THE CHILEAN secret police, the Dina, who have been responsible for the death, torture or disappearance of several hundred people in Chile during the last four years, and the torture of the British doctor Sheila Cassidy, are to be disbanded.
President Augustus Pinochet, the leader of the Chilean Junta which seized power four years ago, announced that the Dina is to be replaced by the National Information Centre (CNI) which will be concerned simply with collecting information.
He has also announced a transitional time-table to lead to elections and civilian rule, and it is understood that the state of siege and night curfew might also be ended shortly. Internally, the end of the Dina represents a blow to the Right-wing backers of General Pinochet, who have been growing weaker since they persuaded Pinochet to ban the Christian Democrat Party, the only present viable alternative to the military junta.
Allegations by the Dina which linked Dr Sheila Cassidy with the death of a woman during a raid in November, 1975, when Dr Cassidy was arrested, have been dismissed by a military judge.
The woman, a housekeeper at the headquarters of the Columban Fathers in Santiago, was shot when the Dina attacked the house with machine-guns before bursting in and arresting Dr Cassidy.
The court's rejection of Dina evidence shows their weakening hold over Chilean politics.
The changes, which have undoubtedly come about as a result of political and economic pressure from the United States, have been treated with suspicion by the human rights lawyers who have been working with the Catholic Vicariate of Solidarity, the Church-funded body which supplies legal help for those who have been arrested or detained for political reasons. They point to the broken promises of the junta in the past and ask whether the new security organisation will be a new name for the old organisation.