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The murderer returned to the Scene of the Crime

By Tito Tricot

The murderer returned to the scene of the crime walking, even though he was too sick to face trial according to the British authorities. He arrived home on a sunny summer morning smiling and saluting his supporters unaided, although he was released on humanitarian grounds for being gravely ill. Once again Pinochet was laughing at the world and making a mockery of international law as he did all throughout his 17 years long dictatorship. Chileans witnessed the dictator's miraculous recovery, bringing back disturbing memories of that Tuesday on September 1973 when the armed forces took over power. Because once again the army staged a display of force which, in practice, constituted another coup d'etat on a smaller scale. They organised a Prussian style reception for Pinochet although the government had asked them to keep a low profile; the dictator was received at the Air Force's Group 10 complex at Santiago airport, out of bounds for the general public. The skies of the capital were closed off to any other aircraft whilst Pinochet was being transported from the airport to the military hospital and, finally, in an impressive military operation led by the "Cobra" elite unit, he was driven to his home in the outskirts of Santiago.

The government had no idea what was happening and it wasn't until much later on that Juan Gabriel Valdes, minister for Foreign Affairs, stated that the reception ceremony was " a disgrace". But it was too late, the armed forces had shown without a shadow of doubt that they are in power. Perhaps this explains why president Eduardo Frei left for the north of the country the very same morning and president elect Ricardo Lagos travelled to the resort town of Vina del Mar to chair a meeting of his future cabinet. It also explains Pinochet's arrogant and defiant attitude not only in relation to Chile, but as regards Europe as well.

The murderer returned to the scene of the crime walking amidst the tunes of "Erika" and "Lily Marlene" played by the army's band. One can't but wonder what did the British, Belgian and French authorities and peoples feel when they saw these images, reminiscent of nazi atrocities. Maybe the same way we feel now that the tyrant is back home, because we too knew of concentration camps, torture centres, mass rapes and mass graves, untold suffering and injustice. Lucia Pinochet, one of the dictator's daughters, said "we have withstood a lot of pain in the last 503 days", but, really, what does she know about pain? His father was never in prison, but in a mansion in Surrey; his father was never tortured, he was never taken away in the middle of the night to vanish forever; he was never blindfolded, stripped naked and electricity applied to his genitals, tongue, head. On the contrary, he was released on humanitarian grounds, although he never showed any humanity towards his myriad of victims.

Viviana Diaz, chairperson of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared believes that "Pinochet's detention constitutes a landmark in the history of mankind, for it has made sure that no dictator can travel around the world thinking that he is immune from prosecution. Even though Pinochet was finally sent home it did set a precedent, it is the most important trial since the Nuremberg trials". May be she is right, but you know something I just can't be that generous, because Pinochet is still free, he was supposed to be extremely ill, however, seconds after landing in Chile he got up from his wheelchair and walked unaided. He was supposed to be senile and mentally incapacitated to face trial, nonetheless he had no problems whatsoever in recognising and embracing each and every one of the commanders in chief of the armed forces. He was so ill, we were told, that he would have to spend several days in hospital for a general check-up, however, after spending only a few hours there, he was discharged from hospital and sent home.

Shameful, disgusting and sickening, an affront to all those who were massacred by Pinochet's army. An affront to Patricio who went mad one day when he learnt that his brother had been arrested by the secret police. He was young and thin, always smiling as we were forced to get up early every morning by the concentration camp guards. One day, however, his smile froze on his childish face, his dark eyes rolled back on their eye sockets and he began drooling. He never talked again.

An insult to Angelica whose pregnant body was riddled with bullets one cold winter dawn. She had been kidnapped by the secret police- Pinochet's police- tortured and murdered. Her assassins are still at large, just like Pinochet, for British, Chilean and Spanish authorities stroke a secret deal to allow the dictator to come back home. Only a fool can believe that general Pinochet is going to be tried in Chile, that's why over 6 thousand people took to the streets of Santiago to demonstrate their anger. Human Rights organisations, students, workers, shantytown dwellers and ordinary people gathered peacefully outside the presidential palace, but were eventually violently repressed by the police. Even so, our people managed to lower at half-mast all of the flags at Constitution Square painting, in big black letters, "Trial to Pinochet".

The murderer returned to the scene of the crime walking and he might even turn up at the changing of office ceremony on March 11. It would be embarrassing for the government that did its utmost to bring the dictator back to Chile provided he retired from politics; it would be embarrassing for Jack Straw and the British government who naively believed that Pinochet was ill. Above all, it would be an offence to the Chilean people.

Tito Tricot March 4 Chile

AUTHOR NOTE: Tito Tricot, an independent journalist and a sociologist, directs academic programs in Chile for the School for International Training, the University Academy of Christian Humanism and the University of Art and Social Sciences. Arrested in 1973 at the beginning of Gen. Augusto Pinochets dictatorship, he spent 18 months in concentration camps and prisons. In 1987, as he researched political violence and human-rights violations, he was arrested again. This time he was kept in prison for 14 months and tortured. The abuse fractured one of his vertebrae and put him in a prison hospital with a plaster cast from neck to waist.

E-mail him in Valparaso at ttricot@agata.ecored.cl.


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