From Chile

Published : Nov 21, 1998 00:00 IST

He was not kidnapped by the repressive mechanism that detained us. He was not tortured in front of his children; nor was electric current put through his body. He was not beaten, and no bandages covered his eyes. There were no unceasing interrogations. He was not tortured as we were. He was not submitted to lengthy days of silence, to the defencelessness of only seeing your captors, or to the uncertainty of whether you would die or you would survive as we were. He has not been ridiculed in the public arena, now he is a poor old man; in Chile he has not even been called a delinquent or a terrorist as we have been called. He has neither been put on trial in courts or tribunals; nor has he been submitted to undue processes. He has not been sentenced to life imprisonment, to death or to 300 years in jail as we have been. He has not been taken to a high-security prison. No one controls his hours, his days; he is not watched by cameras, he is not locked into a padlock cell as we are. No one will dare shoot him for being an assassin, a terrorist or a genocidal maniac despite the fact that is what he deserves.

Surely, for one reason or another he will be allowed to go free and will not be imprisoned for years as we are. With scepticism we watched the detention of the dictator in London. We have learnt, without a doubt, not to believe in the justice of the courts, but to live in a climate of impunity. Years ago we learnt of the deals of the "concertation parties", the military and the right wing; we knew of the unreasonableness of the army with its worthy general, we knew them as untouchables. But it was really not so. A foreign country dared and today the entire world judges him. Who would have thought that 25 years later the betrayal of his subordinates would make him uneasy? From scepticism we have gone to quiet disbelief.

The dictatorship has been uncovered: its sinister goings-on, the men who headed the terrible practice of 17 years, travel around the world, refreshing our memory. Here nobody says that Pinochet is innocent, only that he should enjoy the impunity of old age. A transition process that sold out has been uncovered: with happiness we watch the right-wing's anger, the diplomatic option taken by the army, the ambiguous and shameful discourse of the "concertation parties", and Frei, the Chilean President, speaking as if this was only a country in transition. We see our people celebrating in the streets, demonstrating their happiness. For once we are having a party, a carnival, dreaming that Pinochet will become a British citizen and will not come back. With certain astonishment we listen to the government defend Pinochet's position (we know that it is capable of much worse). Today, we are only one country, there exists justice. We developed a nationalist feeling: "Yes, we have to get him to trial, and it should be in Chile." When have assassins been put on trial in Chile?

Today, there is talk of human rights. The right-wing speaks about it. Those who have always violated human rights, for those whom other people's human rights have never existed, are so human and much more today and have rights. And where are the rights of the downtrodden and the marginalised of yesterday and today? Where are the human rights of the miners of Lota, or the saltpetre workers, or of the children who labour? Where are the rights of the thousands who have disappeared and who were murdered and tortured - those of us who constantly suffer the repression of the police state created by the "concertation parties"? Where are the human rights of teachers, of fringe dwellers or the indigenous community? Where are the human rights of those of us who have legitimately opposed the repression and the misery of the neo-liberal model? Where are the human rights of the political prisoners who are put in high security prisons, who are put on trial by military and civil courts, with years after years of sentence and without proper defence or who are poor and hence pay a great cost for their defence? And what about Maria Cristina San Juan who has been in a penitentiary hospital with clinical and psychological illnesses, and with a life sentence? Who speaks of human rights when the gendarmerie searches, steals and punishes routinely? What human rights do they speak of?

We do not know where the general will end up. As far as we are concerned, he can die. For now, we will rejoice at his despair (even for a while); we will rejoice at the discomfort being felt by the general, the army, the right wing, and the "concertation parties" (even for a while). From this jail we say to all of them: GO TO ENGLAND and remain forever there!

Women political prisoners High Security Prison, Santiago

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