Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chile President Pinera to ask Obama for Pinochet files

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has said he will formally ask the US for classified intelligence documents on human rights violations during the rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Mr Pinera was speaking a day after US President Barack Obama said he would consider any Chilean requests.

Mr Obama - who was visiting Chile - ducked a request that he apologise for US support for Gen Pinochet.

More than 3,000 Chileans were killed under military rule in 1973-90.

More than 1,000 human rights cases are still unresolved, and hundreds are being investigated by Chile's independent judiciary.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Pinera said his government was "categorically committed to contribute to the search for truth so that justice is done in all of these human rights cases".

"If there is information that a friendly government such as the US can provide to us, that advances the speed and strength of Chilean justice, of course we're going to ask for it," he added.
'Rocky' relations

On Monday Chile's centre-left opposition coalition urged President Obama to apologise for the US role in the coup that brought Gen Pinochet to power.

It also asked him to share uncensored versions of thousands of CIA documents that might shed light on human rights abuses.

Answering questions from journalists, Mr Obama did not respond to the request for an apology, but said he would consider any formal request for information.

He acknowledged that US relations with Latin America had at times been "extremely rocky," but said he could not "speak for all the policies of the past".

"It is important for us to learn from our history, to understand our history, but not be trapped by it," Mr Obama added.

Human rights groups and the Chilean opposition allege the CIA was closely involved in the military coup that overthrew left-wing President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Mr Allende's death as troops attacked the presidential palace - long regarded as suicide - is among the cases currently being investigated.

Mr Pinera is Chile's first conservative president since the end of military rule in 1990.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Obama's health-care push began in Green Bay

The debate over health care kicked off in June when President Barack Obama used Green Bay Southwest High School as the backdrop to announce his vision for what he characterized as much-needed reform.

Congress took one step closer to a final bill on health care Christmas Eve when the Senate voted for an overhaul that would require most Americans to have insurance.

The Senate's bill must still be merged with legislation passed by the House before Obama could sign a final bill, and there are significant differences between the two measures.

The House bill has stricter limits on abortion than the Senate, and unlike the House, the Senate measure omits a government-run insurance option.

But both would expand coverage to millions of Americans who don't have insurance, a significant goal that Obama outlined in his speech in Green Bay.

Using Hobart resident Laura Klitzka's personal struggle with medical bills for her breast cancer treatment as an example, Obama spoke to a 1,500-person crowd in the gymnasium of Southwest High School of the need for insurance reform and expansion of health care to millions of uninsured through a federally regulated national exchange.

Those on both sides of the various bills introduced in Congress over the summer clashed at public venues across the country and here in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Specifically the inclusion of a public option in the insurance exchange concept — a provision later removed in the Senate versions of the legislation — drew criticism from those who portrayed it as leading to government-run health care.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, faced people upset about the proposed reforms at listening sessions and town halls throughout the 8th Congressional District during the August recess. Supporters countered those with pro-reform rallies and gatherings before Congress returned to session.