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U.S. delays release of Pinochet-era documents


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States on Wednesday delayed releasing documents on human rights abuses in Chile before and during the rule of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, saying it must first review documents on U.S. covert action there.

Washington has already released more than 7,000 declassified documents on human rights abuses in Chile between 1968 and 1991, and it planned to make thousands more documents available this week.

"A final release of declassified documents that shed light on human rights abuses, terrorism and other acts of political violence in Chile during and prior to the Pinochet era, requested by the National Security Council, was scheduled to take place on September 14," the White House said in a statement.

"The National Security Adviser has decided to delay that release temporarily in order to complete a further review of certain documents related to U.S. covert action in Chile," it said.

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The Central Intelligence Agency has withheld some of its documents, on the grounds it does not want to reveal intelligence methods. It may also want to protect living Americans with special knowledge of the events surrounding the coup that brought Pinochet to power.

'Fullest possible disclosure'

The White House statement said the purpose of the delay was to ensure that the government makes the fullest possible disclosure of documents, consistent with protecting "legitimate national security concerns."

"Basically we want to make sure we get this done right, and we are as responsive as we are able to be as far as the fullest possible disclosure of documents," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said, without giving any further explanation.

The delay was expected to last a few weeks.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a visit to Chile last month that the United States would release as many documents as possible on abuses in Chile and on U.S. relations with Pinochet's military regime.

Chilean critics of Pinochet believe that the United States played an active role in Pinochet's coup in 1973, which toppled President Salvador Allende, a democratically elected leftist.

After overthrowing Allende, Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist until 1990. More than 3,000 people died or disappeared because of political violence during his rule, and tens of thousands more fled the South American nation.

Pinochet returned to Chile in March after 503 days under house arrest in Britain, where authorities were debating whether to extradite him to Spain, where he was wanted on charges of crimes against humanity.

Pinochet escaped extradition to Spain on medical grounds but now faces trial in Chile on charges of human rights abuses.

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (in Spanish)
President Augusto Pinochet Ugarte Foundation (in Spanish)
Human Rights Watch
  • The Pinochet Prosecution
Amnesty International Online
  • Pinochet page
  • United Kingdom/Chile
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
Derechos Chile (in English)
Presidencia de la Repœblica de Chile
Spotlight on Chile

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