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Busted: Augusto Pinochet

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A 90 year old, fragile, former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, was arrested yesterday, and placed on house arrest in Santiago, Chile, and charged with torture for human rights abuses at Villa Grimaldi, a notorious secret detention cell in which current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were once held. This is the first time ever that Pinochet has faced charges for torture. He has been indicted for one homicide, 35 kidnappings, as well as 24 counts of torture all dating back to his reign of terror of 1973-1990. (AP) He will serve out his sentence 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.

Oh, and as for General Pinochet: while he may have been cocky 30 years ago, sooner or later, the chickens come home to roost.