Chilean, Argentinean rights groups' investigations turn up unexpected results

Investigations into the death of Chilean President Allende and the disappearance of Argentinean children disproves human rights groups' theories, but their zeal for investigations should continue.

Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters/File
Isabel Allende, daughter of late former Chilean President Salvador Allende, attends a news conference outside the Medical Legal Institute in Santiago July 19, after knowing the results for the exhumation of her father's coffin on May 23, 2011.

President Allende committed suicide during Chile's 1973 coup and DNA samples from the children of the owners of Clarin do not match the victims of Argentina's Dirty War.

There is a certain disappointment in some sectors of the Southern Cone this week over those two pieces of news. Groups that fought hard for human rights victims pushed to have both of those issues investigated, only to have negative results returned.

They shouldn't be disappointed, however. Good history, like good science, often means disproving hypotheses when presented with the evidence. Having confirmed truth in both of these cases is better than the uncertainty that existed before.

Unfortunately, there are those who were hoping for a different outcome in these cases because they wanted to use them as political fodder for modern day debates. I think that's the wrong way to look at it. I think the political games today do a disservice to the many human rights advocates who have fought on behalf of the victims of these crimes. Finding the truth about the past should not be about winning the next election or bringing down a political opponent.

At the same time, the fact these high-profile cases did not turn out the way some human rights advocates had hoped should not tarnish their larger efforts to search for truth in these countries' dark histories. We know the Chilean military tortured and killed a number of activists, even if they did not directly kill Allende. We know the Argentine military disappeared thousands and stole children from those disappeared, even if the Noble's children aren't among them. The investigations that search for truth need to continue.

James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant based in Managua, Nicaragua, who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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