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Chile’s Bachelet visits former concentration camp

September 10, 2013

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet nearly broke down Tuesday while visiting the detention and torture center where she was held during the 1973-90 dictatorship.

The site formerly known as Villa Grimaldi has been turned into a memorial garden called Park for Peace. But the trees where detainees were tied and a wooden tower to oversee prisoners still stand.

Bachelet was held there along with her mother Angela Jeria in 1975. It’s an ordeal she prefers not to talk about, saying only that she suffered “physical hardships.”

During an emotional ceremony, Bachelet held a photograph of a woman who became one of the thousands of victims of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

The jailed former chief of Chile’s Dina secret police force, Manuel Contreras, told CNN Chile on Tuesday that Pinochet ordered him to arrest Bachelet and her mother because they allegedly planned to murder four air force generals. He offered no evidence for that charge.

Contreras also said that people held at Villa Grimaldi were not tortured, but instead hypnotized during interrogation.

The former Dina chief has been in prison since 1995, when he was sentenced for the 1976 car bombing that killed former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his assistant, Ronni Moffit, in Washington.

After her release, Bachelet went into exile. She began her political career after returning to Chile.

Bachelet was elected president in 2006 and is seeking a return to the presidency as front-runner in the Nov. 17 election.

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