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US cable says Pinochet told of army involvement in teens’ burning

October 9, 2015

WASHINGTON — The burning alive of two teenagers by a Chilean military patrol in 1986 was directly reported to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, but he refused to accept it, according to U.S. documents declassified Friday.

The documents’ release comes as the murder of 19-year-old Rodrigo Rojas and attempted murder of 18-year-old Carmen Gloria Quintana nearly 30 years ago is finally coming to trial in Chile.

Rojas and Quintana were picked up by soldiers July 2, 1986 at an anti-government protest and allegedly beaten, doused with gasoline and left for dead on the outskirts of Santiago.

Rojas died four days later, while Quintana survived despite burns on 60 percent of her body.

Twelve former military officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers were charged this month with the crime after a member of the patrol came forward and confessed.

Recommended: What Augusto Pinochet’s 1998 arrest has meant for global human rights

A contemporaneous State Department cable, made public by the National Security Archive, a non-governmental organization in Washington, shows that Pinochet was told of the military’s involvement within days of the attack.

The cable said that on July 11, 1986 the dictator received a visit from the head of the Carabineros police, General Rodolfo Stange, who gave him a report identifying the military patrol involved and naming one of the soldiers.

“President Pinochet told General Stange that he did not believe the report, and he refused to receive the report from General Stange,” the cable said.

After Pinochet rejected the report, the army accepted the report from the Carabineros and promised that the case would be resolved in 48 hours.

Instead, it went nowhere. In 1990, a Chilean court found a single former officer guilty of negligence in the case.

The case received special attention in the United States, however, because Rojas lived in Washington with his mother, Veronica de Negri, a Chilean exile.

It was brought directly to the attention of then president Ronald Reagan.

A secret White House report for the president, also declassified Friday, said Chilean intelligence had “fingered army personnel as clearly involved.”

According to Peter Kornbluh, an analyst at the National Security Archive, Rojas’s murder was the last straw for Washington and led to Reagan’s decision in 1989 to pressure for a return to democracy in Chile.

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared at the hands of the Chilean security forces during the Pinochet regime, which lasted from 1973 to 1990.

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