Pinochet case is about search for justice

This piece is in response to Mark Richman’s Nov. 9 op-ed “Gen. Pinochet and the hypocrisy of his arrest,” (p. 5).

I lived my whole life in Argentina, which includes the period between 1976 and 1983 when we had the last military government – the same type of dictatorship that emerged all over Latin America, including Chile. No political problem in the world can justify the overthrow of a democratically elected government, even if it was elected by 36 percent of the population.

It may be true that Pinochet did certain things right, but none of what he did can justify the rest of the other things he ordered. Plus, Pinochet did not step down. Although elections were held to replace him as president, he still held his position as commander-general of the armed forces until recently, when he became senator for life without even a single person voting for him.

The situation in Latin America in the mid-1970s was highly volatile, but the ends didn’t justify the means. Many people who died were completely innocent – they just had the bad luck of being in someone else’s phone book.

Democracy only has one way of punishing its elected officials – the power of vote. If Allende’s government was so lousy, then he would have lost the following elections. The Pinochet regime even killed people here in Washington, D.C.

The only hypocrisy of Pinochet being arrested is that the same people that are turning their back on him today actually were the ones that brought him to power. The United States gave full support to all Latin American coups (in order to keep communist movements out of America). Plus, England had close relations with Chile, especially during the Falklands War.

I agree that the situation in Latin American in the mid-1970s was chaotic and that extreme measures needed to be applied. The cure was worse than the disease itself. Horrible mistakes were made and innocent people paid the price. Yes, there were people deserving punishment (bomb throwers, etc.), but not without at least a summary trial. Yes, there were people in the street demanding the overthrow of the government (almost a tradition in Latin America since 1930), but that doesn’t justify murder.

Freedom must be respected and maintained at all costs. Once you begin taking it for granted, that is the moment you are at risk of losing it.

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