Pinochet Under House Arrest


Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, after examining his performance on a recent TV show in Miami, decided that former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet is competent to stand trial, indicted him today for nine kidnappings and one murder that occurred during his reign, and placed him under house arrest. Pinochet is expected to appeal to Chile's Supreme Court, which had, in a different murder prosecution of the general in 2001, declared Pinochet mentally and physically unfit to stand trial.

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  1. This is for his role in killing (by bomb as I recall) that exiled Chilean General in Argentina?

    He apparently gave a very lucid interview the a few weeks ago, so he may have shot himself in the foot.

  2. I’m diversifying, and offering different versions of my standard disclaimer (“Remember, John Kerry would be much worse!”) for different countries.

    So, I’d just like to remind everybody that Allende would be much worse!

    Have a nice day! ;->

  3. Lets remember that in the 1973 underground Allende coup in Chile, the CIA armed the military, tried to cause economic chaos and then the military took control.

    The White House and the CIA pursued a two-track policy. The hard line called for a military coup, which was finally achieved. The soft line — which included a White House directive to “make the economy scream” — was explained by U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry, a Kennedy liberal, who stated: “not a nut or bolt will be allowed to reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty, a policy designed for a long time to come to accelerate the hard features of a Communist society in Chile.”

    more here:

  4. thoreau,

    Well, despite the love affair of some for Allende, he didn’t leave power gracefully; his corrupt government’s cronyist politics caused an economic crisis that lead to a “people power” movement that drove him from office.

    Taking your comment seriously, I guess one would have to ask whether waiting for an election 1976 would have been the perferable option to a coup d’etat? Chile had a couple of decades of democratic elections up to that point, so the odds might be seen in favor of a peaceful transition via election in 1976. I guess you can balance that against a couple of dead Chileans (and some foreign nationals), loss of political rights for Chileans, etc.

  5. …couple of thousand dead Chileans…

  6. Gary-

    The main reason for my comment was that whenever the topic of certain right-wing Latin American dictators comes up, some posters inevitably remind us that at least those dictators weren’t leftists. Personally, I’m agnostic on which type of dictator is worse, because neither type is worth applauding even if one is (at least hypothetically) a lesser evil.

    I honestly don’t know enough to say whether Allende or Pinochet was worse, but I was parodying the dominant orthodoxy of this forum.

  7. How you evaluate Pinochet inevitably depends on what group you compare him against. Relative to other economic reformers, the oppression and corruption of his regime lead to a pretty abysmal assessment. On the other hand, he compares favorably to other brutal dictators due to his reasonable economic policies and decision to relinquish power without being driven out by force. If Allende would have ended up taking Chile down the same path as Cuba, Pinochet could be considered the lesser of two evils, but evil nonetheless.

  8. there’s no doubt from what i’ve read (which, i admit, isn’t an enormous amount) that pinochet was a nasty bastard.
    but i did read an interesting essay (if i can find it, i’ll post the link) that basically argued thoreau’s point: that as bad as pinochet was, allende could very well have turned the country into another cuba, instead of what it is today: a relatively free country with a fairly low poverty level for latin america. gary makes a point when he wonders whether this could have been accomplished without a military coup and a killing spree.
    but, if i remember correctly, acccording to the piece i read, the way things were going under allende, the country was likely on its way to civil war. this would have been a hell of a lot bloodier than what pinochet did. the economy was indeed screaming, but the author cites two scholars sympathetic to allende who even admit that this was mostly due to bad economic policies, not the nixon administration. (this seems to be a common excuse among communists for the lousy state of their societies — imperialist meanies like the u.s. are sabotaging our great plans). inflation was insane, allende was making nice with fidel, who came to chile to publically state that freedom of speech and the press were bourgeois conceits (or something equally idiotic), and i remember allende as being quoted that for “the revolution” to work, democratic freedoms would have to take a back seat.
    or somesuch. i should find the link and post it, rather than subject y’all to my pot-addled brain’s half-memories of it (it was over a year ago that i read it. hopefully i can find it).


  9. here it is. took less time than i thought.

  10. decision to relinquish power without being driven out by force

    It wasn’t simply a “decision.” It was preceded by a grassroots protest movement that suffered severe repression, and it was punctuated when military leaders refused to impose martial law after Pinochet lost the plebiscite of 1988.

    Gary: I suspect you were being tongue-in-cheek when you described what happened in 1973 as a “people power” uprising, but just in case you aren’t: You could argue that that describes one significant aspect of what happened — namely the (CIA-financed) strike of the independent truckers — but the coup itself was a very violent affair, led not by civilians but by the military.

    The Pinochet regime murdered a lot of people. You can’t justify that with references to what Allende “might” have done. I’m glad to see the bastard getting his just deserts.

  11. Jesse Walker,

    Crap. That sentence has a typo.

    Well, despite the love affair of some for Pinochet, he didn’t leave power gracefully; his corrupt government’s cronyist politics caused an economic crisis that lead to a “people power” movement that drove him from office.


  12. No one can be sure how bad Allende would have been. But we can say that Pinochet was bad.

    He committed crimes against his government, then he committed crimes against his people. The moral relativist defense of Pinochet is easy: Cold War, pro-US alliance, anti-Communist, wasn’t Allende. But the justification possible through moral relativism ends at years of oppression.

    And I’m surprised the moral relativist defenders only mention Allende possibly turning Chile into another Cuba. Why not mention how Pinochet’s Chile didn’t have as bad a human rights record as its (also strongly anti-Communist) neighbor, Argentina? It’s a better comparison, and makes a more sympathetic case for Augusto.

  13. thoreau,

    Well, the old notion (at one time defended by the likes of Jeanne Kirkpatrick U.S. Ambassador to the UN under Reagan) that right-wing dictatorships have some sort of advantage over the left-wing variety has been demonstrated to be bunk in light of events in Eastern Europe.

    As to Chile, I think its pretty clear that the regimes of Allende and Pinochet both ended up derailing progress there, and that the twenty years between 1970-1990 was a real setback for Chile (though maybe it did some good in ultimately strengthening the democratic institutions there); in other words, that on balance neither of the bastards was very good for Chile. However, I can argue that letting the process work itself out politically – instead of short circuiting it via a coup – might have been better for Chile in the long-run than playing into any short-term fears. To be frank there has to come a time when countries put up with crappy leaders for their term of office; or at least there seems to be some value in that to me; instead of simply opting out of the “normal” process for some new flavor of the month. Obviously there are times for revolution, but those times probably should be rare (look at me sounding like a student of Burke).

  14. Well, this may be too utlitarian an argument to make, but, here goes.

    Well, that’ll teach a bloodstained repressive dictator to yield power without a bloodbath!! Isn’t there a case for amnesty on the way out the door, because otherwise dictators will never yield power?

  15. Pinochet used death squads to murder and torture people who disagreed with his policies. Allende didn’t. Pinochet had people hooked up to car batteries, thrown out of helicopters, doused with gasoline and set on fire. I am disgusted that anyone would consider tax policies or land ownership laws to somehow compete on the same plane of moral consideration as these atrocities.

    As for unsavory associations, Allende invited Castro to the country. Pinochet kept a picture of Hitler in his office, and gave refuge to wanted war criminals. Not the same thing.

  16. Gary: Thanks for the clarification.

  17. Chile might have done better to follow the example of the Czechs and others who haven’t tried to too severely punish the members of the former regime except by bringing their crimes to light and – gasp, the naivete – public shaming.

    Poland – charges against Jaruzelski dropped, Sejm passes what is essentially an amnesty
    East Germany – Honnecker released due to ill health (moved to Chile!), Egon Krenz served three years for the murders of Berlin Wall crossers and election fraud (that one I like)
    Czech Republic – Husak expelled from the party (I suppose for failing), Jakes stood trial for treason related to 1968 (another good charge) but was acquitted

    While this allowed many to escape their just desserts, it did prevent a hardening of attitudes and it prevented a struggle that would have retarded political and economic liberalization.

    The dictatorial regime denies freedom. The people want freedom. Why, when the revolution is won, should freedom be delayed in the interests of revenge?

    Josphus brings up an interesting point. Why did so many South Americans admire the Nazis?

  18. “Josphus brings up an interesting point. Why did so many South Americans admire the Nazis?”

    This is half of The Big Question re: South and Central America.

    Why is it that all political activity in South America results in either Hitler or Chairman Mao?

    Over and over again. Right wing despot, communist despot. I just don’t get it.

  19. Jason, there are certain conditions that must be present for liberalism and democracy to take hold. Much of South and Central America spent most of the 20th century under feudal conditions. A rich oligarchy owned the land, the military, and the government, and everyone else lived as peasants. Nicaragua pre-Sandinistas was one big company town. El Salvador. Guatamala. Cuba.

    And since our Cold War foreign policy treated any popular movement attempting to change that status quo as a manifestation of Soviet expansionism, progress beyond those conditions was halted. The only countervailing force that local progressives culd avail themselves of was Soviet backing, complete with an ideological makeover.

    But rightist is one thing, Nazi another. There were some cultural ties between Germany and South America, but that still doesn’t strike me as much of an explanation.

  20. Jesse,

    I didn’t mean to imply that Pinochet relenquished power willingly, but that he didn’t attempt to plunge the country into civil war in hope that his faction might come out on top. Again, not bad for a murderous dictator, but nowhere near a decent human being.

  21. To summarize/clarify it for you. They were happy when Cubans were getting killed, jailed, and tortured. Guess they didn’t like it when it happened to them.

  22. Actually Gary, Jesse’s “fact” is that he inferred that I was not aware of a handful of non-soc/non-comm killed from my first post. Re-reading that post, I can see how this would be assumed, and I subsequently clarified that. As for their children, funny, but when Castro visited Allende, I don’t remember hearing how the lefties then cared much about the thousands of orphans left behind by that regime, or the thousands of separated children from the Pedro Pan flights. So again, they had no problems with all of this when it was being done to others. So boo-hoo, it happened to them. BFD.

    As for killing soc/comm, I don’t know where I stated that we should go out and hunt them down actively, as if life imitated a Richard Connell story. My whole point has been that they got killed by the same methods their “idealistic” comrades used elsewhere, and we are supposed to feel bad for them because of that? Sorry, as soon as they stood in solidarity with those other governments, I lost any sympathy for them.

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