PINOCHET STANDS FIRM The Opposition Remains Divided

September 25, 2007

Policemen patrolled the flower beds, soldiers in full battle dress guarded palm trees and fountains. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was arriving at the Casino of Vifia del Mar. Eleven years after his brutal mil- itary coup, Pinochet's casino speech last November heralded the beginning of a new ice age. "Our country is be- coming a tropical dictatorship," an opposition magazine remarked acidly in its last edition before being closed down. The state of siege announced only days later was like a golpe within the regime, a return to the days fol- lowing the September 11, 1973 mili- tary takeover. At the break of dawn on November 10, armed personnel carriers (Swiss- designed Mowags) and trucks over- flowing with troops roared into the poblaciones, the slums surrounding Chile's capital, Santiago. While heli- copters menacingly throbbed over- head, the soldiers burst into the hum- ble houses and arrested all men be- tween 12 and 65 years of age. Herded into trucks and taken to an abandoned soccer stadium, most were set free after a thorough ID check. Over 600, mostly medium-level cadre of left- wing political parties and trade un- ionists, have been relegado-sent into internal exile for three months in re- mote villages a thousand miles from Santiago. A "Day of National Protest" at the end of November was a complete flop. Unarmed demonstrations were out of the question in the face of mas- sive Army patrols. The protest was the twelfth since Rodolfo Seguel, president of the copper workers' union, called on Chileans over 18 months ago to defy the regime by banging on saucepans. To everyone's surprise, the action forced an "open- ing" on the military. Despite the November setback, the feeling that Pinochet's regime is crumbling has become stronger. "There will either be an end to the state of siege and a political solution soon," a leader of the small left-wing MAPU party told me, "or Chile will sink into complete chaos." The signs of decomposition and the servists for guard duty at bridges and major crossroads. Conflict With Church Denied Signs that the Church too is pres- suring the regime have prompted the government to insist: "There is no conflict with the Church." But evi- dence indicates otherwise. The Epis- copal Conference has broken through censorship in aggressive pastoral let- ters that are read aloud at Sunday mass. Church attendance has in- creased significantly throughout the country. Even the moderate Santiago Archbishop Juan Francisco Fresno has been hinting at the possibility of ex- communicating the regime or some of its members. Of late, squabbles within the re- Banging saucepans has become standard protest. Santiago, September 1983. absence of any coherent government policy are so evident that the detailed accounts in some of the pro-govern- ment newspapers seem more reveal- ing and subversive than anything the now closed-down opposition press could print. Economic policy is non- existent, yet Economy Minister Mod- esto Collados continues presenting wide-eyed fantasies he calls "peo- ple's capitalism." "Everything is normal," says a government spokesman, who then goes on to explain the necessity of calling up several thousand Army re- gime have taken on a touch of comic opera. Air Force General Fernando Matthei-who several months ago withdrew his secret service personnel from joint operations with the feared intelligence agency, CNI-appeared on television to announce that he is not under house arrest. Matthei and Pinochet are known to be locked in se- vere conflict. Even the base of Pinochet's power seems to be rotting away. "Our men are ashamed to leave their barracks iin uniform when off duty," confessed an Army general recently. The cara- 6 REPORT ON THE AMERICAS Walter Tauber, South America corre- spondent for the German news weekly, Der Spiegel, spent November and December in Chile. 0 d o C- C- 6 REPORT ON THE AMERICASThe October 1984 protest days were among the most successful. Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile. Christian Democrats Rodolfo Seguel, Andres Zaldivar, Gabriel Valdes. I bineros, or militarized police, are suf- fering especially under the pressure of being the main instrument of repres- sion and thus in the front line of popu- lar hatred. "The carabineros don't live in barracks, but among the people, in the same poblaciones they have to attack," explains an official, who wishes to remain anonymous. Increasingly, policemen are sub- jected to acts of revenge. Some are harmless-a bus driver suddenly drives off, leaving a last-in-line carabinero behind. Some are more serious; groups of young slum dwell- ers have seriously injured lone police- men on their way home. "Hatred for the people is increasing among the troops," says the official. "They see the people as the im- mediate reason for their suffering. And the officer corp is seriously wor- ried. They are sick of being used by the Army-the regime's favorite-to carry the main load of repression. And when budget time rolls around, the JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1985

7carabineros, moved by Pinochet from the interior ministry to defense, al- ways get the smallest piece of the pie." Juice in Champagne Glasses In recent months, according to rumors in Santiago, the secret service- men of the CNI have been shadowing the armed forces more closely than the opposition parties in their quest for any sign of dissent. But now it seems that even this last redoubt of Pinochet's regime is suffering a se- vere attack of conscience. "I was not subjected to any physical violence," says Fanny Pollarolo, a psychologist and Communist leader in the left-wing coalition Popular Democratic Move- ment (MDP) about her arrest by the CNI. She is now exiled in Maullin, a beautiful fishing village near the southern port of Puerto Montt. Other relegados on the nearby is- land of Chilo6 relate similar stories: "They gave us orange juice in cham- pagne glasses," marvels Ivan Pob- lete, a student leader from An- tofagasta. "One of us even received 10,000 pesos ($80) with the comment: share that with the others, you'll need it down there in the south." Many of the relegados who had been imprisoned in earlier days knew the CNI as brutal torturers. "It seems that they are seriously worried about the future," explains Fanny Pollarolo. "They kept telling me: now don't go and tell foreign journalists we mis- treated you; or: We are not sadists!" "Politics is like a horse cart that can topple over," one guard told Ivan Poblete, "one day you are on top, the next you are down under. So don't forget how well we treated you." He Knows Too Much The number of similar stories and anecdotes is seemingly endless. Cer- tainly the most surprising was a con- versation I overheard during lunch time in a picada, a cheap popular res- taurant near Santiago's central mar- ket. Three young men sat talking shop two tables further down. At first it was all theory: whether carabinero training is better than Army training, which books offer the best surveil- lance techniques. Then, after a plate of clams and before diving into their steaks, the three-by now identified as CNI members-went into detail. "This Colonel Larafiaga is a danger to the service when he loses all con- trol. But we can't throw him out, he knows too much about that case when we killed those guys." Colonel Lara- fiaga reportedly beat up former Chris- tian Democratic Senator Jorge Lavan- dero when he was conducting an in- vestigation on corruption charges against Pinochet. The third agent was obviously from another branch of the service. "I don't care about that. But I am worried about what'll happen to us when this whole thing topples over." The main reason the "whole thing" hasn't toppled over after nearly two years of continuous protest seems to be the lack of a really coherent alter- native. "The politicians have not been up to their task," is the sad summa- tion of a Chilean journalist. "We must force them to stop their ridicul- ous political games," demanded Ro- dolfo Seguel on the day of the suc- cessful October 28 protest strike. Jos6 Ruiz de Giorgio, union leader of the petroleum workers and like Seguel a Christian Democrat, had said almost the same words during a protest-day press conference six months before. All to no avail. The Christian Democrats, by far the strongest party, lament the lack of de- mocracy but seem far more worried by a possible electoral victory by the Left, whenever elections are held, than by the problem of how to bring about these elections and get rid of Pinochet. The Communists, on the other hand, seem only to gain terrain the longer the crisis lasts. They quite rightly demand recognition by all other parties and full participation in any future democracy. But they-- consciously, some say-scared the Christian Democrats just before a "constitutional pact" on the basis of future democracy was to be signed by all parties. The party issued a very ambiguous statement on the possible use of force in ending the dictatorship. The pact was never signed. In the meantime the Communists' armed wing, the Manuel Rodriquez Patriotic Front (which they lovingly call "Manolito"), is slowly but surely increasing the pressure with bomb- ings. But according to popular wis- dom in Santiago, the killing of four carabineros in Valparaiso a few weeks ago was the work of the CNI, offering Pinochet a pretext for the new hard line. A Fragmented Opposition In between the Left and the Right are a collection of small parties: they enjoy the same amount of relative political freedom as the Christian Democrats, holding press confer- ences, negotiations, party council meetings. They complain as loudly as the Christian Democrats about hunger in Chile, yet none pose viable solu- tions. And they are incapable of ex- plaining why the opposition is so di- vided. The political spectrum from moderate socialists to Social Demo- crats is occupied not by the one or two parties one might reasonably expect, but by two dozen groups. "Historical reasons" is the main excuse-a very thin cover for what is often little more than personal conflict at the leadership level. In the short term, Pinochet can only be ousted by another general. Such a general will only act if he can find firm support for a coup among the few remaining pro-government parties, as well as in a large sector of the opposi- tion-and explicit support from Washington. "We'll offer the military an alter- native," declared Christian Demo- cratic leader Gabriel Valdes recently. As yet it is impossible to discern who has what to offer. "Everybody wants to be a Felipe Gonzalez," sighs a politician, drawing a parallel to the Spanish transition from dictatorship to democracy, "but nobody wants to take up the burden of being Adolfo Suarez. "* Meanwhile the poblaciones around Santiago are sinking ever deeper into misery and disorder. Chaos seems nearer than ever in Chile. *Suarez was the first prime minister appointed by King Juan Carlos after Franco's death. Tainted by associa- tion with the dictatorship, Suarez res- igned under pressure in early 1981.

Tags: Chile, Pinochet, repression, protests, political divisions

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