Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has ordered shut a luxury prison where 10 former agents of military dictator Augusto Pinochet have been serving sentences for crimes against humanity.
The 10 inmates, including Manuel Contreras, former chief of Pinochet’s notorious DINA secret police, will be moved from the Penitenciario Cordillera in Santiago to a jail where other former military officers and collaborators of the dictatorship are being held.
“Taking into account three principles: first, equality under the law; second, the safety of the inmates and third, the normal and efficient running of the prison police force, I’ve taken the decision to close the Penitenciario Cordillera jail,” said Pinera, a conservative, said at the presidential palace in Santiago.
The move came after Chilean media revealed that those at Penitenciario Cordillera, which was built in 2004, enjoyed preferential conditions and benefits compared to inmates in other prisons in the South American country.
Right political conditions
|Protests against the luxury prison have turned violent in the past [AFP]|
The inmates live in five cabins, each equipped with a private bathroom, can play tennis for two hours a day and are in the process of getting a personal trainer, public documents from a recent court-ordered visit to the jail show. There is even a pool and barbecues.
Contreras revealed the luxury conditions in an interview inside Cordillera ahead of the 40th anniversary of the military coup.
Contreras, who is serving combined sentences of more than 100 years for kidnappings and murders, mocked prison guards, saying they were only there “to hold his cane”, and he claimed that all of the thousands of disappeared during the dictatorship were armed leftists killed in gunfights.
Under Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, over 3,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared, while another 28,000 were tortured, including ex-President Michelle Bachelet, who is the front-runner to win the presidency later this year.
Referring to the decision to close the prison, Bachelet said the country now had the political conditions to adopt this measure, something that would have been nearly impossible only a few years ago when Pinochet was alive. He died in 2006.
The privileged conditions at Cordillera have been criticised ever since it was built in 2004.
But the public outcry reached a high point on Wednesday when supporters of former Brigadier Miguel Krassnoff tried to organise a BBQ in his honour at Cordillera, where he is serving a 144-year sentence.
An event honoring Krassnoff in 2011 ended in clashes between his supporters and human rights activists.