Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, October 22, 1998 Published at 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK

Exiled writer urges Pinochet to repent

The author and playwright Ariel Dorfman fled Chile after General Pinochet's coup in 1973 and now lives in exile in the United States. Here he reflects on the general's legacy to his country, and voices hope that justice will be done:

[ image: Ariel Dorfman, courtesy of Carlos Reves (Andes Press Agency)]
Ariel Dorfman, courtesy of Carlos Reves (Andes Press Agency)
In my memoirs, Heading South Looking North, I look at how my life and the life of our country has been affected by the shadow of this man. The things he has done, the people I have seen killed in front of my face. I cannot forget these things, memories cannot be buried.

Ariel Dorfman: "It is as if Hitler had come back and said, I am glad I burned all those Jews! They deserved it!"
Unfortunately, General Pinochet is the bearer of those memories and he's the one that doesn't want reconciliation to happen. We are all for reconciliation: Just repent, General!

General Pinochet should not have gone to roam around England, had tea with Mrs Thatcher and have his back seen to by a clinic, because he is an international criminal.

After eight years of having a transition to democracy it may be time to really complete this transition.

I think the stability of our country has been a rather false and precarious one, which I myself have shown in my plays and my work.

It is very simple for people who are not victims, who have not disappeared, not been tortured, or exiled. It is very easy to tell those people, "well, why don't you just keep quiet for a while, while we go around our business", but that is not exactly the way things happen.


[ image: Dorfman says Pinochet does not want reconciliation]
Dorfman says Pinochet does not want reconciliation
If General Pinochet had made a gesture towards us by showing some degree of repentance, and if he had helped us know where the bodies of our missing are, then perhaps we could say, "enough".

But he has had a very different sort of attitude. It is as if Hitler had come back and said, I am glad I burned all those Jews! They deserved it!

The stability of the country has to be strong. What kind of a democracy is there when the price you have to pay for democracy is that some people are above the law?

Reconciliation in Death And The Maiden

In Death And The Maiden, the two characters end up co-existing. They live with each other because they have no other alternative and that's the situation in Chile.

Pauline, the main character who has been raped and tortured by a doctor, is strong enough to put him on trial privately. In the end she is unable to kill him - in some sense he is a ghost in her life forever.

But that's the situation that has happened in Chile and we Chileans have accepted this pact. We will not put General Pinochet on trial, and the result is that he will continue to sit in the senate. That's the transition we have elected, and it's not a bad transition.

'Pinochet amnestied himself'

South Africa was able to deal with its past in a more effective way than Chile does because its truth commission was given subpoena and pardon powers, whereas General Pinochet amnestied himself. He also decided to continue to work as a politician and stay in the senate because he wanted immunity from the crimes he had committed. In fact General Pinochet is a dictator, which you cannot say in the case of South Africa.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Internet Links

Amnesty International: Ariel Dorfman on Memory and Truth

The Literature Program: Short biography of Ariel Dorfman

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Re-opening the wounds of the past

From Business
Pinochet saga bad for business

Pinochet profile: Saviour or tyrant

The Pinochet case: Timeline

Exiled writer urges Pinochet to repent