Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pinochet is Dead

The world has one less former dictator today, but it's not Saddam Hussein. Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990, died today at the age of 91. Pinochet took power in a coup d'├ętat, deposing democratically elected President Salvador Allende. During the 17 years of Pinochet's dictatorship, thousands of political enemies "disappeared," presumably tortured and killed. The new President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, elected earlier this year, was detained and tortured by the Pinochet government.

Despite his obvious brutality and disregard for his own people, Pinochet still had many defenders. The 1973 coup was prompted by the widely held view that Allende was systematically violating the constitution and moving Chile towards communism. Still, I believe that history will record that Pinochet saved Chile from communism, only to subject it to a far more malignant despotism. The election of President Bachelet is a ray of hope that Chile can heal the divisions of the past 33 years and move into a more democratic and prosperous 21st century.

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