Pinochet - a terrorist against his own people and a friend of British capital

12 December 2006

Predictably, Thatcher was "deeply saddened" by the death of her old friend, the former Chilean dictator, Pinochet, who died in the best comfort that money can buy in his own country.

Pinochet was not just a retired dictator. He was responsible for the murder of a generation of political and union activists in Chile. After his coup, in 1973, the country's working class districts were raided by the army and tens of thousands were herded into stadiums. Many were machine-gunned, others died under torture or "disappeared" in the jails of the new regime. Few survived this terror.

Subsequently, Pinochet conspired with other dictators in "Operation Condor" - sending death squads to murder South American political refugees across the world. And for the following 17 years, the Chilean working class remained strangled by a regime of systematic torture and assassinations.

For the main foreign investors in Chile, Britain and the US, Pinochet was a godsend. His regime crushed the working class resistance in Chile's mines and factories. The City's big shareholders were reassured: the massive profits which had been flowing out of Chile would no longer be threatened by the militancy of its workers.

When push came to shove, during the Falklands War, the Chilean dictator gave more proof of his loyalty to Western capital, by supporting Thatcher's claim on a territory over which, clearly, Britain had no rights whatsoever.

Thatcher was not alone in showing respect for Pinochet. When he was arrested on his arrival in Britain, in 1998, under an international warrant issued by a Spanish court, then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, did not put him in Harmondsworth detention centre, as an "undesirable immigrant". He enjoyed the royal luxury of Wentworth Estate, before being allowed to return freely to Chile!

Pinochet may have been known as the "butcher of Santiago" in his own country, he may have been a terrorist against his own population, but he always toed the line of capitalist interests. And that was good enough for a Labour government which falls over backwards to please the City.