigation deals with the “disappearing” of 119 members of Chile’s Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), the armed wing of Chile’s Communist party, which fought an internal war with Chile’s military regime during the dictatorship. Operation Colombo was part of the “Dirty Wars” fo…

VENEZUELA EXPLORES ENERGY MARKETS IN CHILE

(May 18, 2006) Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state oil company plans to open new offices in Chile in 2006. The oil company would like to supply Chile with crude oil and natural gas as well as use Chile as a regional base to distribute diesel.

The announcement follows on the heels of Argentina’s statement that they will not be able to continue supplying Chile with the natural gas it needs to generate electricity. The possibility of reaching an agreement with PDVSA would help solve many Chile’s mid and long-term energy problems.

PDVSA is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. In 2005 the company grossed US$85.6 billion and recorded net profits of US$4.7 billion. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has used his country’s wealth to promote his political agenda in Latin America. His plan uses “petro-diplomacy” to provide Latin American countries with low-cost oil, attempting to shift the region’s traditional balance of power away from the United States.

Examples of this pe…

INTERVIEW WITH FIRST MOTHER OF CHILE

El Mercurio: About to turn 80 years old, but she looks a lot younger. Agile, sharp, those that know her use adjectives like: intelligent discreet, humble, reserved and a lot of personality as well.

Straightforward and sure of herself, we asked her for an enterview for Mother’s Day, she responded:

Ángela Jeria de Bachelet: ¡Me carga el Día de la Madre!

EM: Later in her home, she explained why.

AJ: I feels it has become a commercial holiday, I commemorate what used to be a very important day. .

EM: In the foreign press you are referred to as the First Lady:

AJ: I never have been nor ever will be the first lady of Chile. A this stage of my life, it is not for me to take up these responsibilities,

EM: She prefers to focus herself “on the internal front: that’s where Michelle needs me.” And, without douby, she is the greatest support in the life of her daughter, the President of Chile.

A suprising thing about her is composure and serenity, even though she has gone through more than any person sho…

CARAVAN OF DEATH: JUDGES SENTENCE DRAWS CRITICISM

(May 18 2006) Judge Víctor Montiglio closed the case against six retired military member in the Caravan of Death case Wednesday deciding to apply Chile’s controversial 1978 Amnesty law instead of prosecuting. The ruling goes against the stated policy of the Chile’s Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court as well as the Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war and is expected to be appealed.

In court papers filed in the case, Judge Montiglio absolved retired Generals Gabriel del Río and Sergio Arellano Stark as well as Brig. Carlos Romero Muñoz, Col. Mario Cazenave Pontanilla, Pvt. José Parada Muñoz, and Pvt. Julio Barros Espinace of the murders of Teófilo Arce, Leopoldo González, Segundo Sandoval and José Sepúlveda on Oct. 2, 1973.

The decision recognized the defendants’ guilt in the homicides but still granted all of the men amnesty because in the judge’s opinion, crimes committed during the dictatorship are not human rights crimes and therefore are not regulated by intern…

NEW INDICTMENTS LINK TWO CHILEAN HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

(May 17, 2006) Investigators have accused Gen. Ramírez Rurange with giving the order to take Col. Gerardo Huber out of the country in 1992 shortly after Huber was called to testify about an illegal arms sale to Croatia. The investigative Judge Claudio Pavez suspects that Col. Huber was shot when he refused to leave the country.

The announcement follows Gen. Rurange’s confession that he gave a similar order for the disappearance of Eugenio Berríos, a chemist working for Chile’s Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), who was suspected of playing a role in the 1976 murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. as well as mysterious death of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1982.

Judge Pavez has long suspected that Col. Huber, former army chief of acquisitions, was assassinated to keep him from testifying against military superiors in the Croatia Arms case. Huber initially testified in Jan. 1992 that he was ordered to prepare the necessary customs papers to export the arms t…

RIGGS BANK CASE: JUDGE CERDA SENDS TEAM TO U.S. TO TRACK BRIBES

(May 17, 2006) Judge Carlos Cerda has authorized a team of Chilean State prosecutors (CDE) to travel to the U.S. to investigate multiple bank accounts held by Chile’s former Dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and his family at Barclays Bank PLC and Lehman Brothers. The authorization comes on the heels of new findings in the Riggs Bank case linking a number of military and civilians who worked with Gen. Pinochet in the 1990s to illegal payments for the sale of Chilean weaponry.

The team of prosecutors is specifically interested in 23 off-shore bank accounts opened at Barclays Bank and Lehman Brothers. Judge Cerda wants all of the records of transactions made by Gen. Pinochet and his family through these accounts.

Among the accounts listed by La Nación, Chile’s government news service, are Ashburton Limited, Trilateral International Trading, G.L.P. Limited, Tasker Investment Limited, Abanda Finance, Belview International Inc., Belview S.A., Eastview Finance S.A., Santa Lucía Trust, Pinochet J…

PINOCHET CHARGED IN CHILE FOR MURDER OF SECRET POLICE CHEMIST EUGENIO BERRIOS

Door May Open Revealing Dictator’s Complicity In Other Human Rights Violations, Including The Death Of President Frei Montalva

(May 12, 2006) The investigation into the death of former secret police chemist Eugenio Berríos has allegedly linked Chile’s former dictator General Augusto Pinochet to the murder as well as the mysterious death of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1982. Prosecutors believe that the new findings may open a Pandora’s box of information into these and other related human rights investigations.

Alejandro Madrid, the investigating judge in the case, submitted a request to the Santiago Court of Appeals Wednesday requesting that Pinochet be stripped of his legal immunity so that he may be questioned and ultimately tried for any part he may have had in the murder.

“There are more than enough clues linking (Pinochet) to the kidnapping and homicide of Eugenio Berrios to justify stripping him of his legal immunity,” said Thomás Ehrenfeld, lawyer for the Berríos fam…