Thousands celebrated in the streets of Santiago the death of the US-backed corrupted mass murderer that ruled the South American country between 1973 and 1990.
Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet finally died in hospital of heart failure on Sunday, after one week of speculations over his health condition. Pinochet had been hospitalized a week ago after suffering a major heart attack, but his condition had improve and many had began suspecting of a new trick played by the 91-year-old general who was being requested by Justice for human rights abuses, fraud involving 28 million US dollars and corruption.
After the news became known in Santiago’s afternoon, thousands of Chileans filled the city’s main squares to celebrate the death of the bloody South American autocrat who has been held liable for the assassination of 5,000 political opponents during his rule between 1973 and 1990. At the same time, his relatives -who were celebrating the birthday of Pinochet’s widow Lucy- as well as hundreds of supporters gathered at the gates of Santiago’s Military Hospital to greet their leader.
The Chilean government led by Socialist President Michelle Bachelet, herself a victim of Pinochet’s tortures, said that the former dictator will be buried without State funerals. According to Ricardo Lagos Weber, spokesman of the Chilean administration, the general will get the regular funeral of Chile’s commanders in chief.
Pinochet seized power in a US-backed military coup in June 1973, displacing the democratically elected left-wing coalition headed by Socialist President Salvador Allende. His army notoriously turned the Santiago stadium into a torture chamber after bombing the national palace of government. During the first weeks of ruling thousands were killed and tortured in Chile’s concentration camps. Tens of thousands fled to neighbor nations, Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union. Only a week after the coup, Chile’s literature Nobel Prize and communist politician Pablo Neruda died.
The CIA backed the Chilean coup to defend mining and multinational business interests. In spite of the ‘dirty war’ he ran against opponents, including one ongoing covert operation called the Caravan of Death, General Pinochet enjoyed backing from US government luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, as well as large sections of the middle and upper class in Chile.
After Pinochet’s coup proved to be successful, a number of military regimes ended with fragile democracies in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. These countries joined Brazil and Paraguay, already under military rule in a plan of mass killings of opponents coordinated by the White House known as the Plan Condor. Under the Plan Condor, intelligence services of the US-backed military juntas exchanged information to slaughter leftist militants operating in these nations.
Under Pinochet’s dictatorship, Chile was turned into a right-wing economic experiment for the ‘Chicago boys’ headed by recently deceased Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman – an ally of former US and British leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Lady Thatcher said today that she mourned General Pinochet’s passing. He was her only regional ally in the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas crisis. She approved his anti-communism and hard line free market agenda, which radically increased the rich-poor gap.
The experiment failed as the country went into bankruptcy in 1982 when the country’s GDP fell 18 percent. The consequences of the crisis were still harassing the country’s stability when Pinochet had to call for a referendum over his continuity in 1990. A joined opposition won the vote and Pinochet called to free elections, won by President Eduardo Frei.
Since then, Chile began a path of political stability and economic prosperity under the democratic rule. Slowly but firmly, Chile’s democracy disarmed the structure of the authoritarian regime. In 2005, Chile’s President Ricardo Lagos sponsored a full review of the Constitution inherited from Pinochet’s times, as turned it into a modern and democratic chart.
Pinochet died at 91 on Dec. 10, when the world commemorates the international day for the human rights.