Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dealing with Pinochet

A long-standing question is suddenly pressing in Chile: how should the government deal with Pinochet’s death? President Bachelet has made clear that he will not receive the honors of a former head of state, but instead there will be the ceremony for a former military commander in chief. As Defense Minister, she had already laid the groundwork for that in negotiations with then-army commander Juan Emilio Cheyre. The army accepted that, and I think the current commander in chief, Oscar Izurieta, has no interest in generating any more controversy than he has to.

This decision also reflects public opinion, as 55% of Chileans do not think he should get an ex-president’s funeral, while 51% agree with the ex-commander funeral, though 32% “disagree or disagree strongly” even with that decision. Only 45% think President Bachelet should attend, and 72% do not think it should be a national day of mourning.

Yet that’s not even the end of it. The Pinochet family has indicated he will be cremated, and so there is the question of where his remains should go. No one wants them in a public place, where they will become a shrine both for those who hate him and those who love him. That last category is shrinking. In the article, a source in the Ministry of Defense notes what really has become conventional wisdom, namely that the Riggs Bank scandal, whereby Pinochet clearly took millions from the Treasury, was decisive in eroding support for him.


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