Miguel Krassnoff is an Austrian-born former officer in the Chilean army and one of the more notorious members of the Pinochet regime’s security forces. He is currently serving a 144-year sentence for 23 separate convictions for homicide and forced disappearances. But he has his supporters, who were planning a gathering on Monday to present a new edition of an admiring book, whose title in English is Miguel Krassnoff: Prisoner for Serving Chile. The event was to be held at a venue in an eastern Santiago municipality whose mayor, Cristian Labbe is an unreconstructed Pinochetista. During the former dictator’s detention in London from 1998-2000 Labbe ordered trash collection to be suspended at the British and Spanish Embassies located in Providencia, and made 14 visits to the United Kingdom to express his support for Pinochet.
Those invited include Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, and when the invitation reached his office a presidential staffer sent a response which may have automatically generated, saying the president’s schedule for that time was already full, congratulating the event’s organizers and extending the president’s “best wishes for success.” News of this event and the presidential office’s reply have outraged human rights groups and a day later the government issued a terse statement calling its response “a lamentable error” which had not been authorized by President Pinera and “did not represent his thinking.” There has been a chorus of disapproval from Chilean political leaders and even the mayor’s own rightist Union Democratica Independiente (UDI) has sought to distance itself, saying Labbe was not representative of the UDI just because he was a party member.
Labbe maintained this is a freedom of speech issue, but now says he will not be attending the event, claiming a scheduling conflict. Meanwhile, Krassnoff and his admirers have a blog, http://miguelkrassnoff.blogspot.com/.