Chile To Change Pinochet's Regime From 'Dictatorship' To 'Military Regime' In School Textbooks

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"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future," wrote George Orwell in 1984.

Now, critics of the right-wing Chilean government are accusing them of similar attempts to ‘whitewash history’ when it was revealed that they are purging the word ‘dictator’ from school textbooks in relation to the rule of General Pinochet.

Instead the National Education Council has declared that Pinochet’s time in power between 1973-1990 - during which human right abuses were widespread and more than 3,000 Chileans are believed to have disappeared or been killed by the armed forces - should be described as a “military regime”.

Harald Beyer, Chile’s education minister, has claimed that the government was not involved in the decision but defended the change in terminology.

"It is about using the same expression that is used around the world, a more general term such as military regime," he said, before adding that he personally had ‘no problem’ in acknowledging Pinochet as a dictator.

Opposition to the move include several parliamentarians, including the daughter of the Marxist present who was killed in the coup that brought Pinochet to power.

The BBC reports that Senator Isabel Allende described the decision as a ‘scandal’ and added: "It goes against all common sense, because the whole world knows that for 17 years what we had in Chile was a ferocious dictatorship with the most serious violations of human rights”.

Former Chilean President Eduardo Frei said: "History cannot be changed by a decree or a law. There is only one history and it is clear: it was a dictatorship, full stop".

General Augusto Pinochet died of a heart attack on 3 December 2006. He was not granted the state funeral usually bestowed upon constitutionally elected Chilean presidents and the government refused to declare an official day of mourning.

The dispute is the latest controversy to hit president Sebastián Piñera since he was elected in 2010, following on from protest by students over higher education.