Sunday, Dec 10, 2006, 1:45 pm
Pinochet Finally Dead
Former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who polarized Chile during his violent 1973-1990 military rule and spent his old age fighting human rights, fraud and corruption charges, died on Sunday. He was 91.Yes, because the bloody military overthrow of a democracy and the institution of a dictatorship, with mass murder and disappearence and torture of thousands of its citizens, is one of those "preemptive" saves against Marxism that a country's political right wing believes is the patriotically necessary thing to do.
Pinochet grabbed power in a U.S.-supported 1973 coup after airforce planes bombed the government palace and elected socialist President Salvador Allende killed himself shortly afterward.
More than 3,000 people died in political violence under Pinochet's rule, many at the hands of repressive secret police. Some 28,000 people were tortured in secret detention centers and hundreds of thousands of Chileans went into exile.
Car horns blared as detractors of the deceased former dictator danced and cheered in Plaza Italia, a major intersection near the city center where Chileans usually congregate to celebrate sporting victories.
"I'm going to celebrate with my family the death of the tyrant. I even have a bottle of Brazilian cane alcohol we've been saving for 25 years to celebrate this day," said Santiago Cavieres, a 75-year-old lawyer.
"I was in the National Stadium (a sports stadium used as a concentration camp in 1973) and from there they sent me to the Chacabuco concentration camp, where I was for eight months... Everyone there was tortured," he said.
Despite Pinochet's human rights record, many Chileans loved him and said he saved Chile from Marxism. Supporters say his economic reforms put Chile on track to become Latin America's model economy.