Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has opened up a debate over the controversial special prisons that Chile reserves for human rights abusers of the dictatorship era. The country has two facilities that house individuals convicted of rights violations under the Pinochet regime, the Cordillera and Punta Peuco prisons.
La Tercera reports that on September 11, Piñera held a meeting with Justice Minister Patricia Perez, asking her to provide him with information on the two prisons. The paper notes that the meeting occurred after CNN Chile aired an interview with Manuel Contreras, former head of the DINA secret police, who is being held in Cordillera. In his interview, Contreras made several controversial remarks, insisting that the government never authorized torture in its detainment facilities and that the victims of forced disappearances were armed rebels killed in gunfights.
Immediately after the Contreras interview, the network spoke with Francisco Vidal, a former spokesman for ex-President Michelle Bachelet, who characterized the existence of Cordillera and Punta Peuco as a needless “concession to the military.”
A week later, the president appeared on the same network to echo criticism of the special prisons, announcing that he was evaluating their closure. “I'm reviewing, as President, if it justifiable to have prisons like Cordillera,” Piñera told CNN. He especially emphasized the high cost of the facilities. Cordillera holds only ten inmates and is staffed by 36 guards, while Punta Pueco has 44 inmates and 82 guards. Radio U Chile points out that if Cordillera’s guard-to-inmate ratio was kept in every prison, the country would have to hire nearly 300,000 new guards. Additionally, the radio station notes that the average cost per prisoner in Cordillera is five times the cost for a regular inmate, and Punta Peuco is three times the average cost.
On Thursday, Piñera hinted that he will reach a decision “in the coming days.” Spanish news agency EFE reports that an administration spokesperson has told reporters that the president will likely order Cordillera’s closure, and house all rights abusers in one single facility.
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