Chile’s ambassador to Argentina, Miguel Otero, resigned on Tuesday evening, just 48 hours after the Argentine newspaper Clarín published an interview in which he spoke in favour of the military rule of Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006). Otero is a member of Chile’s ruling centre-right National Renewal Party (Renovación Nacional) founded in 1988.
The interview was published in Clarín on Sunday, June 6th. Otero claimed that the majority of the Chilean population was not affected by the dictatorship, did not ‘feel’ the dictatorship, and that, on the contrary, the economic situation and hardship at the time meant that many were relieved when the military took power. He also claimed that human rights abuses were not official policies, but rather the result of excesses committed by some members of the military junta.
‘Le explico una cosa. La mayor parte de Chile no sintió la dictadura. Al
contrario, se sintió aliviada. Porque antes usted no podía comprar nada
importado, tenía que pagar lo que se producía en Chile, caro y malo.’
It is estimated, however, that approximately 3,000 political opponents were killed during the dictatorship and that over 30,000 people were imprisoned or tortured.
Otero’s comments sparked immediate protest and demands that he step down in both Argentina and Chile. On Tuesday, the foreign relations committee of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies voted by six votes to five to ask President Sebastian Pinera to sack him. Pinera, who took office in March, is Chile's first conservative elected president since Pinochet’s resignation 20 years ago.