The Pinochet Affair: Mr Bean boycott looms over Britain

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The Independent Online
SHOULD Marcelo Rios boycott Wimbledon? Should Chileans stop watching the Benny Hill show and Mr Bean? Should they spurn whisky and paella, stop speaking Spanish andspeak in pre-Columbian Indian tongues?

These are some of the suggestions for defenders of the detained former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to wreak revenge on Britain and Spain. Some are tongue-in-cheek; others, such as a boycott of British and Spanish products, have been proposed formally.

With typical sensitivity, supporters of the retired general are calling it a new "Dirty War." That was the name given to his repression during the 70s and 80s, when thousands were killed or disappeared - a term that still sends chills up the spines of those who lived through it.

The idea of calling it a "Dirty War" began when Santiago's pro-Pinochet councillors decided not to remove rubbish bags from the Spanish embassy because a Spanish judge requested General Pinochet's arrest. They also painted out the street markings that granted exclusive parking to Spanish diplomats.

The British embassy and the ambassador's residence could face the same. The ambassador, Glynne Evans, is in hiding after the embassy received hundreds of bomb threats.

In London, there was almost a diplomatic incident at the Chilean embassy when a valuable sideboard, said to be an antique, collapsed under the weight of cameramen. One member of the embassy staff shrugged: "They probably broke it because they thought it belonged to some war criminal from the junta. Nothing would surprise me any longer."