SANTIAGO, CHILE - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday called for citizens to break the pacts of silence that have covered up human rights violations during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, praising a former soldier who helped the investigation into the burning death of a U.S. resident.
A Chilean judge last week charged seven former members of the military in the burning death of a 19-year-old U.S. resident during a 1986 anti-dictatorship protest, and four other ex-soldiers were being questioned on Monday.
The charges come after another soldier testified about the case last year, breaking a nearly three-decade pact of silence.
"Let's put an end to the silence,'' said Bachelet, who herself was held and tortured during the dictatorship.
"There are people who know the truth about many cases that are still unsolved. Chile is asking them to follow the example of the soldier, Fernando Guzman, and help to repair so much pain,'' she said.
Soldiers doused Rodrigo Rojas and 18-year-old Carmen Quintana with gasoline and set them ablaze during a street demonstration on July 2, 1986.
Rojas died four days later. He was a Chilean-born photographer visiting from the U.S, where he lived with his mother in exile.
Quintana survived and underwent lengthy treatment for severe burns at a Canadian hospital. Her scarred face later became a symbol of the atrocities committed by Pinochet's dictatorship.
In all, 40,018 people were killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, according to official figures. Chile's government estimates 3,095 were killed.
About 700 military officials face trial for the forced disappearance of dissidents and about 70 have been jailed for crimes against humanity.