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  • Augusto Pinochet.

    Augusto Pinochet. | Photo: EFE

The Death Caravan was the name of a military operation that killed almost 100 political prisoners in Chile beginning on Sept. 30, 1973.

Former Army Commander Juan Emilio Cheyre and six military officials were arrested July 7 in Chile for their involvement in the death of 15 people as part of an operation known as the Death Caravan, launched the same month as the military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende.

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The Death Caravan was the name of a military operation that killed and disappeared almost 100 political prisoners in Chile beginning on Sept. 30, 1973, following General Augusto Pinochet's coup, with the support of the United States. The military ruled the country with an iron fist for 17 years, until 1990.

Judge Mario Carroza told La Tercera that the decision to arrest the former commander-in-chief of the Chilean army was based on “knowledge of what happened during the three hours in La Serena,” where the killing took place.

Carroza added that “testimonies of direct observers during the reconstruction of the scene” coincided with other elements of the investigation, and will be an important factor in the trial.

The arrests followed a complaint filed by the Human Rights Program affiliated with the interior ministry.

Cheyre was named commander-in-chief of Chile's army in 2002, one year before he was publicly accused of participating in the murder of a couple and stealing their 2-year-old child in La Serena back in 1973. Chile's justice eventually filed a case without finding Cheyre responsible for the act.

Serving in the top-ranking military role until 2006, Cheyre was appointed as president of Chile's electoral body in 2013 by the neoliberal President Sebastian Piñera.

Cheyre jailed an estimated 80,000 people, tortured 30,000 and murdered around 3,200. Only 75 of more than a thousand of his former agents are serving prison sentences for human rights violations.

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