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Chile dictatorship burning victim says justice being served

Carmen Quintana attends a tribute for slain photographer Rodrigo Rojas, outside the Gabriela Mistral museum, in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. During a street demonstration on July 2, 1986, soldiers doused Rojas and then 18-year-old Quintana with gasoline and set them ablaze. Rojas died four days later. Quintana survived and underwent lengthy treatment for severe burns at a Canadian hospital. Her scarred face later became a symbol of the atrocities committed by Pinochet's dictatorship. A Chilean judge last week charged seven former members of the military in the burning death of Rojas, and four other ex-soldiers were being questioned on Monday. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A woman who was badly burned in a military attack during the dictatorship of Chilean Gen. Augusto’s Pinochet said Tuesday that she believes the recent testimony of a soldier will lead to many others speaking out about atrocities they were forced to take part in.

Carmen Quintana, whose face is scarred even after several surgeries and skin grafts, made the comments while paying homage to Rodrigo Rojas, who died in the 1986 attack that injured her.

Quintana, who was 18 at the time, said she and the 19-year-old Rojas were drenched with gasoline and set ablaze by soldiers during a street demonstration on July 2, 1986. Rojas died four days later. Quintana underwent lengthy treatment for severe burns to more than 60 percent of her body.

Last week, a Chilean judge charged seven former members of the military with the attack after a soldier testified about the case, corroborating what Quintana and rights groups had been saying for decades.

“I think this pact of silence that is breaking apart after so many years is a milestone for our country. It’s a before and after in the struggle for human rights,” Quintana said, speaking at a memorial for Rojas. “From now on many more soldiers, who are burdened by their conscience, will talk because they know what they did. They murdered and forcibly disappeared people.”

Quintana thanked the former soldier, identified as Fernando Guzman, for testifying. She said she feels “compassion” for the soldiers involved in the attack who were teenagers like her at the time and received death threats to keep silent.

Rojas’ mother, who also spoke at the memorial, said she had an emotional meeting with Guzman last week. Veronica De Negri said she appreciates his testimony but can’t forgive those involved in the burning death of her son.

In all, 40,018 people were killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during the 1973-90 dictatorship, according to official figures. Chile’s government estimates 3,095 were killed.

About 70 military officials have been jailed for crimes against humanity and some 700 more are facing trial.

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Peter Prengaman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/peterprengaman

Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: http://twitter.com/luisandreshenao

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