U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Terence Todman, winding up two days of openly friendly conversations with officials here, today praised the progress he said he had found in human rights in Chile and declared that the advances had not been appreciated outside the country.
Todman, speaking at a press conference before flying to Buenos Aires to continue his tour of four military-governed South American countries, said he had formed "a better impression than I would have thought possible in such a short time" in Chile.
He said he was pleased by the government's announcement yesterday that the country's feared secret police, the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), would be disbanded.
The step would "tend to diminish tension and give the [Chilean] people a greater sense of freedom," he added.
DINA, established shortly after the late Socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown in September 1973, has been named by international human-rights organizations as responsible for the torture and disappearance of hundreds of political dissenters. Its dissolution has been one of the points pushed by the United States for bettering relations with Chile.
Todman said that in general Chile's image abroad does not correspond to the "reality one finds on a visit to the country" and that the negative information often refers to "conditions that existed before but which do not correspond to the present situation."
He declined to commetn about what he discussed in a 90-minute meeting yesterday with Chile's president. Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and in talks with other prominent Chileans, including three former presidents and Catholic church leader Raul Cardinal Silva.
Todman and his three-man staff also made gestures during their stay here to show U.S. approval of the efforts of opposition labor unions, a semi-clandestine political party and a controversial human-rights organization.
He made a brief visit this morning to the offices of the Vicariate of Selidarity, a Catholic church organization that acts as a clearing house for information on human rights abuses and provides legal aid to political prisoners and their families.
George Lister, a State Department human rights official, met with Andres Zaldivar, president of the Christian Democratic Party which the government officially outlawed last March after accusing Zaldivar of subversion. Todman also received three representatives of a group of opposition labor unions known as the "Group of 10," linked to Zaldivar's party.
[The Associated Press reported from Buenos Aires that, as in Chile human rights issues are expected to be Todman's main concern on his visit there. On arrival in the Argentine capital. Todman read a statement saying his tour was "a familiarization trio," adding. "I'm sure we will find that our common values will help us to overcome whatever differences may exist."]