Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pinochet: Full Circle

The Chilean Supreme Court has stripped former General/Dictator/President/Senator Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution for the torture of political activists and ordinary Chilean civilians in the 1970s. An estimated 3,000 Chileans were killed during Pinochet's 17-year rule of terror (1973-1990).

In an unbelievable full-circle, the current president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet and her mother were victims of Pinochet's infamous Villa Grimaldi prison in the 1970s.

But the debates in Chile are not so clear cut. Some still view him as a "necessary evil" -- he was able to jump start the Chilean economy through sometimes brutal neo-liberal reform. He ultimately relinquished the presidency peacefully after a mis-calculated plebscite that voted him out of office. He was able to command power, however, until 1998 as army commander-in-chief.

So, is Pinochet evil? or should he be revered as a "savior of the nation". After all, Chile is doing very well economically today, and it is a democracy. Should Pinochet be tried for his crimes against Chile or should be be pronouced a hero?


Robyn said...

i think it's hard to say if stripping Pinochet of his immunity is right or wrong. although he did jump-start the Chilean economy, he also committed a number of human rights abuses. i think that the citizens of a nation should always be in the forefront of the government's policy. sure, a nation can fix it's economy and become prosperous, but at what expense to the welfare of the people?
while Chile is a democracy today with a sound economy, who's to say that there was not another way to reach their current state? abusing human rights should not be the correct path to achieving a stable and prosperous nation.

Alex K said...

The real question here is simple. do the ends justify the means? Baumeister and Vohs state that, "the evil lies in the means, not the end" (pg91). Chile may be a prosperous country now, but this end could have been attained without destroying the rights of the common man. I cannot think of a single example where the ends have truely justified the means taken to better society in the long run.

Hasty said...

I think Pinochet deserves a couple life sentences, but how will history remember him? I'd like to point out the oft-ignored abuses of human rights in the development of America. I know it's sometimes hard to point the finger at our own society, but without the genocide of Native Americans and the usage of slaves, this country would certainly not be where it is today. We look at slave-owning founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson as American heroes. Will Pinochet be remembered and lauded as such two hundred years from now? Doubtfully, but if he had lived in the eighteenth century his methods may have seemed benign and quite congruent with the status quo.

jamie s said...

Pinochet is evil in my opinion. Life during his regime was miserable for the lives of many Chileans. The human right violations under Pinochet are undeniable. In Chile itself, citizens are divided between those who still support Pinochet and his regime (and have his photos displayed proudly in their houses) and those who see his regime as a sad time for the country (secret bars still exist where socialists hid during his regime). Due to this, the country will be undoubtedly divided on his immunity. A trial will spark unresolved political opposition between Chile’s citizens, especially for those who lived through his regime.

Additionally, the Chilean economy is far from perfect. Many economists regard Chile as South America’s economic miracle, but this assumption avoids certain truths that make up daily life in Chile. Although as a whole the country appears prosperous, the inequality is quite significant. Classism is a major issue in Chile; the social and economic divide is enormous. Problems include: a large housing deficit/squatter communities, difficulty with job availability, and difficulty with upward mobility. Vast improvements were made from Allende’s socialist -inflation ridden economy, but Pinochet did not in any way set up a perfect Chile.

Right now the most interesting for our class to examine is punishment and circumstance. Pinochet is an old man with failing health. The questions we need to ask ourselves are for example – does punishment have an expiration date? should we be more inclined to forgive & forget under certain circumstances?

Side note: surprise, surprise like in many instances in Latin America during this time period, the US government played a large part in the take down of Allende and the support of a militaristic leader who killed and tortured many. There goes our government refusing to let American corporations be bullied at any expense.