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Busted: Augusto Pinochet

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Message Jayne Stahl
While the party has been over for a 90 year old, fragile, former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, for some time, he is finally paying his dues. Pinochet was arrested yesterday, and placed on house arrest in Santiago, Chile where he was charged with torture for human rights abuses at Villa Grimaldi, the notorious secret detention cell in which current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were once held. The indictment for torture is precedent-setting for the former dictator. Additionally, he was indicted for one homicide, 35 kidnappings, as well as 24 counts of torture, in all, dating back to his reign of terror of 1973-1990. (AP) He will serve his sentence not in the Villa where he detained, and disappeared many who opposed, but instead in his suburban Santiago mansion.

While the general has been indicted 4 times before, 3 times on human rights charges, and once on tax evasion, this is the only time the Chilean government has demanded he stand trial, and be held to account for allegations that he tortured those in his detention. (Seattle Times) Judge Alejandro Solis refused to drop charges against the ailing Pinochet, as had been the case in the past, asserting that the general "is not mentally alienated" and able to stand trial. (Seattle Times)

Speaking of being "mentally alienated," you may already have heard about Villa Grimaldi, a detention camp which was not unlike Guantanamo Bay. Viva Grimaldo was a large parcel of land with many buildings which has been demolished. The first detainees arrived there in the mid-1970's, and it soon became synonymous with internal repression, as well as one of the more infamous ways in which General Pinochet worked to stifle dissent, and eliminate his opposition. In fact, a prominent member of the Socialist Party, Ariel Mancilla, after being sent to the Villa, and tortured, was never to be heard from again.

One can only hope that Pinochet's arrest will be a wake-up call for those in Bush administration whose absurdist efforts to whitewash, and give the heads-up to interrogations that include simulated drowning, a technique traditionally considered torture, will inevitably backfire. More importantly, should a new Congress emerge,after next week's election, the world will be holding its breath for us, as a nation, to call to task any, and all those, in this administration, who are responsible for crimes against humanity. And, while Tony Snow may consider himself adept at turning a phrase, (or corrupting one), even Houdini couldn't talk his way out of the charges our government will face, down the road, from the international community, if we don't change course, and do so quickly.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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