Chile’s main conservative daily newspaper has been accused of publishing “an apology for Nazism” after running an illustrated article commemorating the life of the German war criminal Hermann Göring.
After El Mercurio published the article on Sunday, the German embassy in Santiagoexpressed its concern, highlighting Göring’s many crimes.
“We want to make something very clear: this man committed human rights crimes and was one of the pillars of the Nazi regime,” the embassy tweeted.
“There is no room to justify or minimise, morally or politically, his horrific role during the Nazi regime or the Holocaust.”
Chile’s Jewish community organisation labelled the article “unacceptable” and described it as an “apology for Nazism”.
In a short reply to a letter characterising the piece as a “direct affront” to the victims of the Holocaust, the newspaper said on Monday it “deeply regretted” that the piece had been interpreted as such.
Göring, who founded the Gestapo secret police in 1933, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, where he was sentenced to death. He killed himself by ingesting a cyanide capsule the night before he was due to be hanged.
El Mercurio is the modern incarnation of Chile’s oldest newspaper, founded in the port city of Valparaíso in 1827.
It received CIA funding during the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-73) to undermine the president’s economic reforms. The newspaper supported the 1973 coup which deposed Allende and ushered in General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, and published consistently in favour of the military government until the return to democracy in 1990.
“El Mercurio has a long history of representing the interests of a select, conservative sector of Chilean society and has pushed their narrative in Chile for generations,” said Mónica Maureira, a professor at Diego Portales University’s journalism faculty in Santiago.
In May, the newspaper ran a similar piece, also in its “society” section, on the life and times of Rudolf Hess, another prominent Nazi party member who was sentenced at Nuremberg.
With a divisive general election coming up on 21 November, several of the candidates have criticised the piece, and the controversy has ignited an already polarised landscape. The far-right candidate José Antonio Kast currently sits at the top of the polls, closely followed by a leftwing former student leader, Gabriel Boric.