FREE PINOCHET?

ABRAMS, ELLIOTT

FREE PINOCHET? by Elliott Abrams IN THE COURSE OF THE SAME WEEK, Spanish authorities ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, in London for medical treatment, and...

...Transitions to democracy are immensely difficult to engineer and harder yet to sustain...
...Pinochetís extradition to Spain for trial would set a precedent that makes transitions to democracy harder everywhere...
...Besides U.S...
...Or for that matter Yasser Arafat, whose connections with terrorism are well documented...
...Should we not let Chileans make these decisions by democratic means...
...It is probably worth noting that when in 1973 the Chilean army overthrew President Salvador Allende, it did so with very widespread public support...
...Pinochetís status under international law will soon be settled, but the rights and wrongs of his detention for crimes committed when he ruled Chile are important for reasons extending far beyond his own case...
...More generally, when dictators are on the verge of leaving power, some arrangement guaranteeing their personal security is usually critical...
...But Pinochet was a military dictator...
...It was, for example, when the United States bargained successfully with Jean-Claude Duvalier about his departure from Haiti in 1986, and when we tried unsuccessfully to get Ma?uel Noriega to relinquish power in Panama in 1988...
...The Spanish arrest warrant for Pinochet throws such arrangements into doubt...
...Something is wrong with this picture...
...he had nothing to do with genocide or war crimes...
...And if it can be argued that some levels of human-rights abuses are just too important to be defeated by prudential arguments, such as those being used in the Pinochet case, we return to where we began: Why not try Castro...
...The desire for vengeance against Pinochet is natural enough among those who suffered under his years in poweróbut it will be satisfied only at great cost...
...But it must also be recorded that getting him to give up power required a very forceful push from the United States, which rejected the argument that he stood as a critical barrier to communism in Chile...
...Maria Aznar, and King Juan Carlos dined with Castro...
...and throughout his years in power, Pinochet had a significant following among Chileans...
...Or the former Soviet officials who presided over the massive human-rights abuses committed during the war in Afghanistan...
...Is it more legitimate...
...Surely it will be harder the next time we seek to pressure and cajole a dictator to leave power, for he will wonder if it will be his fate to have police arrest him on a hospital bed some years down the road...
...Well, the rejoinder goes, would it not be legitimate to try Hitler or Pol Pot just about anywhere...
...Of course, Castro is a head of state and enjoys diplomatic immunity, while Pinochet is merely a Chilean senator apparently without such immunity...
...Of course...
...Pinochetís record, bloody as it was, is not in their league...
...But that is where the discussion begins, not where it ends...
...pressure, the key to this successful transition was that Chile, like Argentina and Uruguay, reached a national accord about ending military rule...
...While bobbies kept Pinochet under detention in his hospital room on a Spanish arrest warrant, Spainís prime minister, Jos...
...Pinochet seized power in a military coup, and ruled Chile with a heavy hand...
...by Elliott Abrams IN THE COURSE OF THE SAME WEEK, Spanish authorities ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, in London for medical treatment, and welcomed the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro with all diplomatic honors...
...The problem does not lie in what Pinochet did to seize power or while in power, but in how and why he was persuaded to give up his dictatorship...
...Democrats may not have loved the arrangement, but they believed democracy was more important than perfect justice, and they wished to turn their countries away from vengeance and toward the rebuilding of free institutions...
...Surely there is something amiss when morality is said to require one dictatorís arrest, while another who rules far more brutally is treated as a distinguished guest...
...The actions of one Spanish judge may make them even more difficult, and that is no contribution to the cause of human rights...
...Whatís more, the arrangements made among Chileans are being upset not after some great national debate in Chile, not after a plebiscite there that eliminates the amnesty and requires trials of military men, but because a Spanish judge decided it should be so...
...Elliott Abrams, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs and for human rights in the Reagan administration...
...Such champions of democracy as Argentinaís Ra?l Alfons?n and Uruguayís Jos...
...The military withdrew, when it did, in return for broad amnesties in all three cases...
...Is his view more important than that of the Chileans who lived through the Allende and Pinochet governments and made the return to democracy a success...
...By the mid-1980s, he was simply a barrier to democracy, and he was followed (as we believed he would be, though he argued it was impossible) by a series of sober and responsible elected Christian Democratic governments...
...Maria Sanguinetti urged approval of this trade-off...

Vol. 4 • November 1998 • No. 8


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.