Pope to meet Pinochet-era victims on visit to Chile

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis will meet victims of the dictatorship of the late Augusto Pinochet when he visits Chile next week, the Vatican said on Thursday.

Spokesman Greg Burke said the pope would meet “two victims of the 1970s repression” next Thursday on his last day in Chile before leaving for Peru on the second leg of his trip.

Burke said he did not yet have details of the two people who would meet Francis after a Mass in the Chilean city of Iquique. The meeting was not on the original schedule of the trip.

Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in September 1973 and his dictatorship lasted until 1990. He died in 2006.

His secret police collaborated with dictatorships in neighboring Argentina and in Brazil amid a wider crackdown called “Operation Condor.”

During Pinochet’s rule, some 3,000 people died or disappeared in Chile, and thousands more - including current President Michelle Bachelet - were tortured or went into exile.

Last year, a Chilean judge ordered jail sentences for more than 100 former secret police from Pinochet’s dictatorship, the biggest mass sentence to date for human rights abuses from the period.

Chile long grappled with the task of bringing to justice the perpetrators of crimes committed in that era but crusading judges and more sympathetic authorities have led to an increase in convictions in recent years.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Richard Balmforth