Letter: Close the door on Pinochet

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The Independent Online
Sir: Could someone from the Home Office please let me know what possible justification there is for having recently admitted to this country (for at least a third time) Augusto Pinochet, a person with an indisputable record of torture and murder? While Pinochet walked freely on our streets many genuine refugees running from the same tyrannies which Pinochet created, are imprisoned in our detention centres while their applications for asylum are examined.

As Annika Savill points out ('Inside File', 16 June), British ministers wanting to get our arms to Chile would doubtless argue that they have no option but to let ousted dictator Pinochet come to this country. He is the constitutionally-appointed commander-in-chief of the Chilean armed forces in what is now a 'democracy'. It apparently does not matter to the British government that Pinochet's unassailable position was forced upon Chile by the military constitution of 1980 and that the government still does not control the military.

Selling arms to a country where the armed forces are not controlled by the civilian government is a policy of dubious merit. However, given that it is one which the Government is not going to change, we could at least ask for it to be carried out with a minimum of decorum. This would involve not having Pinochet coming here to get the arms.

As the man who was responsible for usurping the democratically elected Chilean presidency, for running a secret police force whose brutality was comparable with the Gestapo, for the torture and murder of thousands of Chilean civilians and for the exile and devastation of up to 170,000 others, he should be denied entry to Britain and the whole of the EU. British Aerospace or other British companies needing to do business with the Chilean army would also then have a good excuse for insisting on dealing with someone who does not have civilians' blood on his hands.

Pinochet is an international embarrassment to the fragile democratic government in Chile. A refusal to let Pinochet come to the EU would at least signal a little more moral support to Chile's embattled civilian government.

Yours faithfully,


London, W8

17 June