9 JANUARY 2007
Now that Pinochet is gone, Chileans are probably asking the same questions Filipinos posed after Marcos's death: "Does the death of the dictator mean justice denied? Would it become easier to forget everything that happened now that the face of dictatorship is gone?"
by JOHANNA SON
It was days after the death of the 91-year-old Pinochet, but Andres Trujillo, who works at the park, said there had been no increase in the number of visitors since. "This is a bit too far for many people," explained Trujillo.
But at least there is a monument, the Parque Por La Paz (Peace Park), to remind people of the evils, the reality, and the human costs of dictatorship. The Parque, still better known by its old name Villa Grimaldi, was where opponents to the Pinochet regime were detained, tortured, and exterminated between 1973 to 1979. Chile's current president, Michelle Bachelet, was herself tortured here, along with her mother.
While walking around the park, I couldn't think of anything similar being put together by the victims of the two decades of dictatorship under Ferdinand Marcos back in the Philippines. Whether it means Chileans will be less forgetful than Filipinos, however, is still up in the Andean air.
Chile and the Philippines are half a world apart, and many other details differ in the tales of their respective former dictators, Pinochet and Marcos. But watching events here unfold after Pinochet's death was like watching a rerun of events in Manila after Marcos passed away, in exile, in 1989: An aging dictator dies. His loyalistas, a noisy few, holding up his portrait, are in near hysteria. Those who suffered under or protested his abuses and his stolen wealth welcome the death of a tyrant and thief. His family then says he "had to" wield an iron fist for the good of the country.
But there are other things that for me have always brought the Chilean political story a bit closer to the Philippine political saga.
To us "Marcos babies" those born after Marcos won the 1965 election September 11 still brings to mind his birthday. Sept. 11 is also the day in 1973 that army chief Pinochet led a coup that ousted democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide as Pinochet's forces were moving into La Moneda, the presidential palace.
Pinochet and Marcos were contemporaries in dictatorship Pinochet took power a year after Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972. Pinochet was in power for 17 years and Marcos, 21 years. (After losing in a plebiscite on his rule in 1990, Pinochet stayed as armed forces chief until 1998 and quit as senator for life, a position he made possible, only in 2002.)
The two leaders also stand side by side in terms of having stolen wealth and regimes known for their human-rights abuses. Other statistics: In a country of about 10 million people in the mid-'70s, more than 3,000 people died in political violence during Pinochet's dictatorship. Around 28,000 people were tortured. By comparison, it is said that tens of thousands suffered human rights violations under Marcos in 1986, the year he was ousted, 10,000 Filipinos filed a class suit before the Hawaii District Court. The U.S. military historian Alfred McCoy estimates that there were more than 3,200 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 torture victims and 70,000 people incarcerated during the Marcos years. Others put the number of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention at up to 120,000.
In Pinochet's case, news reports say some 600 cases involving human-rights violations hounded him to his death. At the time of his passing, Pinochet had been indicted but not tried and convicted in two human-rights cases (including one linked to Villa Grimaldi), as well as for tax evasion from his secret bank accounts overseas. No prosecution managed to make it to court.
Chile's government paper La Naciσn estimates Pinochet's ill-gotten wealth to be more than $37 million, including sums at the Riggs Bank in Washington. The bank accounts came to light in U.S. Senate investigations in 2004. Revelations of money Pinochet siphoned off punctured many supporters' belief that he was a "clean" dictator.
In Marcos's case, more than 500 civil and criminal charges, many of them relating to graft, were filed against him and his estate. His widow, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, was acquitted of embezzlement by a U.S. court in 1990. But she still faces other charges in local courts. Estimates of the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth range from $10 billion to $30 billion in gold and Swiss bank accounts and the saga of attempts to recover some of this is far from finished 18 years after Ferdinand Marcos's death.
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