[Marxism] Rehabilitating Pinochet

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Wed Dec 27 08:24:46 MST 2006


 
 

By _LARRY ROHTER_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/larry_rohter/index.html?inline=nyt-per) 
Published: December 27, 2006 - NY Times
 
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 26 — When he died two Sundays ago, Gen. _Augusto 
Pinochet_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/augusto_pinochet/index.html?inline=nyt-per)  was in disgrace, facing the prospect  of 
trials for human rights abuses and for illicitly accumulating a $28 million  
fortune.  
His closest associates, however, have seized upon his death as an opportunity 
 to rehabilitate his tattered image and rewrite the recent history of _Chile_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/chil
e/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) . 
The widespread publication on Sunday of a farewell letter from General  
Pinochet to “all Chileans, without exception” was perhaps the most notable salvo  
in that posthumous public relations offensive, but it was not an isolated 
move.  Rather, it appears to be part of a campaign to portray the former dictator 
as a  victim of a vengeful leftist cabal, instead of a notorious human rights 
offender  and embezzler. 
“My destiny is a kind of banishment and solitude that I would never have  
imagined, much less desired,” General Pinochet lamented in the letter. He also  
referred to what he called his “captivity in London,” where he was held from  
late 1998 until early 2000 while British judges debated whether to extradite 
him  to Spain to stand trial for some of the thousands of murders, kidnappings 
and  acts of torture that occurred during the 17 years he was in power. 
The main argument being presented to try to restore General Pinochet’s  
tainted reputation is a variant of one used to eulogize Mussolini, of whom it  was 
said that “he made the trains run on time” in Italy. Right-wing commentators  
in the generally conservative Chilean press have praised General Pinochet for 
 his role in transforming Chile into Latin America’s most dynamic economy,  
without mentioning that he crushed labor unions and outlawed political parties  
in order to do so. 
Those arguments were initially articulated at General Pinochet’s funeral on  
Dec. 12. Carlos Cáceres Contreras, one of General Pinochet’s cabinet 
ministers,  called him the “father of the modernization of Chile” and gave him credit 
for  restoring respect for private property, opening the economy to the 
outside  world, stimulating exports, privatizing pensions and other free-market  
initiatives. 
At the same ceremony, Hernán Guiloff, president of the Pinochet Foundation,  
also justified the former dictator’s political policies, noting that he died  
without ever being convicted of any crimes. Near tears, he told how General  
Pinochet, at his last birthday lunch in late November, boasted to his guests  
that “I have never committed an improper act for which I need be ashamed.” 
In the six-page farewell letter, which Mr. Guiloff says General Pinochet gave 
 to him in 2004 for safe keeping, General Pinochet said he had “no room left 
in  my heart for hatred,” but is similarly unrepentant. Though he acknowledged 
 “abuses and exaggerations,” he argued that he was compelled to act in order 
to  prevent “a civil war, without quarter, door to door, with thousands of 
people  dead,” which he maintained the left had been plotting. 
As late as 2003, the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power,  
General Pinochet and Salvador Allende, the man he overthrew, enjoyed roughly 
the  same level of rejection and support in Chilean society.  
But most of that support evaporated in 2004, when an investigation by the 
_United States Senate_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/senate/index.html?inline=nyt-org)  revealed that General Pinochet 
had  stashed millions of dollars abroad, some of it under aliases like Arturo 
López.  
Now that he is dead, however, General Pinochet’s supporters have been  
emboldened to suggest that statues and memorials be erected in his honor. The  mayor 
of the Santiago borough where General Pinochet lived has announced plans  to 
name a street after the former leader — though he had to abandon his initial  
plan to put the name on the street where President Michelle Bachelet, herself 
a  former political prisoner under General Pinochet, now lives. 
Leaders of human rights groups have complained about what they call the  
Bachelet government’s passivity in the face of distortions of history. “They’ve  
ceded the entire field of play to Pinochet’s apologists,” said one, who spoke 
on  condition of anonymity so as not to alienate members of the government 
who deal  with human rights issues. “There are not two teams out there, just one.
” 
The Bachelet government did seem at first to be under instructions to let the 
 Pinochet camp vent and to refrain from direct criticism of him. That policy 
was  broken only once, when the interior minister, Belisario Velasco, said 
that  General Pinochet was “a classic right-wing dictator, who violated human 
rights  and enriched himself,” which prompted the Pinochet family to complain 
that the  government was not “respecting our pain.” 
But now, with her own supporters restive, Ms. Bachelet appears to be  
reacting, albeit belatedly and hesitantly. In an interview over the weekend with  
Chilean television, she said that she was “worried about the fanaticism” of the  
pro-Pinochet outbursts, which she described as legitimate but “excessive.” 




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