Chile: The Death of an Assassin

What really does hurt us is the fact that the dictator did not spend a single minute in prison.

Neither forgiveness nor oblivion, for that distant Tuesday of a late Autumn lives in the memory, the skin and gaze of a people that did not deserve so much sorrow. No one can and should not forget the desperate chanting of the disappeared. The military know where they are, they know their names; they heard their last sighs. They know where they are, the Generals know, the Admirals know. Pinochet knows, therefore we did not feel sorry for his agony, we did not commiserate with his plight, we do not grieve his death.

What really does hurt us is the fact that the dictator did not spend a single minute in prison and that all sorts of subterfuges were used to evade justice. Tenuous and lenient justice at that, fading away in numerous habeas corpus appeals and the cowardly cries of a man who did not hesitate to kill and torture, but whenever he had to face the lukewarm Chilean justice, claimed impunity and insanity so that he could seek refuge in the tranquility of his home.

But he knows, he always knew everything that went on in this country, because he gave precise orders to detain, torture and murder. The dictator dictated. That’s why businessmen worshiped him, because they rejoiced in buying Chile at a cheap price. That’s why he was loved by large state owners who recovered their land handed over to poor peasants through the agrarian reform. That’s why he was venerated by bankers that sold out the country with the dictatorship’s support. That’s why the Right greeted him unconditionally in his days of obscure glory. But when the glory was over, when slowly but surely the truth about human rights violations became known, everyone turned their back on him. Thus the dictator was alone in the abyss of his senility. However, he continued lying and betraying, as he always did, because he was not as senile after all, because he was not as lonely after all; because every time he faced charges or some alleged health problem arose, his supporters re-appeared again to praise his work.

Then they talked about economic growth, the country’s modernization or its insertion in the world market, of Free Trade Agreements and macroeconomic indicators. And then the disappeared disappeared again, as did the assassinated, the tortured, and the prisoners. They disappeared between the interstices of an omnipresent market that pierces the soul of a wounded country. Like it was wounded on Sept. 11, 1973 and every day and every night after by the dictatorship of a dictator that knew; that always knew.

But Pinochet never had the courage to admit his personal and political responsibility for the State terrorism he imposed on Chile for nearly two decades. However, no matter how many times he denied it or how many deaths he dies, our people know, the world knows of his cowardice and the cowardice of all those that protected him. He killed us a thousand times, but he could not kill our memory or quell our spirit. He died and we are alive; he lost and we triumphed.

Tito Tricot, ex-political prisoner and sociologist, is director of the Center for Intercultural Studies in Chile.