Controversy has erupted as a new museum has opened in Santiago, Chile, dedicated to the late Augusto Pinochet. Military dictator of Chile from 1974-1990, Pinochet was responsible for countless human rights abuses and for the “disappearances” and torture of thousands of citizens who expressed opposition to his regime.
While he is reviled by many Chileans, he is hailed by others as the one who saved the nation from communism, because he replaced Socialist President Salvador Allende in a coup d’etat.
The BBC reports:“The items on display include Pinochet’s black military beret, swords, coins, [medals] and gifts from former U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
“We want to allow Chileans to get to know Pinochet, the man, the general, the president, and what better way to do that than by opening a small, boutique display of his personal effectsw,’ said Major General Luis Cortes Villa, executive director of the President Pinochet Foundation which oversees the museum.”
Reactions to the museum’s inauguration are mixed. Pedro Matta, who was arrested and tortured under the regime, approves of the museum, commenting, “The fact that they’ve opened a Pinochet museum shows that these days we are free to express our differences.” One commentator on the website of the Chilean newspaper El Mostrador calls it a “macabre joke,” adding that with Pinochet’s medals, “they are mocking the victims that this gentleman left during his Reign of Terror.”
Interestingly enough, current President Michelle Bachelet, who herself was a detainee in one of Pinochet’s camps, has announced plans for a human rights museum in the capital of Santiago.
What do you think? Does a museum dedicated to Pinochet condone his actions or does it instead mark a dark yet important time in Chile’s history? Does the planned human rights museum balance it out? Let me know in your comments below.