Justice for an air force general

General Bachelet's letters were published in 2006.

They broke me from within. I found myself with comrades from the Chilean air force, whom I had known for 20 years, students of mine, who treated me like a criminal or a dog.” –General Alberto Bachelet, in a letter to his son, October 16, 1973

He refused to go along with the coup and was arrested at his office in the Chilean defense ministry on September 11, 1973. He was released that night, but a few days later his home was raided and he was brought to the Chilean air force academy where he was interrogated and tortured over a 30-hour period by some of his former colleagues.  He was moved to the air force hospital and held incommunicado.  A few weeks later he was sent home and placed under house arrest, then on December 18 authorities arrested him again and brought him to Santiago’s public jail.

Four months later a war tribunal began against “Bachelet and others.” But General Alberto Bachelet was already dead, having suffered a fatal heart attack while in prison.  This blogger received an eyewitness account of Bachelet’s death from Nelson Morales Leal, a former army reserve officer so disturbed by the abuses committed in wake of the coup that while on a day pass he deliberately got himself arrested for disorderly conduct in order go get out of the army. Morales ended up in the same jail with Bachelet and other political detainees.  He described how on March 12, 1974 he and his fellow prisoners were being herded out of their cells for lunch when Bachelet collapsed. Morales and other prisoners brought the general back to his cell, where he died. A sympathetic prison guard notified Radio Balmaceda, one of the slightly more independent radio stations still operating after the coup, and the subsequent broadcast prompted authorities to shut down the station.

Bachelet might never have imagined that his daughter Michelle would one day become Latin America’s first female defense minister, and later Chile’s first woman president.And now an investigation has opened into the circumstances of his death, led by the same judge who led the recent inquiry into the death of former president Salvador Allende (which was deemed to have been a suicide). Judge Mario Carroza told Radio Cooperativa that he would review the case, which was presented by a group of relatives of political prisoners who died during the 1973-1990 military regime.

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