General Augusto Pinochet, who died in December 2006 at the age of 91, continues to stir controversy. The man and his era have been the subject of countless books and articles, and the human rights violations during his 17-year-rule as Chile’s president have received worldwide condemnation. But readers will welcome two recent books that provide the first in-depth accounts available in English of Pinochet’s long sojourn in public life. The Pinochet Regime by Carlos Huneeus and The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet by Heraldo Muñoz, together with a PBS documentary aired in August 2008 that focuses on a Chilean judge’s struggle to bring Pinochet to court, represent an important contribution to our understanding of what happened in Chile—and why.
Pinochet ruled Chile from September 11, 1973, when the Chilean armed forces overthrew socialist President Salvador Allende, until March 1990. Pinochet continued as commander-in-chief of the Chilean army until March 1998, when he took a lifetime Senate seat reserved for former presidents. In October 1998, he was detained in London in response to an extradition request from Spain for human rights violations. Although a lengthy legal battle resulted in a decision supporting extradition, the British government allowed him to return to Chile in March 2000 because of his deteriorating health. He spent the remainder of his life combating efforts to try him for atrocities along with legal charges involving deposits in U.S. banks.
The three works explore the basic elements of the Pinochet career and legacy in different ways—each of them effective. Huneeus and Muñoz both lived through the era as political casualties of the Pinochet regime, but Huneeus provides a more dispassionate, analytical look at the politics of the era, while Muñoz explores the Pinochet era through the prism of his personal experiences. The Judge and the General, produced and directed by Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco, uses historical footage and recent interviews to weave a compelling picture of the Pinochet era, and the attempt by Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán to force the general to answer for his human rights crimes…
Tags: Carlos Hunees, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Heraldo Munoz, Patricio Lanfranco, Paul E. Sigmund, Pinochet, The Dictator's Shadow, The Judge & the General