Augusto Pinochet is one of the worst dictators Latin America has seen in its long history of oppression and injustice. His arrest in London and the attempted extradition to Spain to stand trial for terrorism and genocide is a positive step in repairing the incalculable damage he has done to the citizens of Chile and other nations.
During Pinochet’s regime, thousands of people, mainly young people, disappeared in Chile, Argentina and other Latin American countries. Many of these people were deemed “security risks” to the ultraconservative government simply because they had ideas that were contrary to government policies.
We like to think we are lucky to live in a nation where these types of things do not take place and we have the freedoms of thought and expression. We are, in fact, lucky to not have to endure torture and assassination by our own government for our ideas.
However, the hands of the U. S. government are not clean. Evidence from eyewitness accounts in Chile suggest the Central Intelligence Agency and Secret Service were instrumental in the coup d’?tat that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected Salvador Allende in 1973.
Allende was a socialist. The United States, during and after the Cold War, had a policy of combating socialism, which it equated with communism, and promoting the right-wing thought a dictator would bring.
When Salvador Allende was elected, his socialist thought was seen as a threat to the democratic way of life and the United States saw to it that this particular mode of thought was eliminated.
The U.S. government acted in the best interests of its citizens, in order to protect the democracy we hold so dear. Unfortunately, in order to protect democracy from socialism, we put in place a dictatorship that oppressed and murdered its people for nearly two decades. Obviously, a dictatorship is no more democratic than socialism.
As human beings, we should support Pinochet’s extradition to Spain in order for him to face justice for all his years of atrocities.
We must not stop there. The United States must try to give back to the people of Chile and the rest of Latin America that which we helped to take away. We can never erase what happened, but we can give money and support programs that educate Latin Americans so they may enjoy a better life and heal from the years of injustice for which the United States is partially responsible.
-The writer is a sophomore undecided on a major.