World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


A Divided Chile Contemplates Pinochet’s Passing

Council On Hemispheric Affairs
Monday, December 11th, 2006
Chile, Front Page, Opinion

A Divided Chile Contemplates Pinochet’s Passing

As millions around the world celebrated International Human Rights Day on December 10, the event was overshadowed throughout Chile as its citizens both mourned and celebrated the death of ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the South American country from 1974 to 1990. The street in front of La Moneda, the nation’s executive mansion, teemed with anti-Pinochet protestors who lashed out at the police as they tried to disperse the march with tear gas and water cannons. The late dictator’s supporters also took to the streets this past week outside the Santiago Military Hospital, where he had been recovering from a heart attack. Their own tears marked the loss of the brutal strongman, who may have brought economic stability to the country’s middle-class, but at the expense of the already harsh living standards endured by the poor.

Although more than 15 years have passed since Pinochet lost power in a renewal of democratic elections, a chasm still divides the Chilean populace. There is a high likelihood that those now swigging at champagne bottles and tossing confetti may have been one of the 28,000 dissidents who survived horrific sessions in the many torture chambers authorized by Pinochet, or know someone who was killed by the oppressive regime.

Although many wished for his death, the majority of anti-Pinochet activists would have preferred to see him stand trial for the murders of more than 3,000 Chilean dissidents, in addition to the more recent allegations of tax fraud and embezzlement of millions of dollars. Pinochet had been arrested in London in 1998, where he remained under house arrest until he was released in March 2000 on account of his deteriorating health. Upon his return to Santiago, Chilean courts worked feverishly to strip him of his immunity. This was achieved in May 2004, yet he was time and again deemed mentally unfit for prosecution, leaving many of his victims’ families frustrated and even more disheartened over whether he would ever see justice. Despite his enduring anti-democratic personality, there remains a steadfast group of Pinochet loyalists who were glad to see his release, as they still revered him for implementing the macroeconomic reforms which eventually raised the standards of living nationwide, and for eliminating the alleged Communist threat from their country.

Pinochet’s advent was no accident, for squarely at the center of the plot to remove Allende from power was the effort by the Christian Democratic (PDC) opposition to block any prospect for President Allende’s successful rule of the country. The PDC leadership, headed by ex-President Frei, was prepared to risk sacrificing the country’s democratic system in order to rid the nation of a loathed government. As it turned out, Allende proved to be an authentic democrat, while the PDC were sheer opportunists who were prepared to sell out their country to oust the new elected leader, presumably to be replaced by themselves. However, the cruel joke on the PDC was that the Chilean military viewed the democratic politicians with contempt. Furthermore, if the Christian Democrats were guilty in preparing the groundwork of Allende’s overthrow, it was the Nixon administration – mainly Secretary of State Henry Kissenger – who supplied the dagger to plunge into the back of Chilean democracy. Its complicity cannot be exaggerated.

Pinochet was the U.S.’s main tool in the 1973 overthrow of President Salvador Allende, a democratic socialist who many ultra-conservatives feared would bring communism to the region during the height of the Cold War. However, the involvement of the Nixon administration can be traced back even further. Even before Allende came into office, the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, had spoken with then-Chilean President Eduardo Frei on methods of sabotaging the inauguration of Allende. Recently unclassified documents reveal that Kissenger had met with CIA operatives on Project “FUBELT,” with the purpose of staging a military coup against Allende. With the covert backing of Nixon and Kissinger, on September 11 Pinochet instructed the Chilean Navy to seize the port city of Valparaíso, and what followed was a series of bloody raids to capture, and in many cases eliminate, all Allende sympathizers. Even though Washington was aware of the thousands of human rights abuses being committed, it still supported Chile’s part in Operation Condor, a coalition of South American rightwing dictators who systematically sought out and killed anyone with Marxist or Communist ties by utilizing a sophisticated computer circuit to track dissidents throughout the Southern Cone.

Washington has not made any comment on Pinochet’s death thus far. However, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has stated that there will be no official mourning period and that the late general will receive a military, and not full state, funeral. Although this move may appease a portion of his opponents, they would have been much happier seeing him in court, instead of in a casket.


This analysis was prepared by Research Associate Ryann Bresnahan
December 11th, 2006
Word Count: 800

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>


Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>


Mexico: Violence And Repression Of Teachers

The member organizations of Network for Peace express our indignation over the acts of repression that the Mexican State has carried out, through the police forces... In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the conflict has resulted in murders of teachers and civilians as well as hundreds of wounded and dozens of people arrested. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news