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The Independent Online
Cape crusaders

MAYBE those Chileans outraged by the detention of their beloved former leader (or rejoicing at his comeuppance) should be directing their fury or delight not at Britain or Spain, but at South Africa.

Cape Town was the cradle of two of the three law lords who turned down the old dictator's appeal against arrest. If I think that it is a fine city whose temperate atmosphere and natural beauty inculcates a certain revulsion for cruel dictatorships, it is not simply because I share their origins. After all, the Boers went on the Great Trek to get away from what they saw as the nauseating liberalism of the Cape and find a place where a man could practise racial domination in peace. Many decades later it was their descendants who returned to impose an alien philosophy on the Cape.

Lord Steyn went into some detail about the tortures employed by the Chilean secret police, and I wondered whether, as he did so, he heard any echoes. In South Africa this kind of animal behaviour was brought to light by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; it took a court on the other side of the world to do the same for Chile. But he went further, drawing a direct line from the torturers to the man in charge, something the TRC never succeeded in doing.

While we are teasing out the parallels, I note that France is aggrieved at losing a big South African military order to Britain, which enforced the arms embargo a bit more enthusiastically than the French in apartheid times. Something to ponder for those who complain we are going to lose out on all those Chilean contracts.

Loco parentis

THE American mom comes in all shapes and sizes. One, in California, faces lewdness charges after the male stripper she hired for her 15-year- old's party allegedly groped four of her daughter's friends during his act.

In Baltimore, meanwhile, another 15-year-old, Jamie Schoonover, was suspended from school for allegedly casting a spell on a fellow student. She was reinstated after saying that spells formed no part of the white witchcraft she had learned from her mother.

Does that make her mum, Colleen, a better parent than the one in California? Is it relevant that Colleen is actually Jamie's biological father, but then changed sex? I don't know.

U Win again

ANOTHER question: when is a foreign minister not a foreign minister? When he's a foreign minister-designate, of course.

Last week, you may remember, this newspaper revealed that U Win Aung, Burma's former ambassador here before he was appointed foreign minister, was being allowed to return to London for a party in his honour - in complete contravention of European sanctions. The European Commission was horrified, and dismissed the Foreign Office claim that he wasn't quite foreign minister yet. The FO, undeterred, kept repeating this to everyone who inquired what was going on.

U Win Aung has come and gone, and won't be allowed back. It now emerges that since he was still accredited as ambassador here, the Foreign Office thought it better to allow a technical breach of the sanctions rather than keep him out, which might have had implications for our ambassador in Rangoon. Why didn't they say that in the first place? Too simple for the denizens of King Charles Street, it appears.

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