Pinochet takes his crimes to the grave

There is no reason to celebrate his death because he got away with it, writes Marisol Grandon in The First Post

So El Viejo is gone. I always imagined I’d jump up to celebrate this moment like the well-meaning Swedish hippies who make merry at General Franco’s death in Lukas Moodysson’s film Together. Try as I might, I can’t enjoy it.

Pinochet was a ruthless, unrepentant dictator who got away with murder. Because he was protected from standing trial to the bitter end, there is nothing to celebrate.

My father is a Chilean political refugee. He fled the country after the military coup in 1973. After years of half-stories too painful to recount fully, last night he finally put a figure on the losses he suffered – 16 of his friends and colleagues disappeared, no doubt tortured and killed by Pinochet’s guard. The location of their bodies is still unknown today.

That’s why exiles, survivors and families left behind will not see Pinochet’s death as a triumph, nor the conclusion of their suffering. A former political prisoner, Carlos Munoz, last night told me flatly that too many things have gone unanswered, and that all he wants now is for the commission investigating the crimes of the regime to continue.

This sentiment was echoed by the exiled Chilean novelist, Isabel Allende, who also remarked that “Pinochet will go down in history alongside Caligula and Idi Amin as a by-word for brutality and ignorance”.

While Margaret Thatcher proclaims her great sadness on the death of her friend and the Labour government studiously “notes” his passing, I can’t help wondering how Jack Straw is feeling.

When Pinochet visited Britain in 1998, Spain wanted to extradite him to face charges concerning the disappearance of Spaniards in Chile. Straw, then Home Secretary, squandered a real opportunity for due process, justice and reparation on the grounds of the General’s ill-health.

Pinochet left London in a wheelchair, yet found his legs shortly after arriving in Chile.