YOU SAY (Leading article, 13 December) that General Pinochet may have a point when he does not recognise foreign jurisdictions because "the healing process in Chile since Pinochet left office is based somewhat hypocritically on a blind eye to torture and murder". Therefore the cases in Spain and the UK might be a show of judicial fundamentalism.

You are missing the point that such a blind eye is not Chilean society's doing, but instead it was forced upon us with an iron hand by Pinochet's retiring armies at the outset of the 1988 referendum that cut short his stay in political power. The 1978 amnesty law was enacted by the military junta and has proved impossible to abrogate since one-fifth of the Chilean senate is made up of non-elected senators, four of them retired military. Due to the electoral system that Pinochet left in place, the conservatives hold about one half of Congress, with roughly one-third of the popular vote. Add to this the vote of the self-appointed senators, and you have the practical impossibility of amending a single line of the bloated corps of legislation that the military left behind to tie up any incoming democratic system.

The few occasions on which trials and legal action have been attempted against Pinochet or Pinochet's relatives under civilian rule - as in a fraud case in 1991 involving his eldest son - the army took to the streets in combat uniform for four days, occupied barracks and made such a show of strength that the civilian authorities backpedalled; memories of the 1973 coup are still fresh in the minds of many.

So we do not willingly turn a blind eye to torture and murder. Ours is a captive democracy and, in our minds, we know we are held at gunpoint by the military. That we have not done many things does not mean we do not want to do them. And now the man who is responsible for all this awaits trial in London for want of a better chance at home.

JAVIER DIAZ

Santiago, Chile

Comments