Mbeki and human rights

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Dec 16 13:46:30 MST 1999

>While I am opposed to all these international tribunals, and the attempt to
>have Pinochet tried in Spain, I see no reason why peple who committed
>crimes - or, really, the people who ordered the barbarism - in South Africa
>under apartheid facing justice within South Africa itself.  Or Pinochet
>being strung up by people *in Chile*.
>Philip Ferguson

It is not the case that bankrupt liberals and social democrats have
universally rallied around the cause of bringing Pinochet to justice, least
of all in Chile where the dregs of Allende's party have done everything
they can to undercut this cause.


Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1999, Tuesday, Home Edition


MARC COOPER, Marc Cooper, a contributing editor to the Nation magazine,
worked, as a translator to former Chilean President Salvador Allende


Sifting the results from this past Sunday's Chilean presidential elections,
it seems that former dictator Augusto Pinochet may yet get the last laugh.
Yes, the aging tyrant has been under house arrest for 14 months in London
battling extradition to Spain for crimes against humanity. But his former
political collaborators, apologists and heirs won a stunning electoral
victory when their presidential candidate forced Chile's ruling coalition
into an unprecedented runoff vote next month.

Joaquin Lavin, a longtime Pinochet advocate and advisor--and most recently
the mayor of Chile's wealthiest enclave--took an unexpected 47.5% of the
vote. That's less than a half-percentage point behind Socialist Ricardo
Lagos, the candidate of the ruling center-left coalition, the Concertacion,
which has governed Chile since Pinochet left power in 1990.

Many observers are scratching their heads asking how, just at the moment
when the old dictator is about to be thrown into history's dumpster, his
supporters and allies can fare well enough to be an even bet to win the
runoff. The answer: The Concertacion coalition that forced the dictator
from office in a 1988 plebiscite has squandered a crucial decade by failing
to build a clear and full democratic alternative to the previous military

The two succeeding elected Concertacion governments, including the
incumbent administration of President Eduardo Frei, have been more
committed to consolidating the dog-eat-dog free market economic system put
in place by Pinochet than in completing any credible transition to full
democracy. So while paying lip service for the last 10 years to the ideals
of greater social justice, Chile's governing coalition has presided over a
radical capitalist model that, while generating impressive macroeconomic
growth, has created one of the most unequal and brutally competitive
societies on Earth.

Bereft of any modern labor or environmental protection, tormented by
privatized and wildly dysfunctional health and education systems and
insulted by a Congress still clogged with unelected senators (including, no
less, Senator-For-Life Augusto Pinochet), many ordinary Chileans no longer
felt compelled to give the Concertacion another six-year term.

Challenger Lavin's coalition consists of the pro-Pinochet parties that
represent Chile's wealthy elite. But he nevertheless campaigned as a
populist, promising jobs, housing and health care under the slogan of "It's
Time For A Change." Lagos meekly countered with the focus-group-driven
slogan of "Growth With Equality." But Lagos' errors transcend clunky
jingles and inept political positioning. They are the result of a decade's
worth of cowardice on the part of the Concertacion to directly confront
Pinochet, his crimes and his collaborators.

Lavin, who had been a crass propagandist for Pinochet during the 1980s,
would have been rendered politically radioactive if Lagos had forcefully
tied the dictator's bloody legacy to him. But given the Concertacion's
long-established record of avoiding the still-unresolved human rights
questions in this country, that would have been way too much to expect.

Indeed, when Pinochet was arrested in London for the thousands of political
assassinations, kidnappings and systematic torture that marked his 17-year
rule, Chileans were exposed to the ghastly spectacle of their supposedly
anti-Pinochet government clamoring for the liberation of the jailed
dictator. Lagos cynically called for Pinochet to be returned to Chile to
stand trial at home, knowing full well that the dictator is protected by an
amnesty law he imposed before leaving office.

Polls at the time showed that two-thirds of Chileans agreed that Pinochet
should be punished for his crimes. But Chile's "democratic" government
flatly refused to join the rest of the world in supporting the prosecution
of the tyrant.

The Concertacion and Lagos' rollover on Pinochet was a gross and perhaps
fatal misstep. Not able to promise any substantial relief from the excesses
of the Pinochet-designed economic system, the government and its candidate
further eliminated themselves as a credible moral refuge from the stench of

The message to Chile was unmistakable: Vote for us or vote for the
Pinochetistas and, really, it will matter very little either way. That's
exactly what the Chilean people did on Sunday, giving Lagos and Lavin an
almost identical number of votes. And no doubt bringing at least a
temporary smile to the wrinkled lips of the decrepit dictator in London.

Louis Proyect

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