March 3rd, 2000

It is March 3, 2000, and Pinochet is finally going to pay for his crimes against the Chilean people.

It has been 11 years since Pinochet was voted out of the presidency…11 years.

The prospect of holding Pinochet and his conspirators accountable was inaccessible idea during the dictatorship. When the dictatorship ended, I thought the legal and political institutions that ensured his vice grip on state power would cease to protect him from his crimes. But I was naïve to think that justice would have followed swiftly.

In the interim between the end of the Junta’s dictatorship and now, there have been two conflicting realities in Chile. First, there are those who have continued living as if nothing happened, who engage in distancing and denial of the difficult truth. Those who have been coerced into silence further isolate and delegitimize the reality of those affected by the oppressive state apparatus. It is both infuriating and psychologically destabilizing to live with the traumas of the past in the absence of any kind of acknowledgement that such traumas exist. Thus for all those who lost a loved one, for all those who were murdered, tortured, terrorized, and disappeared, life has been an irreconcilable paradox. This lack of acknowledgement is a heinous obstruction of justice because it prevents those who were traumatized from engaging dialogue necessary to overcome the pain of the past.

Justice has been so slow coming that I don’t know whether I can still think of it the same way. All this time Pinochet has hid behind falsifying and corrupt laws that absolve him of responsibility for the pain that he inflicted on us all. First there was the immunity law of 1978, and then to add insult to injury Pinochet was granted sovereign immunity because he was allowed to join congress. In my opinion, President Aylwin should have made legal justice a paramount priority. Yes I understand that he was trying to maintain stability in a country with a history of military coups, so he was talking a thin line trying to not piss off the military. He sought a path towards reconciliation that he claimed was based in truth, but really he was sacrificing justice for the purposes of expediting the process of moving on. The truth and reconciliation commission was a poor excuse for justice. It presented a segment of the truth in a way that did hold anyone specifically accountable, and only those cases that resulted in death were included in the report. There are still all those who are living with their trauma in silence, and he failed those people. He should have done more to give voice to victims of state oppression who have not received the legal and societal recognition they need to heal and move in constructive way. How can there be reconciliation through truth in the absence of real legal justice? He should have done more to fight the corrupt judiciary and to negate Pinochet’s sovereign immunity because his conviction will facilitate the creation of a public sphere conducive to dialogue and truth seeking.


1 thought on “March 3rd, 2000

  1. ssvolk says:

    Like you, I thought that the Rettig Commission didn’t go far enough. Particularly since it depended on the cooperation of criminals to admit to their crimes. But every time I think of what I would have done if I were the one in charge…I just don’t know. Maybe now that Pinochet is “back with us,” and even his supporters have been saying that we should be the ones to try him…well, maybe we will. But what are you doing? What is happening with your wife and with Emily? Has she become a lawyer? What’s her perspective?

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