Letter: Whither Pinochet?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have said that he hopes that "the Government will pay attention to the personal aspects of [the Pinochet case], and be compassionate in this situation." His comments read as if the Government's compassion should be directed towards General Pinochet with the effect that the Home Secretary should decide to release him, especially as these comments came after his remark that we should listen to Mrs Thatcher who has, of course, demanded Pinochet's immediate release.

In considering the Christian virtue of compassion, I am wondering if the Archbishop is bearing in mind, as well, compassion for those families who have relatives "disappeared" as a result of Pinochet's actions, those who had to leave Chile to take refuge in other countries, many of them in Britain, and those who suffered jail terms and/or torture for no other reason than for being a member of a union, political party or the like. Of course it is too late to have compassion for those who were murdered.

As someone who has friends among the Chilean refugee community, I believe that even this brief detention of the old murderer-torturer has had a positive cathartic effect on many who suffered. Their sense that there may be a little fairness and justice in the world starts to recover, if only feebly as yet.

I strongly feel that if the Archbishop's compassion extends to both sides in this case, as we must assume it does, then he should speak urgently again about the situation in order to correct the misleading impression of his comments. Unless he balances his view, his position and authority will be seriously undermined by what has been reported. People will think he has compassion only for the old dictator.


London W8