Republican News · Thursday 16 March 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Pinochet's legacy

On the day before Jack Straw allowed former dictator Augusto Pinochet to escape justice and return to Chile, journalist Hugh O'Shaughnessy was in Dublin launching his new book, ``Pinochet: The Politics of Torture''. O'Shaughnessy has been working as a journalist since 1960, and for 25 years he was a staff writer with The Financial Times and The Observer. He worked for years in Latin America, and met Doctor Salvador Allende, who was to become Chile's president, in 1966. He kept in contact with him until the day Allende was killed during Pinochet's 1973 coup in La Moneda. An Phoblacht's Soledad Galiana spoke with O'Shaughnessy.

Phoblacht: Why a book about Pinochet?

Hugh O'Shaughnessy: People in London hated Pinochet, but they did not know why, and I felt I had to tell them why they should. Not many people, even in Chile, know about Pinochet's origins, so after four trips to Chile in the course of last year I put this book together.

At the beginning I was not very ambitious. My idea was to put into English what already was in the public domain in Chile. As I completed my research, I found various new things and investigated a bit, and I found that he was a leading player in the development of Chile as a centre for drug smuggling. I also discovered something that is not widely known but is in the public domain in Chile - that he has been excommunicated because of his identification with torture.

I found some details of his illicit enrichment and generally I think that there are new things, especially about the drug trade, which even Chileans did not know, so I am very pleased.

This is already the second edition of the book in London and it is now going to be published in the US by New York University Press.

AP: You said you were in Chile researching the book. Do you think things have changed in Chile since Pinochet was arrested?

HOS: Yes, I think so. Some of the terror that Pinochet imposed on that unfortunate country has been lifted. There is some more press freedom, of course not total freedom... fear is still there. This fellow, in the early `90s, when he stopped being president and was merely the commander of the army, was very sensitive about the activities of his family and when these were investigated he put the troops on the streets. He obviously had a lot to hide. I think this fear is still there, but there are also at least 15 charges of terrorism against him. The fact that this has been picked up by Baltasar Garzón and Joan Garces is wonderful. But I find the attitude of the Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in all of this very strange.

AP: If Pinochet had died in Europe, do you think that he would have become a martyr?

HOS: I do not think so. This man is clearly guilty of the grossest bestialities. He has tortured men, women and children. How can such a person ever become a martyr? He has martyred so many thousands of people - he has sent so many thousands into exile. You cannot say with a straight face, even if you are Margaret Thatcher, that he is a martyr.

AP: Talking about Thatcher, what do you think is the reason behind her defence of Pinochet?

HOS: I think she is generally grateful to him because of the Malvinas War, but it is still a bit of a mystery why this woman is not protecting the interests of British people tortured by him, as in the case of Sheila Cassidy.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy's book, ``Pinochet: The Politics of Torture'', is published by the Latin America Bureau, price 10.

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