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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK


Pinochet affair 'already a victory'

Ariel Dorfman says Chile is already facing up to its difficult past

Exiled Chilean author Ariel Dorfman says that even if former dictator General Augusto Pinochet is not tried for human rights abuses, the extradition affair has been a "very strong step forward".

"The main goal has already been accomplished"
Dorfman fled Chile in 1973 after a coup led by the general toppled President Salvador Allende's socialist government.

In exile, his writings highlighted the plight of Pinochet's opponents. His acclaimed play about torture victims, Death and the Maiden, was made into a film starring Sigourney Weaver.

[ image: General Pinochet
General Pinochet "shattered my life"
"I survived the way Pinochet shattered my life," he told BBC News Online.

"But when he does not repent, when he creates a country which does not allow democracy to be a full democracy, he is continuing to determine my life."

The writer feels the mere fact that the 83-year-old general is being detained in the UK, facing extradition to Spain, is an important victory for his regime's victims.

"The major goal of the extradition trial has already been accomplished, no matter what happens - whether Pinochet goes free or not.

"For Chile itself this has been a reckoning. Many Chileans had hoped the human rights abuses of the past, the past itself, would simply disappear.

"For Chile itself this has been a reckoning"
"I think the Pinochet trial has forced us look one another in the face ... to speak to one another, to understand the past and understand that time is not going to solve the problem.

"In a way it has been a victory for the dead of Chile."

[ image:
"I don't think there are the conditions for him to be tried in Chile"
Dorfman said he welcomed the precedent set by the extradition proceedings.

"[They mark] the end of impunity for heads of state when they have directed secret police to torture.

"It may also have been healthy for England to have been a champion of this, to say 'Dictators cannot hide on this island, they cannot come and retire here, they will be held accountable for crimes they commit elsewhere'.

"It would be best if he were tried in Chile"
"I really think it would be best if he were tried in Chile. I don't think there are the conditions for him to be tried in Chile - even if he is now under investigation.

"I don't think there's a real chance of his being ever, ever held accountable in Chile.

"What I really wish is that he should stand in front of his accusers, in front of the women of the disappeared, the women whose husbands he tortured, the women who he ordered tortured ... simply see them.

"I'm not interested in his being imprisoned. I think the most important thing has already been done.

"A grievous wrong has been done to many, many people - they believed there was no hope. There is some hope because someone who was a horrible tyrant is now under house arrest.

"That restores some balance to a horrible century, a century which I think will go down as the most terrible century in the history of humanity."

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22 Oct 98 | The Pinochet file
Exiled writer urges Pinochet to repent

Internet Links

Duke University Literature Program: Ariel Dorfman

Amnesty International: Ariel Dorfman on Memory and Truth

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