Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Late, Unlamented Pinochet

Henry Kissinger's favorite tyrant, Gen. Auguste Pinochet, died recently, and though it feels like, ahem, kicking a dead corpse, we should take a moment to note the glimpse of sun that peaks through the metaphorical clouds of evil that we hope will disperse in the wake of his passing. Let's do it in the memory of the tens of thousands of people who were "disappeared" by Pinochet.

One of my favorite bloggers, Neddie Jingo, was a teenager living in Santiago shortly after the U.S. backed assassination of democratically elected Salvador Allende. Here is his harrowing account of life under Pinochet:

In a fascist dictatorship -- gun emplacements on the public thoroughfare, DINA agents prowling the streets in unmarked cars ready to pounce and "disappear" you to torture chambers on Dawson Island, itchy-trigger-fingered Carabineros on street corners stopping any random passerby who looked vaguely "socialist" -- the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen look is the sort of thing that the Authorities lick their chops at. It's utterly impossible to understand, in a cosmopolitan democracy, the raw, adrenaline-pumping fear that can gnaw at your vitals when you can be hauled off the street at any instant for the way you dress. I'm sorry, punk rockers and Disaffected Victims of the Man: you can't know. There is no comparison. I came to dread with a sickly nausea those knee-trembling moments when a machine-gun-wielding cop would pick me out of a crowded sidewalk, step in front of me, and accost me for my ID: "A ver, joven..."

And I was safe! I was untouchable! I had Diplomatic Immunity! I had a diplomatic carnet de identidad that rendered me literally untouchable! Most of my friends were theoretically untouchable, too -- but try explaining that to my pal Joe, son of the Bolivian chargé d' affaires, who got his knee broken in just such an encounter. He'd forgotten his wallet. Boom. Rifle butt to the patella. Don't forget, punk.

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