Cablegate: Media Reaction - Passing of General Pinochet


DE RUEHSG #2543/01 3451959
R 111959Z DEC 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Major dailies gave extensive coverage to General
Pinochet's death, the Bachelet government's statement, and the
demonstrations of Pinochet supporters and opponents. Two
Concertacion Congressmen expressed surprise at the U.S. statement,
noting the absence of a reference to U.S. intervention in the 1970s.
All three major dailies ran editorial comments. End Summary.

U.S. Statements Noted
2. On December 11, conservative, independent "La Tercera" (circ.
101,000): "U.S. sympathizes with the victims of the (military)
regime. (Margaret) Thatcher only expresses sadness over his

"Pinochet's dictatorship was one of the most difficult periods in
Chile's history. Our thoughts today are with the victims of his
regime and their families. We praise the people of Chile for
building a society based on freedom, rule of law, and respect for
human rights," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

3. On December 11, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record "El
Mercurio" (circ. 129,000): London "noted" the General's death and
Chile's democratic progress. The White House underscored the
"difficult" Pinochet era. The Bush administration recalled that the
Pinochet dictatorship was a difficult period and expressed its
sympathy to the victims of his regime. The Department of State
labeled Pinochet a "controversial" figure that will be judged by the
Chilean people. "Chileans responded to General Pinochet's
government by reaffirming their commitment to democracy, pluralism,
an open economy, and international engagement," said Department of
State spokesperson Joanne Moore. Relations between the U.S. and
Chile were tense during the Pinochet government because of human
rights violations and the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando
Letelier in Washington.

4. On December 11, conservative, afternoon daily "La Segunda"
(circ. 33,000 12/11): Some in the Concertacion were "surprised" by
the White House statement. PPD Senator Roberto Munoz said that the
U.S. statement "would have been much more effective if at the same
time it had included a "mea culpa" about the U.S. intervention at
the time. PS Senator Jaime Gazmuri said that he was also surprised
given the "active intervention" of the United States in the "tragic
experience of the Unidad Popular and Salvador Allende."

Pinochet Funeral Arrangements
5. On December 11, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
"El Mercurio" (circ. 129,000): Government spokesman Ricardo Lagos
Weber confirmed that General Pinochet would be rendered full honors
as a former Army Commander-in-Chief. The government authorized all
army facilities to fly their flags at half mast as a sign of
mourning. Pinochet will be mourned at the Military Academy. His
funeral will begin at 11:00 am on Tuesday with a mass, and his body
will be taken to the Parque del Recuerdo Cemetery to be cremated.
President Bachelet met with Army Commander-in-Chief General Izurieta
to inform him she would not decree a state funeral or national
mourning and that she would not attend the ceremony. Defense
Minister Vivianne Blanlot will attend the mass to "accompany" the

Reactions to Pinochet Death
6. On December 11, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
"El Mercurio" (circ. 129,000) noted that:

-- UDI Senator and former Navy Commander-in-Chief Jorge Arancibia
said the government was making "an unforgivable mistake" by not
holding a state funeral for Pinochet.

-- Former Frei administration minister and OAS Secretary General
Jos Miguel Insulza said that although Pinochet was never sentenced,
human rights violations committed by his regime "are confirmed."

-- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was "deeply
saddened" with Pinochet's death. She will transmit her condolences
to the Pinochet family, said AFP sources.

-- Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon, who tried to take Pinochet to
court for genocide, said the general's death must not stop other
investigations of those in his regime who participated in the same

-- Former Presidents Patricio Aylwin, Eduardo Frei and Ricardo Lagos
declined to comment on Pinochet's death.

-- PPD president Sergio Bitar concurred with the government's
decision to not hold a state funeral for Pinochet. "History has
already judged him and there should be no state funeral," said

-- The left called on former military regime collaborators to reveal
information that will help to resolve pending human rights cases.
"It is the right time to learn the truth," said Communist Party
Secretary General Guillermo Teillier and Humanist Party former

presidential candidate Tomas Hirsh.

-- Judge Alejandro Solis, who recently charged General Pinochet with
the abduction, torture, and death of political prisoners at Villa
Grimaldi detention center, said the next judicial step is to acquit
the general in all pending cases.

-- Human rights attorney Carmen Hertz regretted that the general
died without ever serving a sentence. PC attorney Eduardo Contreras
quoted a poet and said, "It's a shame that death beat justice."

7. On December 11, conservative, independent
"La Tercera" (circ. 101,000): The UDI harshly criticized the
government for not rendering Pinochet state honors as former

Demonstrations by Supporters and Opponents
8. El Mercurio, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
(circ. 129,000, 12/11), La Tercera, conservative, independent (circ.
101,000, 12/11): About 1,500 supporters of Pinochet gathered
outside the Military Hospital and then moved to the Military Academy
to wait for the General's casket to arrive. About 5,000 people took
to the streets to celebrate Pinochet's death in several parts of the
city. There were serious incidents when the demonstrators tried to
cross police barriers and approach La Moneda. In the poorer areas
of the city individuals set up barricades and caused disturbances
that led to confrontations with the police. There were also
incidents involving members of the press who were physically
attacked by some Pinochet supporters outside the military hospital.

Survey on State Funeral
9. On December 10, conservative, independent "La Tercera" (circ.
101,000): "La Tercera" survey shows that 55% of Chileans believe
Pinochet should not be rendered state honors as former President
when he dies. 27% said he should.

Editorials on Pinochet
10. On December 11, government-owned, editorially independent "La
Nacion" (circ. 4.200) ran an editorial entitled, "Pinochet, Never
Again." Quote:

"For the first time since that gloomy September 11, 1973, last night
thousands of homes slept in peace... There will be those who will
try to validate the dictator's legacy, but...the lesson that free
men and women have learned is that human dignity has no room for
shortcuts or explanations for regimes that came to be by force....
Pinochet had no principles.... He was always see which
way the wind blew.... He was not even a good soldier. He not only
betrayed the President of the Republic, but also his own comrades in
arms at times that the country faced difficulty. We all know how he
repaid General Carlos Prats for his service.... Pinochet will never
have a monument as dignified as the one the army erected in memory
of General Rene Schneider, killed by those who supported his
dictatorship for 17 years.... The man who has had the most power in
Chile's history is no longer with us. His family has the right to
mourn him, but for love of country, don't ask for more.... Nations
honor those who are fair and just and noteworthy. There is no room
for dictators. The sense of relief that swept across our nation
yesterday full of hope.... Survivors have won.
Never again Pinochet."

11. On December 11, conservative, independent "La Tercera" (circ.
101,000) ran an editorial entitled "Augusto Pinochet (1915- 2006)."

"Chile's most important political figure in at least three decades
has disappeared.... Much has been said and history will finally
judge him. But in truth, something very unusual would have to
happen to change the parameters by which his regime is measured. If
we were to assess his legacy, one thing on which both sides --
supporters and opponents -- would agree is that his government was
marked by human rights violation and a process of economic
transformation.... One of the debates now is how his disappearance
will change the political scenario.... Pinochet's disappearance
marks the beginning of a new chapter in Chile's history. Although
his death will not change the view that different political sectors
have about him or his regime, we can begin now to put behind those
differences that have marked our country since the 70s.... His
passing away is a chance to finally overcome the break that our
country suffered."

12. On December 11, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
"El Mercurio" (circ. 129,000, 12/11) ran an editorial entitled
"Augusto Pinochet Ugarte." Quote:

"The death of former Commander-in-Chief and President Pinochet marks
the death of one of the individuals with the greatest impact in
Chilean history during the 20th Century.... Pinochet's most
important legacy was to give Chile a modern and entrepreneurial
model, based on individual freedom and the right to own property....
The military government, in a series of complex stages...finally
renewed political institutions...that allowed the peaceful transfer
of power to the opposition in an unprecedented event.... The
positive elements of his legacy are overshadowed by grave and
unacceptable human rights violations...and his personal image was
also undermined by the discovery of personal accounts abroad....
The strong feelings among those in favor and against the former
president were evident yesterday in the massive demonstrations of
sorrow by some and the happiness of others.... The debate about
Pinochet will not be resolved in our time and perhaps never will....
But this should be the time to make a special effort for
reconcilement among all those who on one side or the other fought
from their own perspective for what they thought was best for


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