Ex-Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet (Image: YouTube)
Chile, Latin America: Week in Review, Southern Cone

Pinochet Bodyguard and Ex-Mayor Arrested in Santiago

October 21, 2014 By Staff

Top Story — Chilean authorities have arrested a former aide to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of committing various atrocities under the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

A judge on Monday ordered the arrest of retired military colonel Cristian Labbe on charges of “unlawful association” with a group that ultimately became the DINA secret police force. Labbe was allegedly involved in the murder of 13 people under Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Those 13 people, investigators found, were tortured and executed at the notorious Tejas Verde military base 60 miles to the west of Santiago. Some of the victims were thrown in the nearby river.

Lawyers for the human rights department of Chile’s Interior Ministry said they would appeal the judge to charge Labbe with torture, homicide and kidnapping. The lawyers also said they will ask Brazilian authorities for information on any training Labbe may have received in the country.

The arrest comes about a month after President Michele Bachelet announced her intention to overturn the Amnesty Decree Law, which protects former officials from prosecution for crimes committed during the first five years of the dictatorship. Bachelet, who was herself tortured and then exiled by the dictatorship, has long promised to repeal the law, passed in 1978.

After democracy returned to Chile in 1990, Labbe was elected mayor in 1994 of the upscale Providencia neighborhood of Santiago, an office he held until 2012. In 2011, he organized a controversial event to honor a former military officer imprisoned for dictatorship-era crimes.

Nine other people were arrested along with Labbe, who also previously served as a
bodyguard to Pinochet. He is a member of the conservative UDI party, whose leader has criticized Bachelet’s efforts to overturn the amnesty law, warning they may “reopen old wounds.”

Two former army officers and an ex-army prosecutor were charged in September for participating in the 1973 killing of folk singer Victor Jara.

Some 700 military officials are facing trials for crimes committed during the dictatorship, while around 250 have served sentences. An estimated 3,000 people were killed by the regime and another 28,000 tortured.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Photojournalist David Bacon wrote a profile of former student leader and activist Raul Alvarez, who died last Sept. 27. Alvarez was one of the survivors of the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968, when hundreds of students were gunned down by the Mexican government. He was marching with Mexican students last Oct. 2, when the tragic attacks against students happened in Iguala, Mexico.
  • Mexico’s federal forces will take over security in 13 central and southern towns where police are suspected of ties to crime groups. Among the towns are the popular tourist destination of Taxco and the spa town of Ixtapan de la Sal.


  • As climate change pushes temperatures higher across the Caribbean, Haitian coffee growers are being forced to grow their crop at increasingly higher elevations.
  • As their population in the U.S. state of Florida swells, a new wave of educated, middle-class Puerto Rican immigrants have the potential to profoundly impact the Florida vote.
  • The Associated Press has a photo essay chronicling repairs made to Cuba’s classic American cars — a major tourism draw on the island and a crucial source of revenue for those lucky enough to own one.
  • Legendary Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who acted as an unofficial ambassador to his home country and was known for dressing first ladies like longtime friend Hillary Clinton, died on Monday from complications from cancer.

Central America

  • A Panamanian supreme court judge has been placed under house arrest and suspended from his post in the midst of an investigation into allegations of money laundering and illicit enrichment.
  • Families in Honduras protested against the government’s failure to provide them with aid in light of a crippling drought that has caused tens of thousands of Hondurans to suffer from hunger.


  • The approval rating of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has dropped to 30.2 percent in September, according to a survey conducted by pollster Datanalisis. This continues a decline in the president’s popularity largely due to the country’s continuing economic crisis and high levels of inflation.
  • A top human rights official in the UN called for the release of political prisoners in Venezuela, such as opposition leader Leopoldo López, who led political protests that rocked the country this spring.
  • A report released by the Colombian government found that over 120,000 hectares of land was deforested in the country in 2013. Even though the rate of deforestation is decreasing, illegal logging and mining continue to plague Colombia.

Southern Cone

  • Brazilian presidential candidate Aécio Neves has used the arrest of Paulo Roberto Costa — an executive in Brazil’s national oil company Petrobas accused of orchestrating a bribery scheme to benefit the ruling Workers Party and himself — to his benefit before the impending election next Sunday against incumbent Dilma Rousseff.
  • An in-depth analysis of the impending Brazilian presidential race by Foreign Policy reveals there are many similarities in the political platforms of Rousseff and her opponent Neves
  • President Rousseff, if re-elected, will have a hard time governing, according to an in-depth analysis published by NACLA. Her coalition in congress lost 23 seats, so she will have to mobilize her base if she wants to continue implementing her program.
  • The Stockholm Environment Institute published a concerning report on the rise of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • The Homeless World Cup — a tournament of 63 teams from 49 nations whose players are all either homeless or living in extreme poverty — began on Sunday in Santiago, Chile.
  • Argentina has granted asylum to a young Russian gay man who fled his country due to constant discrimination.

Image: Youtube

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