A posthumous “fuck you” to Pinochet

From the bottom of Chileans’ hearts, or the hearts of their bottoms, comes the following magnificent salute to a dearly departed dictator (translation mine; original in Spanish at Aporrea.org):

Diverse Chilean political sectors today rejected the letter in which the deceased ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet attempted to justify the military coup of 1973 and the human-rights violations commited under his rule.

Leaders of the governing coalition and the rightist opposition showed similar opinions, with nuances, referring to the legacy of the dictatorship in point of human rights. There were more than 3000 victims.

The president of the rightist National Renewal Party, Carlos Larraín, told journalists today that the violent repression unleashed during the dictatorship corresponded with Pinochet being “a crude man” and “a soldier prepared for war”.

Larraín also said that it had been unneceessary to use violence against those opposed to the dictatorship (1973-1990) that followed the military coup.

“I do not believe that any form of opposition should have been faced with such brutality and harshness,” he stressed.

In the evening, the senator and president of the ultra-right Independent Democratic Union (UDI), Hernán Larraín, said that abuses and excesses could occur in all wartime conflicts, but deplored the fact that in his message, Pinochet had said nothing about what occurred from 1974 onward regarding “the assaults on human rights, the tortures and disappearances, which could not have happened without the conditions of 1973.”

Meanwhile, the senator and director of the Socialist Party, Ricardo Núñez, said today that “the unpublished result is that the dictator evades responsibility by qualifying the disappearances and deaths as military excesses.”

According to Christian Democratic senator Jorge Pizarro, Pinochet’s letter is irrelevent to Chileans, since “there is nothing in it but praise and condemnation for whatever he has already expounded.”

The Social Democrat Sergio Bitar, meanwilee, said that the text “is a historical cover-up” and an attempt to whitewash the image of the ex-dictator, under whose regime more than 30,000 people were tortured and 200,000 went into exile.

The Pinochet letter came to light two weeks after his death and in it, the general ruled out that the human-rights violations were an institutional policy.

He also recognized that his destiny was “a kind of exile and solitude which I never thought of and wished for even less.”

Such a lack of forethought is rather remarkable, considering in what detail the coup of ’73 was planned. And such excuse-making for the human rights abuses that followed is positively contemptible. The Concertacionistas are right to come out in condemnation of this letter. I’m amazed that nothing about it is anywhere in the media up here, but maybe I shouldn’t be; after all, we all know that the Washington Post is very complicit in helping to whitewash the bloody hands of this vile corpse.

But while Pinochet may have died with self-congratulatory impunity, his followers might not get off so lucky, at least if President Bachelet has her way:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet died this month without ever being held legally accountable for human rights abuses that occurred during his dictatorship. But his subordinates are now facing a new threat: President Michelle Bachelet is pushing to invalidate an amnesty law that for nearly 30 years has exempted them from prosecution on murder and torture charges.

General Pinochet originally decreed the amnesty in April 1978, four and a half years after he seized power in the coup that overthrew an elected president, Salvador Allende. According to official reports of government commissions, his dictatorship was responsible for the deaths of at least 3,200 people, the bulk of which occurred before the amnesty edict, and the torture of 28,000 more.

"This government, like other democratic governments before it, maintains that the amnesty was an illegitimate decision in its origins and content, form and foundation," Ms. Bachelet’s chief of staff, Paulina Veloso, said in an interview at the presidential palace here. "Our conviction is that it should never have been applied at all, and certainly should never be used again."

Ms. Bachelet, a Socialist, took office in March in the fourth consecutive victory for a center-left coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists since General Pinochet was forced to step down in 1990. In the past, pro-Pinochet right-wing parties have been able to block congressional efforts to overturn the amnesty, but Ms. Bachelet’s coalition has a large enough majority in both houses to make passage of such a bill almost certain.

Despite the amnesty, there have been some prosecutions over the years, as investigative judges and prosecutors found ambiguities in the law that permitted them to move against people suspected of human rights abuses.

Since the late 1990s, prosecutions have occurred in cases of people who disappeared in the early years of the dictatorship and are presumed dead, thanks to judicial rulings that such disappearances are really a form of "permanent kidnapping" and not covered by the amnesty.

Courts have convicted more than 100 people of crimes including disappearances, killings and torture; 35 former generals are among those who have already been sentenced or are facing trials. But human rights advocates and government officials estimate that if the amnesty were revoked, the number of people suspected of human rights abuses who could be prosecuted would more than double.

Ms. Bachelet made her intentions clear in mid-October, during a visit to Villa Grimaldi, a notorious secret detention and torture center here that has recently been turned into a memorial to the victims of General Pinochet. It is her obligation as president, she said, to support "measures to ensure that the Chilean state acts in accordance with international law."

The issue has special relevance for the president because she and her mother were imprisoned and tortured at Villa Grimaldi in 1975, before going into exile. Her father, an Air Force general who had served in the left-wing Allende government and opposed the 1973 coup, died in another prison in 1974 after being tortured.

In late September, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the Pinochet "self-amnesty," as critics here refer to the measure, was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights, a treaty created by the Organization of American States that took effect in 1978. Because Chile has signed that agreement and others, it is theoretically bound by provisions of international law that prohibit any amnesty for crimes against humanity.

"Until now, the government has taken a hands-off approach, and the courts have had to circumnavigate the law," said José Miguel Vivanco, a Chilean who is the director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch. "But now the government and Congress have to bite the bullet. To her credit, Bachelet has embraced this opportunity and has been busy consulting human rights experts and jurists to work out the most effective option."

Proposals have already been offered to Congress, calling for the amnesty to be repealed, nullified or modified. The right-wing opposition has made it clear that it intends to challenge any change in the courts.

"The executive branch wants the law completely toppled because of the international impact that would have," said Juan Bustos, a Socialist deputy who introduced a bill that would tinker with the amnesty to exclude crimes against humanity or war crimes. "But I favor a mixed solution because I want to see these cases resolved quickly, before those responsible die, and that can’t be achieved if we’re tied up in the courts."

A posthumous “fuck you” to Pinochet? Sweet. May it pass soon.

And if it doesn’t, and the intended monuments to the fascist are erected after all, I hope they all become instant spittoons, as did his coffin, recently:

Just 10 days after the remains of the ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet were
cremated, the only Chilean who spat on his casket in the Military Academy, Francisco Cuadrado Prats, has lost his job.

Cuadrado Prats is the grandson of the ex-commander in chief of the army, Gen. Carlos Prats, assassinated in 1974 in Buenos Aires along with his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, by secret agents of Pinochet.

The young man, who is also the son of the current Chilean ambassador to Greece, worked as an advisor to a councillor in the municipality of Las Condes, where Pinocet lived for 17 years.

The mayor of Las Condes, Francisco de la Maza, who also proposed renaming a street or square in honor of “President Pinochet”, fired Cuadrado Prats and said that “there is no ideology behind this.”

“It seemed to me that Cuadrado Prats acted in a way inconsistent with a public servant connected to Las Condes,” he added.

The decision was criticized by representatives of the government, who characterized it as a political persecution. The spitting of Cuadrado Prats, praised and criticized in the local press, was described in some sectors as “an act which reflects the dignity of all Chileans.”

The young man was accompanied by two people when he joined a long queue on the 11th at Pinochet’s wake. When he reached the coffin, despite the presence of security guards and numerous partisans, he spat on the glass that covered Pinochet’s face.

Some “pinochetists” attempted to assault Cuadrado Prats, who was detained by military police and later released.

He’s a hero in my book. I’m sure his action speaks for a lot more people than it could ever offend.

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