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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 20:43 GMT
'I told myself I wouldn't be killed'
The Chilean government has ordered lifelong pensions to be paid to the more than 28,000 people tortured under the military regime of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Juana Aguilera is a former political prisoner in Chile, held for three years and nine months between 1980 and 1984. She now works for the ministry of education.

She told the BBC News website her story:

I was part of an organisation that belonged to the resistance to the dictatorship. I was detained by agents of the political police, the CNI, and they took me to a secret prison, a secret torture centre, which I believe was the Gen Borgono garrison in Santiago.

Juana Aguilera
Juana Aguilera: We are the survivors, with faces and names
They beat me and used electric cables on me, they gave me injections and shouted insults at me. In fact, they used a series of ritual methods of torture and treated me the way they used to treat political prisoners.

Torture is an extreme situation for one human being to impose on another. Under torture, you get to know about horror. At the end of one session of torture, you're afraid that it's going to start all over again.

You learn to be terrified of interrogation. You resist it in various ways. Perhaps I resisted it because I told myself I wasn't going to be killed. Maybe that's why I'm still alive.

But also there was pressure from human rights organisations in Chile, which were probably the only institutions during the dictatorship that opposed torture and the crimes that the dictatorship was committing and dared to say no.

Maybe it's also thanks to them and the pressure that they brought to bear on the courts that my life was saved.

It's taken 14 years to talk about torture - it might take as long again to deal with it entirely

I'm grateful to the government for creating the commission that addressed the idea of torture. But I think that not all the truth has come out yet.

It's only looked at those of us who experienced torture accompanied by political imprisonment, but there are plenty of people who weren't imprisoned and who were tortured in the streets or in their houses. Those people are not considered in this report.

I also think it's a mistake for the government not to reveal the names of the torturers. It's a part of the truth that ought not to be hidden.

The torturers in this country continue to work for the state and continue to be public servants and public officials.

A democracy ought not to accept that torturers continue to work in public service, continue to be free to walk the streets and have not been punished in any way, not even morally. They need to be punished by the courts. It's not possible that they should escape paying their debt to society for their crimes.

Many of our comrades who disappeared were tortured beforehand. Torture was the prelude to disappearances and executions. We are the survivors. We have faces and we have names.

And we can say that torture existed in Chile and that those who were tortured were men, women and children - and we had no possibility of defending our ideas with our bodies.

This is a process of enlightenment that began in 1990. We hope this process will continue. It's taken 14 years to talk about the subject of torture - it might take as long again to deal with it entirely. But we have patience. We've already lived with this struggle for 31 years, since 1973, and we hope to have the strength to carry on.

Chile torture victims win payout
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25 Sep 04 |  Americas

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