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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 19:20 GMT
Pinochet increasingly isolated
Relatives of victims of the Pinochet era
Anti-Pinochet groups say the arrest is long overdue
By James Reynolds in Santiago

At Santiago's general cemetery relatives of those killed during the Pinochet years gather for a funeral. The remains of eight people once listed as missing were to be reburied in proper graves.

The service took place after the news broke that General Pinochet was to be arrested and charged - something that those standing alongside their family members' coffins had hoped for for many years.

The Judge had to do this because of all the evidence he discovered...Pinochet's guilt was clearly proven

Viviana Diaz
"We have waited so long for this, but we were expecting it," said Viviana Diaz, head of the association representing the relatives of the disappeared.

"The judge had to do this because of all the evidence he discovered during the investigation. I sat through preliminary hearings and Pinochet's guilt was clearly proven," she added.

Two years ago when General Pinochet was arrested in London, Chile witnessed dramatic protests led by Pinochet supporters and opponents.

No rioting

But following the General's arrest in his own country, the same scenes have not been repeated. This time there have been few demonstrations and no disturbances.

General Pinochet attends a ceremony in 1998
General Pinochet is looking increasingly isolated
Most Chileans, it seems have become accustomed to the long-running drama of the Pinochet case.

"People are sick and tired, and that is the truth," said leading political analyst Raul Sohr.

"Most people do believe he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, so I think by and large the population accept as something desirable that he should be tried," he added.

'A Chilean never humbled'

For many years they said Pinochet was untouchable - so what has changed?

Anti-Pinochet demonstrator
Anti-Pinochet protesters have become more and more vocal
During General Pinochet's detention in London, some supporters even composed a song for him, praising the former leader as "a Chilean never humbled."

When he was eventually released, the general's supporters hoped he would return to his country in triumph. They organised a hero's welcome for him when his plane touched down in March.

But the celebrations swiftly ended. Chile no longer sees General Pinochet as untouchable, and over the last few months the armed forces have found they can no longer protect their former commander in chief from the courts.

Despite this, his remaining supporters have condemned the decision to arrest the man they still call Chile's liberator.

'Very worrying'

"Obviously it is very worrying," said retired General Rafael Villaroel. "Before this happened the atmosphere in this country had been getting better. Things were being resolved."

Justice may be slow but it gets there in the end

Anti-Pinochet protesters slogan
He warned: "Judge Guzman's decision is a bad move, not just for the armed forces but for the whole, country."

It is difficult to work out how this will end. Over the last two years most of the predictions in the Pinochet case have ended up being wrong.

General Pinochet's lawyers are appealing against the order to indict and arrest him and he must still undergo medical tests to decide whether he is fit to stand trial.

There are many more legal arguments to go and a legal trial is not yet certain. But the relatives of those who disappeared keep a banner in the basement where they work.

It reads: "Justice may be slow, but it gets there in the end."

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Americas
Court orders more tests for Pinochet
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Analysis: The Pinochet factor
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Pinochet charged with kidnapping
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