Pinochet and Valdez
Juan Gabriel Valdes, Chile's new foreign minister, will meet with Secretary of State Madeline Albright to ask her to help return Augusto Pinochet to Chile. Since last October, British authorities have held Pinochet on a request from the Spanish Judge Baltazor Garzon. In September Pinochet will get a British Court hearing to determine if the Spanish charges conform with British law. If so, Pinochet heads for Spain to stand trial for crimes against humanity, genocide, and terrorism.
Juan Gabriel Valdes, like Chile's last foreign minister, belongs to the left. Indeed, I knew him as an exile during the early years of Pinochet's military government. In 1976, he was my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies where we both worked with Orlando Letelier, who had served on Allende's Cabinet. Valdes had come to help Letelier in his campaign to restore democratic government to Chile.
At IPS, we believed in Letelier's cause, but saw his campaign to restore democracy as just beginning. Pinochet saw Letelier as an immediate threat -- so much so that he mentioned his name twice in a June 1976 conversation with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was blessing Pinochet with an official state visit. An official record of their conversation has Kissinger assuring Pinochet that he "approved of his methods."
It shouldn't have surprised Kissinger that three months after their meeting in Santiago, Pinochet dispatched his agents to assassinate Letelier in Washington DC. On September 21, 1976 Pinochet's agents detonated a bomb they had placed under Letelier's car, killing him and Ronni Moffitt, an IPS colleague.
Juan Gabriel Valdes mourned with the rest of us. But soon after the murders he departed, leaving Letelier's widow as the sole representative of Chilean democracy in Washington. Valdes, like most of Letelier's comrades in high places in the exiled Popular Unity government, did little to seek justice for their murdered comrade. Perhaps the bombing terrified them, just as Pinochet had intended.
But, why is Valdes working so hard to bring Pinochet home, where his chances of facing his accusers are slim. He argues about Chile's sovereignty and Chile's right to try the 83 year old ex dictator. But Chile's left and center parties have acceded to Pinochet's immunity requests, have gone along with his amnesty provisions, have accepted the bitter fact that he made himself Senator for Life -- further fortifying himself against trial.
Juan Gabriel, I want to shout, let the British extradite him to Spain where he will answer to the charges. Juan Gabriel, instead of asking Ms. Albright to help free the old criminal en jefe, ask her to work to indict him in the US for murdering Letelier and Moffitt.
Why can't he hear my cries and those of others -- his old friends and comrades here? Has the new world trade order in Chile created a sense of moral deafness?
Saul Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied Knowledge at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave. Pomona, CA 91768 tel - 909-869-3115 fax - 909-869-4751