SANTIAGO – Former mayor of Providencia Cristián Labbé was sentenced to three years in prison on Oct. 2. He was convicted of crimes against humanity during the Pinochet dictatorship. The National Treasury must also pay CLP$30 million (US$42,000) in compensation to his victim.
Retired army colonel, Cristián Labbé, was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes against humanity committed in Nov. 1973. More recently, he served as mayor of Providencia for 16 years, from 1996 to 2012, but has since retired from politics.
The judge who sentenced Labbé, Minister Álvaro Mesa, also ordered the Chilean Treasury to pay CLP$30 million (US$42,000) to the political prisoner who Labbé tortured in the commune of Panguipulli, Los Ríos.
Victim Never Had Any Doubts
Labbé was arrested for these crimes in April 2017, but it took over two years to convict him.
Minister Mesa’s 152-page judgment detailing Labbé’s conviction was released on Oct. 2. It explains how the victim, Harry Cohen Vera, a 26-year-old student at the time, was blindfolded, interrogated, and tortured over several days.
According to the judgment, “they connected electrodes to [Vera’s] ankles and wrists, which systematically produced increasingly intense electric shocks.”
In an interview with Cambio21 in Oct. 2018, Vera said: “I know clearly who tortured me and threatened to kill me with a corvo [a double-edged knife with a curved blade], it was Cristián Labbé.” He identified his torturer solely by his voice. He claimed, “it was simple to distinguish his voice.”
During the dictatorship, Labbé was one of Pinochet’s bodyguards and was an agent of the National Intelligence Directorate, the secret police at the time.
Then, on Oct. 20, 2014, Labbé was arrested for allegedly participating in the disappearance and murder of 13 people in Tejas Verdes during the dictatorship.
Former merchant marine Anatolio Zárate spoke to CNN, following Labbé’s 2014 arrest. He gave multiple statements to aid the investigation of Labbé. Zárate claimed that Labbé “was there witnessing my torture.”
Speaking in 2015, Labbé called himself “a persecuted politician” and denied any link to the Tejas Verdes case. He insisted that he would prove his innocence.
Labbé was later released on bail and was not charged with any crime.
UDI’s Leader: “It Is Tremendously Unfair”
Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, leader of the right-wing conservative party, Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI), expressed her support for Labbé after his sentence was announced.
She said, “it is tremendously unfair that former military officers continue to be prosecuted under the old criminal system without having the guarantees offered by the new system.”
Van Rysselberghe claims that the sentencing of former military officers for their crimes during the dictatorship is “judicial cruelty” and “goes beyond the search for justice.”
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.