December 10, 2006
Today was a big day for Chile. At the age of 91, Augusto Pinochet finally bit the bullet. According to Carmen Hertz, a human rights lawyer, Chilean ambassador to Hungary, and, most importantly, a dear friend, Augusto Pinochet died “como una piltrafa moral y cadáver politico.” I couldn’t agree more. While Pinochet was never convicted of the crimes brought against him, by the time he died even many of his former supporters were withdrawing from “Nuestro General.” The irony was that they staunchly supported their leader all through his human rights charges while evidence of many thousands of cases of the disappeared and tortured came to light. It wasn’t until he was charged with using his position to become rich off of embezzling government funds, the illegal drug trade, and the illegal arms trade that some supporters started questioning their allegiance. Figures.
He never did fully take responsibility for his actions and apologize for his crimes. In fact, on his 91st birthday he issued a statement saying he would not apologize to the Chilean people for what happened under his rule. Just like my father. It is interesting that the death of his idol marks the two-year anniversary of my father’s passing. I still regret that we were never able to make amends. After our initial meeting he tried reaching out several times, and, as I wrote about extensively, I even saw him again to much pain and no avail on my end. We just saw Chilean history through different lenses, and we weren’t going to change our opinions. Still, he was my father, and I should have been there when he died. I have many regrets, and that is certainly one of them.
Vicente wanted to go to the celebrations on the streets today. Since he is fourteen, I figured it would be ok, but things got pretty rowdy. I attached a video that a friend of mine took from above. The energy reminded me a lot of the No Campaign demonstrations—a mix of deep hope and anger. I wonder a lot about the Chile my son will know. How will the history that so many others and I have lived color his knowledge of the past? How will history be remembered? Already it is a tense subject in the classroom. In fact, he came home from school on Friday upset about something a teacher had said about the progress of Chile under Pinochet. It will be interesting to see what is discussed tomorrow about Pinochet’s death.
Sorry I sounded like such a journalist today. I am working on a story about Pinochet’s death for tomorrow’s paper, so this is partially helping me brainstorm.