‘THE DOG IS DEAD, BUT THE RABIES PERSISTS’ – union says on Pinochet’s death

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THE International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) posted a statement on its website following the December 10 death of former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.

Tens of thousands of workers were murdered under Pinochet’s 18-year, blood-soaked dictatorship that came to power in a CIA-backed coup in 1973, in which Chile’s elected left-wing leader Salvador Allende was assassinated.

In 1976, when George H W Bush was CIA director, a car bomb in Washington killed exiled Chilean politician Orlando Letelier and an American, Ronni Moffitt.

In 2000, the Blair government and its then Home Secretary Jack Straw refused to extradite Pinochet to Spain to face trial for his crimes, after he had been placed under ‘house arrest’ in Wentworth, Surrey.

The statement posted on the IUF’s website on December 14 was titled: ‘The dog is dead, but the rabies persists.’

It said: ‘Former dictator Augusto Pinochet achieved many of the things he set out to do, but by dying of natural causes in a hospital bed at a ripe old age, surrounded by loved ones and with a fan club (however small in numbers) mourning him in the streets, he doubtless realized his final and most macabre dream.

‘The facts are abundantly documented – the murders, “disappearances”, tortures and other human rights violations, as well as the sordid fortune amassed through murder, theft and arms and drug trafficking, topped off by the thinly veiled compensations for his subservience to the great global powers and for the betrayal of his people and his neighbouring nations.

‘The “timorousness” of the Chilean justice system in the Pinochet case leaves a sickeningly bitter taste in our mouths.

‘The handling of Pinochet contrasts with the vigorous attitude displayed in other cases, like that of the three Uruguayan military officers who, on Pinochet’s orders, kidnapped the chemist Eugenio Berríos and held him captive in Uruguay, under democratic rule.

‘The body of Berríos would later be found buried on an Uruguayan beach.

‘These three military officers were extradited to Chile, where they were charged and released on bail, without permission to leave the country.

‘The general, however, could go on laughing.

‘Pinochet was not an evil specter, but rather the most finely tuned product of an army bred from the start in the purest and harshest of Prussian traditions, spiked with strong doses of Nazism and Catholic fundamentalism. Pinochet and his regime turned Chile into a gigantic laboratory for the application of the most abhorrent theories of the Chicago Boys.

‘The deadly economists found a perfect executor in the butcher of Santiago, laying the foundations of an economic model that, with some variations, persists to this day.

‘Pinochet rode to power on the back of the Cold War, loaded with ammunition from the ITT Corporation; his mission was to reduce to ashes what was then one of the most organised and politically active and aware peoples of Latin America.

‘The cruelty and brutality of the repression were proportional to the fear that these popular organisations aroused in the local and global dominating classes.

‘Under his dictatorship, repression of the labour movement was total.

‘No more unions, no more talk of labour rights, no more collective bargaining agreements, wages reduced to nothing more than a handout, and a bullet for anyone who dared protest.

‘The “Chilean model” was not only built on 30 thousand disappeared, but also on a suffocated, threatened, controlled, persecuted and starved people.

‘Pinochet and his henchmen went farther than anyone else in the construction of a regime that placed no limits on business.

‘It didn’t take long for transnational corporations to perceive the enormous benefits offered by that national military complex that behaved like an occupation army, and they set up shop in Chile with great fanfare.

‘The foundations of that system remain to a great extent intact.

‘The political and legal impunity secured by Pinochet and the classes that backed him and benefited from his crimes, forces us to keep a careful watch on Chile’s future.

‘The murderer’s death should serve to unleash a decisive struggle forcing Chilean society to define the place of Pinochet – and everything he symbolises – in the country’s history, a task which means placing in those same pages of history the other face of Chile: the humanising and democratising face that remains symbolised by Salvador Allende.

‘The indications are not promising, and not only in Chile.

‘In Argentina, for example, we should be greatly alarmed by the recent and still unexplained disappearance of Julio López, a key witness in the trials against the genocidal murderer Etchecolatz, and by the relentless campaign of threats and intimidation being waged against well-known human rights activists in that country, many of whom are survivors of the “dirty war”.

‘In Brazil, President Lula continues to ignore the requests that human rights bodies have been making for years, calling on him to open the military files so that the people can learn the true story of Brazil’s dictatorship, another military regime that introduced an economic model – the “Brazilian miracle” – that preceded the model implemented by Pinochet and which, in many aspects, it heralded.

‘In Uruguay the most notorious military and police officers accused of commanding the repression under the Condor Plan – another invention of the butcher of Santiago – have been judicially charged and are awaiting trial in jail, along with the former dictator Juan María Bordaberry and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Juan Carlos Blanco.

‘These actions by Uruguay’s judiciary are a clear step forward in the quest for justice, still hindered by the Law of Expiry of the Punitive Powers of the State, whose annulment is now being sought by important sectors of society through a campaign supported by IUF Latin America.

‘Nevertheless, we still need to implement the first part of the demand voiced for so long by the left now in power: truth.

‘The reports provided by the military concerning the fate of the disappeared have been blatant disinformation operations, and here too the military files are protected in the shadows of the heavily guarded military headquarters.

‘Pinochet’s death should be a call for reflection on the powerful consequences left by the military dictatorships on the societies of Latin America.

‘It must lead us to track, analyse and expose the traces of impunity; it must reinforce our commitment to an unwavering struggle for democracy with social justice, with memory, with justice for all and with dignity.

‘Let nobody forget the butcher of Santiago… and let nobody ever fear him again!’

•A strike over pay by around 500 workers at a copper smelter plant owned by Swiss-based company Xstrata Plc in northern Chile began this week.

Isidro Cabrera, union leader at the Altonorte plant, said that the strike would continue unless the company improved its pay offer.

In a unanimous vote last weekend, union members rejected the company’s offer of around three per cent and demanded a 10 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer, feared that a strike at its mines would take place unless agreement was reached with three unions.

Overall copper production from Chile is expected to rise in 2006-07 to 5.399 million tons.

Chile is the world’s largest copper producer and exporter.

Copper smelting is dominated by a series of companies owned by state giant Codelco.

Altonorte is the only privately-owned smelter.

Altonorte has produced 297,567 metric tons of copper anodes this year.

Its main client is Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine in northern Chile – owned by the Australian consortium BHP Billiton – which was also affected by a 25-day strike earlier this year.

Altonorte also works for some Codelco operations.