Inside File: Pinochet's shopping spree gets green light in Britain
Thursday 16 June 1994
Here, British Aerospace executives marvelled at the continuing support they enjoyed from Her Majesty's Government over sales to Chile; and many who used to be leading voices in the anti-Pinochet campaign did not even know he was here.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, after learning of the General's visit this week, said he planned to put a few questions to the Foreign Secretary today. 'I shall be asking how it is that such a man was allowed to visit Britain, and how much money was spent on his protection. He is the second most evil man of the century, after Hitler. He is responsible for the deaths of 50,000 civilians.'
It is 21 years since General Pinochet began his rule by torture. Chile now has a civilian government, but the General remains the head of the Chilean armed forces and as such gets to travel around buying weapons for his country. The Royal Ordnance division of BAe held talks with him on Tuesday to discuss 'Rayo', a planned multiple-launch rocket system that is a recurring theme dear to the General's heart.
It was not their first meeting. Talks on Rayo have been going on for four years. If the system is built, the contract 'would run into certainly millions, and potentially tens of millions of pounds', said a BAe official. 'Pinochet is the armed forces chief and as such he is the man we speak to. We have the British government's support on arms sales to Chile. As you know, we operate within the rules of the Government, and those rules are even more tightly observed these days. So long as we have the blessing and support of the Government, it is potentially very good business for us.'
General Pinochet has always been popular with the right-wing in Britain. Baroness Thatcher dined with him in March after recovering from her fainting spell in the Santiago heat. When Alan Clark, as trade minister, visited Chile seven years ago, he recorded in his diary an account of a spat among Chileans 'about who 'denounced' whose sister during the period of military rule. Frankly, I'd have put them all under arrest as they left the building. I might say that to Pinochet, if I get to see him (tomorrow).'
General Pinochet slipped in and out of Britain with little public notice. But three weeks ago in Amsterdam he was told by staff at the Amstel hotel that his security could not be guaranteed. A week later in Prague, Jan Urban pointed out that 'there is no justification for dealing with this man. It is one thing to be involved in the arms trade. It is quite another to sell to Pinochet'.
British ministers would argue there is no choice. General Pinochet made a deal before handing over power that he would remain as head of the armed forces, and with it the platform of jetting around buying arms. Britain's arms industry accounts for 9 per cent of the manufacturing GDP; 400,000 people depend on it for work; it must sell to whomever it can. Or must it?
Mr Corbyn says: 'It is time we started using the skills of arms manufacturing workers to make civilian goods. We'll never be able to be critical of human rights violations around the world if we have to sell arms to these countries all the time.' Some hold that view to be naive. As a British ambassador to a massive arms importing nation put it recently: 'Morality in foreign policy may be a priority. But it is not the priority.'
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...