SANTIAGO – A Chilean court on Monday rejected a request to indict former President Michelle Bachelet for the 156 deaths blamed on a botched tsunami warning after the magnitude-8.8 earthquake of Feb. 27, 2010.
The request was presented by Raul Meza, the attorney for relatives of some of the victims.
Bachelet has testified twice, once in writing and once in person, regarding the question of the responsibility she may bear in the tsunami alert that followed the earthquake and which prosecutors say – if it had been timely and executed properly – could have prevented numerous deaths.
The temblor caused 526 deaths in all, of which 156 occurred as a result of the tsunami that wiped out several coastal and island communities.
Bachelet left office within weeks of the quake as her four-year term ended.
The new mention of Bachelet in the case comes just days before she returns to Chile, possibly to seek another term as head of state in the November elections, after having resigned the executive directorship of UN Women some days ago.
The chairman of Bachelet’s Socialist Party, Osvaldo Andrade, said last week that after her arrival she would issue a statement regarding her view of a new presidential candidacy.
Chilean navy commander Edmundo Gonzalez acknowledged in May 2010 that his service was at fault for canceling the tsunami warning issued after the massive quake.
The navy “relaxed a little” after its hydrographic service cancelled the tsunami warning issued immediately after the quake, Adm. Gonzalez told members of a congressional investigative committee.
Gonzalez said he did not have all relevant information at the time the naval hydrographic service decided to lift the tsunami alert.
A similar lack of complete data led others, including then-President Bachelet, to make flawed decisions as they struggled to cope with the emergency, the navy chief said. EFE