Andy McEntee, lawyer in the Pinochet arrest: “The credibility of Chile is at stake when its politicians aspire to return to the 1970’s”
By: Alejandra Jara @alejandrajaraj
Thursday 27 December 2018
|LA TERCERA interview - original version (Spanish-language)|
“It seems bizarre that present-day members of Congress should put [Augusto] Pinochet on a pedestal, as a role model (…) Pinochet, the Junta, and their technocrats were a disaster for the majority of Chileans and for the image of Chile internationally." From more than eleven thousand kilometres away, the Human Rights activist and ex-Chairman of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom, Andrew McEntee, reacts with surprise when he learns that in the past few days various parliamentarians and leaders of the ‘Chile Vamos’ coalition [of 4 right-wing parties: UDI, RN, PRI & Evópoli] laid claim to the image and name of the deceased Commander-in-Chief of the Army. This developed after the RN deputy in Congress, Camila Flores, declared herself a ‘Pinochetista’ during the National Council of the party on the 16th of December.
|Camila Flores, member of Congress for the RN (National Renewal) party, proclaimed "I am a 'Pinochetista'!", kicking off a similar outpouring among the far-right parties, that has taken hold across the national press and broadcast media, and social media.|
McEntee, a lawyer, knew all about Pinochet and participated actively as a Human Rights defender during the dictatorship. He was an international observer in the 1988 Plebiscite and later had a key role in the arrest of the ex-General in October of 1998 in London.
It was exactly 20 years ago, the 11th of December 1998, when he watched the military man enter the Belmarsh court in London in a wheelchair, make his way to the prisoner’s dock accompanied by an armed escort, and “subjugate himself” to a judge “who began to read a list of crimes that included torture, taking of hostages and various crimes of conspiracy”, relates the lawyer. For this reason, today it seems contradictory to him for people to declare themselves ‘Pinochetista’, “without also endorsing the Pinochet regime’s core philosophy and machinery, and being prepared to roll it out again”, he maintains.
“It has taken 30 years to get this far out of the disaster of dictatorship. Chile’s credibly is at stake when its senior politicians appear to aspire to a return to the Chile of the 1970s”, affirms the Human Rights activist, adding that “Chilean citizens should not take lightly the claims of members of Congress who proclaim themselves ‘Pinochetista’. The plans, finances and true allegiances of such politicians should be the focus of close scrutiny by the media and other civil society institutions, as well as by the UN and other international human rights bodies”.
RN and UDI parties against Pinochet
McEntee began this interview with La Tercera by recalling his role as an international observer during the 1988 Plebiscite. “At that time, many of the pro-regime politicians who supported the pro-Pinochet ‘Yes’ option were, in fact, fed-up with Pinochet and his inner circle blocking ‘regime modernisation’ - which for UDI and RN amounted to blocking each party[’s ‘new way of doing the same thing’]. I recall the situation before the Plebiscite, when UDI and RN were the political establishment’s competing ‘modernisers’, aiming to move Chile forward beyond the Junta form of government - but without changing the overall direction of government, nor undermining the gains of those still benefitting from the regime.”
|5th of October 1988|
With 56% of votes, the "NO" vote defeated Pinochet in the 1988 Plebiscite (referendum)
Back then, he assures, the UDI would be content “with keeping Pinochet as a useful figurehead outside the presidency, maybe in Congress or some other palace, but out of uniform (…) At the same time, RN clearly wanted Pinochet to go home and stay home, so that they could get on with a ‘modern’ or ’mano menos dura’ ('not as heavy-handed') roll-out of their still-familiar free-market philosophy”.
"Yes, buddy! There are more important things than freedom"
(mid-1980s cartoon by Rufino, in HOY magazine, Chile)
¿Could the military have a role in a future ‘Pinochetist’-style government?
“Is it possible for a member of Congress to separate their adhesion to ‘Pinochetism’ from a desire to implement the socio-economic programmes favoured by Pinochet, including their implementation through a pre-planned repressive machinery?”, McEntee wonders.
His answer is “no”. “Before the military coup there was no ‘Pinochetista’ socio-economic model, nor the inherent repressive machinery that would be required to implement it forcefully. When he ceased being President, his ‘Pinochetista’ socio-economic model ceased with him, as did its inherent repressive machinery. It is not credible for a legislator in Congress to defend ‘Pinochetismo’ while not defending the Junta dictatorship model that was essential to it”, says the lawyer, for whom the Human Rights violations were “permitted by sectors of the political right and the DC [centrist Christian Democratic Party]”, who all “kept silent”.
McEntee also asserts that there cannot be a ‘Pinochetist’ presidential candidate who is not also endorsing “the Pinochet regime’s core [philosophy and] machinery, and [being] prepared to roll it out again”, adding that, in such a case, all these elements are indivisible, and that the figure of the ex-General cannot be “understood” without the repressive apparatus.
Finally, the international lawyer sends a question to the Army and the police agencies: “I mean no disrespect to law enforcement and security professionals - indeed, I have worked collegially with such people in many countries during the past decades, all of us committed to strengthen local human rights laws and preventive mechanisms. I simply ask: Might the Chilean military and police be willing to have a role inside a future ‘Pinochetista’ style government? If so, how do they assess today the meaning of ‘Pinochetista’, and what it may demand from them when the time comes?”
Categorías: La Tercera PM
Etiquetas: DD.HH., La Tercera PM