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Chile Jails 25 Soldiers in Burning of Two Teen-Agers

July 19, 1986|United Press International

SANTIAGO, Chile — The Chilean army on Friday arrested 25 soldiers, including three officers, pending an investigation into the burning of a 19-year-old Chilean-born permanent resident of Washington, D.C., and a Chilean teen-age girl during a general strike here two weeks ago.

The three officers, five noncommissioned officers and 17 conscripts were being held pending an investigation by a civilian judge appointed to study the July 2 burnings, Brig. Gen. Carlos Ojeda, the military governor of Santiago, announced.

Rodrigo Rojas, the 19-year-old, who lived in the U.S. capital with his mother, a Chilean political exile, died of severe burns. The teen-age girl, Carmen Quintana, 18, is still hospitalized here, undergoing skin graft operations in an attempt to save her life.

"Investigations carried out by the army have revealed that an army patrol stopped a group of people who were handling inflammable liquid, among them Rodrigo Rojas and Carmen Quintana," Ojeda said at a news conference.

Ojeda said a bottle containing the liquid, presumed to be gasoline, was knocked over when the soldiers stopped the youths. He said it burst into flame, setting fire to the youths. Ojeda said the soldiers then put out the fire with blankets.

However, witnesses said that the youths were stopped by an army patrol on the first day of a 48-hour general strike against President Augusto Pinochet's military government, beaten to the ground with rifle butts and set afire with gasoline.

Father Jose Aldunate, a parish priest, said the youths were among a group of students who tried to block streets with burning tires in a western Santiago slum neighborhood when they were caught by a patrol of 30 soldiers.

The death of Rojas prompted the U.S. government to call on Chilean authorities for a full investigation.

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