THE EXTRADITION OF CHILEAN GENERAL AUGUSTO PINOCHET: JUSTICE DELAYED?
General Pinochet led a coup in Chile in 1973 following which there were killings, torture, and "disappearances" of dissenters. Then Pinochet, no longer the head of the government, traveled to London, England; Spanish government officials sought to extradite him from England for crimes committed by him and his administration.
- Political leaders are responsible for the crimes committed by their governments.
- It is the world's responsibility, including international courts or country-specific courts such as Spain's, to make sure suspected criminals—including heads of government—are held responsible.
- If political leaders are held responsible, any leader traveling outside his or her country could be charged and tried.
- It is the responsibility of Chile to decide whether to charge Pinochet with crimes.
Efforts to extradite General Augusto Pinochet (pronounced Pin-O-Shay) to Spain captured the attention of the world from late 1998 through early 2000. Charges of human rights abuses by Pinochet's administration, which governed Chile from 1973 to 1989, revived the interest of international observers. Many had long questioned the activities of military dictatorships in repressing their own citizens, as well as foreign visitors, for alleged political crimes. Amnesty International and the families of the "disappeared," who were victims of Pinochet's military and paramilitary forces, actively sought the former dictator's extradition for trial. Supporters of Pinochet clashed, sometimes violently, with those who supported the extradition proceedings. Protests took place in London, England, in Santiago, Chile, and in several other cities worldwide. The conflict reopened painful wounds of the Chilean people, who had been struggling for a decade to reestablish the rule of democratic government and bury their memories of a barbarous and all-too-recent past.
Chile's economic development hinged on the exploitation and export of an abundant and very profitable natural resource: copper. The three largest copper mines in Chile, together called the "Gran Minería," were developed during the twentieth century through investment capital and technology from the United States. The U.S. multinational corporations that controlled these mines were called the Anaconda Company and Kennecott Copper Company. Many Chileans resented the control these companies exercised over copper production, pricing, and sales. Chileans also alleged that the U.S. government tried to dominate Page 205 | Top of Article Chile through its influence over the copper companies or by fixing the prices or amounts of copper that the companies sold. A large percentage of Chile's treasury receipts came from taxes on the production and sale of copper, so these allegations meant that many Chileans felt that their government had been unjustly deprived of revenues as a result of the actions of these companies. Chile's dependence on the copper industry caused many nationalists to push for "nationalization," or government takeover and administration of these economically important mines.
The Chilean people lived at both ends of the economic spectrum. Chilean elites in the manufacturing or agricultural sectors made up the "bourgeoisie," and enjoyed a comfortable or even prosperous standard of living. The Chilean middle class sought to obtain the benefits held by the bourgeoisie, and many of them worked as bureaucrats, ran small businesses, or owned small to mid-sized farming properties. The lower class in Chile, however, lived a life of hunger and deprivation. Shantytowns, built from scrap lumber, corrugated tin, and even cardboard, housed many of the poor; their tiny dwellings were often poorly furnished with dirt floors and no electricity or running water. The need for reforms in housing, education, working conditions and compensation, and land distribution was most strongly felt among the members of the lower class. Nutrition and health among the poor suffered as a result of their meager earnings.
When the conservative administration of Jorge Alessandri gave way in 1964 to the presidency of Eduardo Frei, the hopes of the middle and lower classes rose. The Frei administration fulfilled some of its promises of labor and agrarian reform, and its social welfare programs drew the attention of the Alliance for Progress, which deemed Chile a "showcase" of its policies. The original intention of the Alliance for Progress, created by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961, was to offer funding and incentives for reform in Latin American countries as a way to deter them from turning to Communist-inspired social and economic reforms. U.S. policymakers feared the alternative that could result from these pressures for reform: a revolution that could follow the example set by Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.
Salvador Allende Gossens
Frei's policies proved insufficient to meet the demands of Chile's hungry and exploited masses, and the election of 1970 offered them an opportunity to elect a candidate whose agenda more closely matched their own desires. Chile's democratic systems and traditions, which encompassed a multitude of political parties, often required candidates to form alliances between parties, or coalitions, in order to obtain the necessary number of votes to win elections. Salvador Allende Gossens, a member of the Socialist party and perpetual contender for president, ran as the candidate of the Popular Unity coalition. Allende's coalition included several parties, including dissident factions of the long-established Radical party, certain reform-minded splinter groups, the Socialist party, and the Chilean Communist Party. Allende's philosophies positioned him as a moderate reformer, attempting to "ride herd" over a stampeding coalition of reformers and revolutionaries who cried out for rapid fundamental change. The Popular Unity coalition platform included sweeping agrarian reforms, nationalization of the foreign-dominated Gran Minería, labor reforms, and far-reaching social welfare and economic programs.
Richard M. Nixon, then president of the United States, was an avowed anti-communist. His resolve against Latin American revolutionary sentiment had grown since Castro's takeover of Cuba. His strong anti-Communist stance had become a personal issue following an attack on his motorcade by an angry mob of Venezuelan students (later labeled by the U.S. State Department as "communist-inspired") protesting his "good will" visit to South America in 1958. Nixon had Page 207 | Top of Article been pelted with rotten tomatoes, spat upon, heckled, and nearly killed by an angry mob. This experience shaped his view toward Latin America and Nixon became more determined that ever to fight the spread of communism in the western hemisphere. Nixon set out to prevent Allende's election and, when it later became necessary, to destabilize his regime with the intent of removing him from office. One operation, called Track II, encouraged a military coup before Allende could be inaugurated. Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to Nixon, and several other officials linked the Socialist Allende with the communist members of his Popular Unity coalition. According to Harold Molineu in U.S. Policy Toward Latin America, Kissinger echoed Nixon's desire to prevent Allende's election and, later, to ensure his ouster, when he was reported to have said, "I don't see why we have to let a country go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible."
Richard Nixon, the CIA, and the funding of the U.S. multinationals such as AT&T, combined with conservative elements within Chile, were unable to prevent Allende's election to office in 1970. He quickly introduced an amendment to nationalize the Gran Minería. Congressional approval in July 1971 was unanimous, with 158 senators and deputies voting to ratify the congressional amendment that would be necessary for nationalization. In response, and with the aid of several U.S. multinationals affected by Allende's nationalist policies, Washington intensified its covert activities to undo Allende's regime. Nixon ordered that the Chilean economy "should be squeezed until it screams," and attempts were made to strangle Chile's economy, to create panic among the people, and to disrupt normal life. The United States imposed an "invisible" economic blockade aimed at creating economic chaos and destabilizing Chile's Marxist government. Allende protested this "grave aggression" aimed at his government in the international arena, but his December 4, 1972 speech before the United Nations failed to elicit sufficient support to halt U.S. efforts.
The Allende administration proved incapable of coping with the onslaught. The economic chaos caused by the invisible economic blockade led to hoarding of goods and the growth of a black market; the conservative sectors of society staged protests; and labor responded with general strikes that plunged the population into turmoil. Parliament blocked Allende's reform attempts at the same time that members of the Popular Unity coalition urged him to speed up the pace of change. Chilean owners of small to mid-sized properties and business feared that the seizure of their lands by peasants and workers through tomas, or takings, such as those that had already taken over larger enterprises. The conservative right encouraged these fears, and newspapers such as El Mercurio, which received millions of dollars in support from Chilean conservatives and the CIA's "front" organizations, heightened the sense of impending disaster. Chilean society became polarized between left and right, leaving the country without the stabilizing influence of a middle political sector.
While its economic manipulation wrought havoc with Chile's economy, the United States continued to maintain close ties with those organizations that it deemed to be most susceptible to U.S. influence. The Chilean military, which had been the beneficiary of increased U.S. military aid to the region since the 1960s, did not suffer the same fate as the Chilean government. Although all loans and credits to Chile's Popular Unity government were cut off in the "invisible" blockade, the United States continued to spend massive amounts in military aid to Chile during the Allende regime. At the same time, the United States continued to assert that it had been merely a disinterested bystander since Allende came to power, except for protests against his expropriation policy. A New York Times article the day after Allende's overthrow alleged that this increased military aid had been the central element in Washington's attempts to demonstrate cooperation and even-handed treatment of the Allende government.
Chile's military plotted to overthrow the Allende regime in order to halt further disintegration of Chile. The Allende administration's food rationing program, begun in response to widespread hoarding of staple goods such as meats, milk, diapers, bread, and coffee, only worsened the panic, and a black market trade in these commodities flourished. General strikes in 1972 and 1973 crippled the nation's transportation industries and virtually shut down Chile's major cities. Several coup attempts failed in 1973; some called for Allende's resignation. The sense of impending doom was not dispelled by a parade of more than one million peasants and workers to commemorate the third anniversary of Allende's election to the presidency. Many of the marchers requested that they be given arms with which to defend the government, but Allende refused, fearing that it would lead to a massacre. Allende intended to call for a national plebiscite, or people's vote, on September 11, 1973, which, he was sure, would reveal the widespread support for his government's programs and dampen the military's enthusiasm for another revolt.
Despite Allende's optimism, the military attacked La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace, on September 11, 1973. Allende's first reaction to news of the impending attack was disbelief, then defiance, and finally resignation to the inevitability of battle. His final address to the Chilean people, broadcast over the radio as the army began its assault on the palace, was a moving defense of political principle and a poignant expression of his personal commitment to the betterment of Chile.
The attack on La Moneda was the first of many attacks by the Chilean military in an effort to "extirpate the Marxist cancer from the body politic" of the country. As thousands fled to friendly embassies seeking protection from the military's excesses, thousands more were rounded up and taken to interrogation centers for detention and "questioning." A rash of "disappearances" became a bloodbath of vindictiveness and rage, as bodies were found floating in the Mapocho River, lying in the blood-stained streets, or hanging as examples to the unwary political left. These methods became, as Hernan Valdés described them, part of a very effective campaign of "political detergency" aimed at silencing all attempts at protest.
General Augusto Pinochet
Gen. Augusto Pinochet was one of the members of the military junta that overthrew Allende; within days of the coup it was clear that Pinochet was in charge. He ruled Chile for the next seventeen years. Thousands of deaths occurred in the early weeks following the coup, among them Victor Jara, a well-known Chilean folk singer, and two U.S. citizens, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. Even Chileans who fled into exile were targeted by the Chilean secret police forces; former Allende cabinet officer Orlando Letelier was killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. in 1976. Evidence pointed to the direct involvement of Pinochet's secret police, and six persons were imprisoned for their part in the car bombing. The U.S. Justice Department reopened its grand jury investigations into the matter in March 2000.
International pressure to stem the tide of human rights abuses combined with domestic protest against the dictatorship restored democracy to Chile; in October 1988 Pinochet held a plebiscite to extend his term of office. When the result was overwhelmingly against his continued rule, Pinochet agreed to hold democratic elections in 1989. General elections led to the election of Patricio Aylwin, a moderate conservative, as president. Democratic government in Chile paved the way for conciliation, and Chile's civilian president Aylwin appointed an eight-member commission in 1990 to investigate the extent and nature of the human rights violations. The commission, headed by Raul Rettig, issued its formal report in February 1991; that report was followed in 1996 by the report of the Reparation and Reconciliation Corporation. The two reports brought the number of "disappearances" to 1,102 and deaths by execution or torture to 2,095, for a total of 3,197 cases that were officially recognized by the Chilean government. Thousands more cases of torture remain unrecognized, and the totals continue to climb as mass graves containing the bodies of bound and tortured victims are found and additional cases are brought to light.
In 1978 Pinochet decreed an amnesty (Decree 2191) designed to shield those responsible for human rights violations committed between September 11, 1973 and March 10, 1978 (including himself). The Chilean Constitution drafted during the Pinochet dictatorship included a provision that created certain parliamentary positions called "senators for life;" these parliamentarians have complete immunity under Chilean law. When Pinochet negotiated the transition to democracy and later agreed to step down as head of the armed forces, Pinochet guaranteed himself a position as senator for life. He could not be prosecuted for any of the executions or torture within Chile unless a constitutional amendment lifting the decree was passed.
The victims of human rights violations in Chile and their relatives, with the support of international organizations, lawyers, and judges, had campaigned for a quarter of a century for justice. The whereabouts of many of desaparecidoes, the Spanish term for "disappeared ones," remain unknown because the immunity granted to so many has prevented discovery and prosecution. The Chilean Constitution appears, therefore, to guarantee the rights of those in power to commit human rights abuses and other crimes with without fear of punishment.
Human rights abuses were not committed only against Chilean citizens. Victims included citizens of Spain, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Sweden, among many others. In those countries, criminal proceedings were instituted in national courts against Pinochet. The Spanish courts, for example, wanted to bring Pinochet to Spain, to be prosecuted for crimes against Spanish citizens committed by the dictatorship. The Spaniards did not believe that Pinochet could receive a fair trial in Chile due to the constitutional immunity provisions. In October 1998, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón issued a provisional arrest warrant alleging that Pinochet had been responsible for the murder of Spanish citizens in Chile. A supplemental warrant was issued a few days later alleging that Pinochet was responsible for systematic acts against Spanish citizens including murder, torture, "disappearance," illegal detention, and forcible transfers in Chile and other countries.
The Appeal for Extradition from London
While he was in Chile, however, Pinochet was outside the reach of these foreign courts; Chile would not extradite him for trial in another country. When he went to London for back surgery in October 1998, Pinochet was served with the first warrant and placed under arrest by a Scotland Yard official. Pinochet's lawyers immediately Page 210 | Top of Article brought a petition before the English courts, asserting his immunity from arrest and extradition as a former head of state. The High Court for England and Wales agreed, but the British government, acting on behalf of the Spanish authorities, appealed to the judicial committee of the House of Lords. The House of Lords originally ruled 3-2 in favor of the extradition, but that decision was annulled a few weeks later when it was revealed that a conflict of interest existed. Lord Hoffman, who had voted with the majority in favor of extradition, had ties to Amnesty International, one of the international groups involved in the case. The annulment led to a second hearing in January 1999, by a panel of seven British judges. The panel considered alleged offenses committed in Chile as well as assassinations of escaping leftists committed in Italy, Argentina, the United States, and elsewhere. The government of Chile was permitted to intervene in the case on behalf of Pinochet.
On March 24, 1999, the panel issued its ruling that Pinochet had no immunity but that he could not be extradited to Spain for acts committed before Britain enacted the International Convention Against Torture in December 1988. This effectively reduced the number of charges for which Pinochet could be extradited to Spain for trial to thirty-four. Further, the House of Lords suggested that British Home Secretary Jack Straw review his earlier decision allowing the extradition to proceed.
Pinochet's supporters in Chile and in Britain began to lobby for his release. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a long-time friend of Pinochet, joined in the appeal for his release. Straw encouraged both sides to present their written positions and considered the findings of a team of doctors who examined Pinochet to determine his fitness to stand trial. Pinochet, who suffers from diabetes and depression, wears a pacemaker, and has difficulty walking, was found to have suffered brain damage as a result of several strokes during September and October 1999. Straw concluded that Pinochet was unfit to stand trial due to his poor physical and mental health, as well as his advanced age, and ordered his release on "humanitarian grounds." Pinochet was released and returned to Chile on March 2, 2000.
The decision set in motion a series of efforts in Chile to strip Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution for human rights abuses committed during his regime. Claims were brought before Chilean judge Juan Guzman for criminal complaints including torture, "disappearances," execution, and murder. Among them is the most famous case picked by Guzman to seek the lifting of Pinochet's immunity: the so-called "caravan of death," in which a group of high-ranking military officers toured several Chilean cities shortly after the coup, dragging political prisoners from jail and executing them. The number of claims continues to climb as the victims and families of victims seek justice for the human rights abuses committed during the 1973 to 1990 dictatorship.
International Interest in a Trial for Pinochet
The magnitude of the human rights abuses in Chile cannot rival the numbers of "disappeared" in Argentina between 1976 and 1983, where official figures acknowledge more than ten thousand people killed for their opposition to the military government, and human rights organizations estimate three times that number. The dismal theme of the "Dirty War" waged by the Argentine military against subversive elements in its own country is being replayed in recent years as Argentina, like Chile, investigates the theme of justice versus national reconciliation. Many senior military officers who served in the Argentine dictatorship are currently imprisoned or involved in legal battles over the cases of babies who were born to imprisoned political prisoners, taken from their mothers, and placed for adoption. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has been active in preparing charges to include terrorism and torture against many of the leading figures in the Argentine military dictatorships.
Brazil and Uruguay, too, are grappling with similar issues of past military repression and the need for retribution for their crimes. The military forces of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile even cooperated in the 1970s and 1980s to target and detain escaping leftists in an effort called "Operation Condor." Since the Pinochet extradition case has thrust the issue of human rights abuses into the international arena, Brazil Page 212
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recently agreed to open its archives on Operation Condor. The United States, too, has pursued a policy of active declassification and released of many of its files on the Chilean 1973-78 era, when the worst of the abuses took place. As the Pinochet conflict is played out in Chile and the world arena, these countries as well as the international human rights community have reopened the debate on the issue of human rights abuses by military governments. Opponents argue that the core issue is accountability for crimes committed, while others say that the true motivation behind the international justice movement is revenge. They say that the "key player" nations, motivated by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have set aside the rhetoric of the Cold War to seek, instead, a sense of international community that is acutely aware of its new role as moral police officer to the world.
RECENT HISTORY AND THE FUTURE
Chile promises today to eliminate the mere suggestion that authoritarian dictators can act with impunity. Yet, it rejects the notion that international means can or should be used to enforce the principles of human rights (or to bring retribution for violations of human rights). Chile, which was willing to submit its appeals before the World Court in order to free Pinochet from extradition proceedings in Britain, now alleges that the Chilean judiciary should be left alone, without undue pressure (domestic or international), to resolve issues that should properly be addressed within Chile's borders. It defines the key issues, therefore, as autonomy and Chilean nationalism, rather than human rights and the global community.
Chile faces many compelling issues. How will the recently elected Socialist president, Ricardo Lagos, handle conflicts between Chile's right, left, and centrist parties? What impact will the economic instabilities of the global market have on the tenuous state of calm that exists among these sectors? In addition, the middle and upper classes that supported the Pinochet government and its policies must now reconcile their newfound economic prosperity with an awareness of crimes against humanity. These issues have received increased news coverage since the Chilean judiciary's decision to lift Pinochet's immunity from prosecution. Pinochet's legal team has appealed the decision, but the toll of legal cases brought against him in Chile continues to climb; over one hundred claims were filed in Chile within the first three months after Pinochet's release from Britain. Sporadic public demonstrations, both in favor of and against Pinochet, disrupt daily life in the capital. Finally, with the Chilean military staging demonstrations of its power as recently as 1993 (after the election of a civilian president), conflict over the Pinochet issue could lead to a deterioration of relations between the government and the armed forces. This could be a source of major worry in a country still deeply divided over the legacy of military rule.
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