Lessons of a Dictator

Eighty-three-year-old former dictator Augusto Pinochet hoped to fade into Chilean history as a hero of the free market and poster boy for strong man rule. He had become acclaimed by those, such as the former communists in Russia, who wanted to have a "Pinochet solution" for their own nation—that is, a combination of oligopoly and casino-capitalism backed by brute force. Instead of kudos, in 1998 Pinochet's past thrust him into the category of world class villain.

The immunity that Pinochet had negotiated for himself with Chilean politicians (as "Senator for Life") before he gave up military rule was not enough to protect him from claims that a Nuremburg-like trial should be held since he was responsible for the deaths and disappearance of thousands of people. Some claimed he should be tried according to the standards of domestic law where victims were found or crimes committed.

The most aggressive nation to call for extradition, Spain, has tied the British House of Lords in knots because of the Spanish request that Pinochet, who was visiting Great Britain on a combined business and health trip, be sent to Spain for questioning. Several other nations have also requested his extradition, all claiming that Pinochet is a mass murderer who ordered the killing and "disappearance" of thousands of his opponents and bystanders.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1999
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