Volume , Number 0
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On Second Street
Susan peterson Gateley
Slippin' & Slidin'
Ellen meiksins Wood
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Early this year, the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced that he was minded to send General Augusto Pinochet back to Chile. Pinochet has been detained in Britain for 18 months awaiting extradition to Spain, there to be tried for human rights abuses committed during and after the 1973 coup he led in Chile. Straw instructed a team of doctors to examine Pinochet in the clear expectation that they would find the ailing 84-year-old General unfit to stand trial, thus getting the British government out of a tight corner. However, Sir John Grimley-Evans the Professor of Gerontology at Oxford leading the team, leaked to the press that he and his colleagues had not ruled out the possibility of Pinochets recovery and fitness for trial at a later date.
Why would Jack Strawa young socialist at the time of the coup who must have been sickened by Pinochets crimeswant to save this wicked man from extradition? The answer is that the United States wanted Pinochet back in Chile and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was happy to oblige. The American government maneuvered back-stage from the moment Pinochet was arrested in a private clinic in London.
The Chilean coup was bought and paid for by the CIA. This much has been established for some time. Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissin- ger, were determined to oust the socialist President Allende that Chileans had elected. The military take-over was savage, and let us not be squeamish about confronting the torture that the conservative Catholic Pinochet permitted. A Chilean-based journalist, Duncan Campbell, interviewed survivors of the Generals torture chambers and had this to say: What has emerged is the sheer pornographic sadism of his (Pinochets) subordinates: a father forced to bugger his son; a dog made to rape a woman; relatives of the victims brought to watch or listen to the torture...suspects opened up with carving knives before they were dumped into the sea, so that their bodies would not float.
If all this were to come out in a public trial, the U.S. claim to be a champion of democracy and human rights would be seen as bogus. Moreover, the U.S. could become liable for reparations to the families of the 3,000 or more killed by Pinochets goons as well as to those who survived torture. A foreign junket could expose Kissinger and others to arrest for crimes against humanity.
If the U.S. fears what a trial of General Pinochet might reveal about its preference for murderous right-wing dictatorships in Latin America during the long years of the Cold War, the Vatican also had a stake in preventing his prosecution and called for his repatriation. The Church never distanced itself from the Pinochet regime, which was largely comprised of Roman Catholics in good standing. (One of the think tanks instrumental in planning the coup was staffed by zealous, far-right Catholics.) No one was ever excommunicated, and when Pope John Paul II celebrated a public Mass during his visit to Chile in the late 1980s he gave the Eucharist to the General and his cronies. Some of these men must have been involved in the Santiago Stadium where so many Chileans were liquidated. At a rally in Chicago not long after the coup, I heard Victor Jaras widow describe the manner in which her husbandthe great Chilean folk-singer and poethad been killed in the Stadium. His hands were cut off; then a guitar was thrust at him and he was told to play.
Rome, understandably, wants to close the book on this chapter in Chilean history, especially as it could lead to scrutiny of the Churchs current role in the countrys politics. In the run-up to Chiles presidential election last month, the British newspaper, The Guardian, took a close look a Joaquim Lavinthe right wings candidate. While he lost the election, Lavins high profile revealed that Pinochetistas are still trying to take the country back. A former Pinochet collaborator, Lavin is a member of Opus Dei, which The Guardian described as an ultra conservative Catholic group. It continued: Although there are only five thousand Chilean members, the group (Opus Dei) includes powerful business leadersthe men who have financed and pushed Mr. Lavin as the ideal President for their extreme free-market platform.
This snippet of information is, in its way, quite stunning. Pope John Paul II has from time to time made noises about the morally unacceptable aspects of the free market. Yet, Opus Dei, a hive of free marketeers, has no greater supporter than this Pope. He has given the sect carte-blanche in its crusade to make the Church over in its own image.
The Chilean hierarchy has a full quota of Opus Dei prelates (so does the Austrian Church, which is interesting given the current furor over the resurgence of the fascist populism represented by Jorg Haider).
For over a century, a morbid fear of communist or socialist movements has compelled the Roman Catholic Church into alliances with the political right, even when this meant strategic support for fascism. As Pope Pius XII accommodated Adolph Hitler on this basis, so the Vatican for the past 27 years has turned a blind eye to Catholic fascists in Chile.
Some days it is hard to be an impotent bystander at historys evil momentshaving to watch those with power to do good, squander or abuse it. Just when Jack Straw was telling the country that he was minded to send Pinochet home, the unctuous Cardinal Thomas Winning of Scotland was making scurrilous headlines calling homosexuality a perversion. He had no comment on the real pervert in our midst, the one with the blood of thousands on his hands about to escape from justice. Washington and Rome got their way. Pinochet has returned home and their dirty secrets are safe once more. For this act alone, Tony Blairs government deserves a crushing defeat at the next general election. Z
Ann Pettifer is the publisher of Common Sense, the alternative newspaper at the University of Notre Dame.