Pinochet & His Enemies

Article excerpt

The British House of Lords is traditionally a model of fusty decorum, where worthy speeches by elder statesmen are heard in silence, punctuated only by grunts of approval and the occasional post-prandial snore. All such conventions were abandoned on July 6, when Lady Thatcher, joined by three former Conservative Cabinet Ministers, attacked the abuses connected with the arrest some nine months earlier in London of the former Chilean ruler, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. By the time that Lady Thatcher had reached the line, "Senator Pinochet, is of course, being victimized because the organized international left are bent on revenge," the organized left on the opposite bench could stand it no longer. Protesting that she had already spoken too long, the chief whip demanded she stop. She refused to comply, and was then berated by the government as "ignoble" and "hysterical." Her real offense, of course, was to state in Parliament what newspapers had been alleging for months-namely that Senator Pinochet was the victim of a conspiracy in which the British authorities had apparently colluded; that the charges against him had been maliciously conceived; and that their real motivation was revenge.

Lady Thatcher believes in paying debts. Pinochet proved himself a valuable friend of Britain during the Falklands War by discreetly allowing the head of the Chilean air force to pass on crucial intelligence about Argentinean movements, which in turn allowed the British task force to take preventive action, thus saving many lives. She also recognizes the scale of Pinochet's achievement in Chile, which his government transformed from chaotic collectivism into a thriving capitalist model for Latin America. True, it was at a high cost. According to the commission set up by Pinochet's opponents to establish the facts, 2,279 people lost their lives. But considering that the regime began by fighting what was in effect a civil war and that right to the end it faced Cuban-backed terrorism, the death toll was low-far lower than in equivalent conflicts elsewhere in South America, let alone in Spain. Pinochet established a constitution, respected it, recognized the outcome of the plebiscite that ended his tenure of power, and retired gracefully. If only all "dictators" did as much.

There is no secret about who is behind the indictment of Pinochet. The originator is a Marxist Spanish lawyer called Juan Garces, formerly a political adviser to Salvador Allende.

In this enterprise Garces was assisted by a group of Marxists in Chile and Spain, who have since boasted in print of their exploits. For some years they were frustrated by the Spanish judicial system. They had to establish both that Pinochet had committed "crimes against humanity" and that Spain had jurisdiction over those crimes-neither of which any selfrespecting Spanish magistrate was prepared to accept. Eventually, however, they found their man in Baltasar Garzon, an embittered, publicity-seeking former Socialist politician.

Judge Garzon succeeded in having the dormant dossier of Chilean alleged human rights abuse cases transferred to him.

Then, advised at each stage by Garces, he set out to trap the aging and unwary Pinochet.

The precise details of the coordination between Garzon and the British government are obscure, but circumstances suggest it was close. Pinochet arrived in Britain on September 22, on a diplomatic passport, charged with a special mission by the Chilean president. He was now, as on many previous occasions, accorded the treatment of an ambassador. (In fact, the Chilean embassy had failed to obtain written confirmation of his registration in that capacity, which later proved to have been a grave mistake.) While in London, Pinochet developed acute back trouble and decided on an operation. His forced immobility presented the Spanish with a God-given opportunity. Initially, Garzon approached the British authorities merely seeking to interrogate him. …