Friday, 15 December 2006

Death of Pinochet

I shed no tears at news of the death of General Augusto Pinochet this week.
The former President of Chile came to power in 1973 after he overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Dr Salvador Allende in a brutal repression of democracy. With the backing of the US, Pinochet launched a bloody coup d’etat against the popularly elected government and was responsible for the torture and death of tens of thousands of trades unionists and political activists. To this day many of the bodies have never been found or identified.
Pinochet has never faced justice for his actions. He was hailed as a hero by Thatcher and Reagan, protected by the right internationally and despised by human rights groups and the left to his dying day.

The director Costa Garvas captured the events powerfully in ‘Missing’ a film starring Jack Lemmon and Cissy Spazek. I remember seeing it and being shocked at how the world could stand back and see the ‘Britain of Latin America’ as Chile was then considered – because of its long history of stable parliamentary democracy in a continent well known for coups and military uprising – suffer such interference from US state and economic forces.
Salvador Allende
The events of Chile in 1973 remain a potent warning to democrats the world over.
Today in Latin America left leaders have been elected to power in Venezuala, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and of course Chile itself – not to mention Cuba, where we may be approaching Fidel Castro’s last days.

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