50 Years After the Coup

 Former Head of Armed Forces: ‘Pinochet was responsible for what happened’

In a recent interview, Former head of the Armed Forces, Ricardo Martínez, said Augusto Pinochet was the man responsible for the 1973 coup d’état. This comes days after he referred to the victims of the dictatorship as the biggest grievance against military values.  The retired general was promoting his book “Un Ejército de Todos” (An Army for All), which looks at the last 50 years of Chile’s army and its role in human rights abuses.

During a recent interview with Radio Cooperativa, the formed head of the Armed Forces, Ricardo Martínez, said that the blame for the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup and the dictatorship falls squarely on the shoulders of Augusto Pinochet and the political actors who pressured the army into acting in 1973.

Days earlier, the retired general made headlines when he referred to the missing detainees from the military dictatorship as the biggest grievance against military values, which lead to him being dubbed a traitor by Jaime Ojeda Torrent, a former lieutenant involved in the Caravana de la Muerte (the Caravan of Death), an army squad that traveled the country to carry out executions in the early days of the dictatorship.

Promoting his new book

Martínez is doing a series of interviews and talks to promote his new book, “Un Ejército de Todos” (An Army for All), which launched Aug. 28 and takes a critical look at the last 50 years of Chile’s army, from the human rights abuses during the dictatorship up until the general’s time as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

During his interview with Radio Cooperativa he said the “higher commands” were responsible for the atrocities “because a second lieutenant, a corporal or a soldier only has to carry out an order. He added that a “very clear example of this is the Caravan of Death,” because there were subordinates who were ordered to carry out executions and misled to believe the executions were the products of courts-martial, and when the executions were investigated, “those same highest-ranking officers denied having given the order.”

Nevertheless, the retired general cast doubt on the existence of pacts of silence within the institution in relation to human rights abuses, saying, “I have not participated or heard of them. Another very different thing is that people who have participated in some action constituting a crime agree among themselves.”

When asked about the government’s Plan Nacional de Búsqueda de Verdad y Justicia” (National Plan for the Search for Truth and Justice), which seeks to locate the remains of the “detenidos desaparecidos” (detainees who disappeared during the Pinochet era), Martínez said, “In anomalous situations that occurred after the coup … can there be any record regarding that, if everything was done outside the law? A very different thing is if people have information. It is always compared to Germany, and we are not German in the sense of being so particular about leaving a record of everything.”

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Responses from across the Aisle

During this press tour, Martínez has taken a highly critical stance against the coup, and against the institution that he used to lead. The response has been varied.

Senator Iván Moreira of the UDI party responded, “It is an act of cowardice against General Pinochet, it would have been more courageous if the retired General Martínez had said what he said wearing the uniform. I think he does it to promote his book, he will hope that a leftist judge will give him some leniency for his judicial process, or he expects a big hug and a kiss from President Boric for helping with the commemoration of the 50-year [anniversary of the coup].”

It is important to note that the retired general was forced to step down as Commander-in-Chief in March 2022, due to his involvement in the embezzlement scandal known as “milicogate.” He is alleged to have misused travel funds for his own personal use.

On the other side of the aisle, Maya Fernández of the SocialistPparty, the current Minister of Defense and granddaughter of ousted President Salvador Allende, said “He speaks as a civilian, but one appreciates the critical reflection that the ex-commander-in-chief makes on … human rights violations, the non-violation of human rights in our country, I think that message is super powerful.”

Eric Aedo, a representative of the lower house in parliament and member of the Christian Democratic Party, responded with support for the retired general’s sentiment: “It is a political reflection that I share, in the sense that any action by a political party, whatever it may be, that means pressure for the Armed Forces to act is inappropriate, it is not right in a democratic process.”

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