Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pinochet's Daughter Requests Asylum in U.S.

So Lucia Pinochet, the daughter of Gen. Augusto Pinochet -- mass murderer and former head of the military junta that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 -- thinks she's a victim of political persecution and wants the United States to grant her asylum following her arrest at Dulles International Airport on an outstanding warrant from the Chilean government. She's charged with tax evasion and carrying a false passport.

Lucia insists that she did nothing wrong and was only indicted because Chile's current leaders are on a political campaign to "defame each and every member of [her] family."

A pretty cheeky complaint, considering the atrocities for which the Pinochet regime is responsible.

Among its dramatic findings, the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture appointed by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos found that 94 percent of the people detained in the aftermath of the coup reported having been tortured. One of the most common methods of torture, reported in more than a third of the cases, was the application of electrical shocks.

Of the 3,400 women who testified, nearly all said that they had suffered sexual torture. More than 300 said that they were raped, including 11 who were pregnant when detained. Many of these women said they had never reported their experiences before.

The worst period of torture was immediately after the military coup in September 1973. More than 18,000 people -- two-thirds of the total number -- were tortured during the four months after the coup, the commission said. Detentions were indiscriminate, and most of the victims were innocent civilians. The commission identified more than 1,000 sites used to torture prisoners, including schools and hospitals as well as police stations and military installations.

Another 5,266 people were tortured from January 1974 until August 1977, a period during which secret military intelligence agencies, such as the Directorate of National Intelligence (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia, or DINA) and the Combined Command (Comando Conjunto) took over the repression of left-wing dissidents from other military units.

Ms. Pinochet may find it quite onerous to be charged with tax and passport fraud; and I'm sure being the daughter of a psychopath has its difficult side, but the hundreds of Chileans whose bodies were thrown into the ocean, tied to heavy pieces of railroad track so they would sink, weren't able to get asylum in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave -- so I don't see why Ms. Pinochet should get asylum simply because the consequences of being indicted for tax evasion and carrying a fraudulent passport are unpleasant.

And she probably won't. Although the State Department said that Ms. Pinochet would be interviewed by an asylum judge, Chile's foreign minister, Ignacio Walker, doesn't expect her application to be approved.

Walker said the U.S. government told Chile on Wednesday that Pinochet was being transferred to an immigration service detention center and that a decision could be made on her request for asylum within three days.

"We are absolutely confident that it will be rejected," Walker said.

Pinochet "was the target of an international arrest warrant issued by a Chilean judge," said Chilean presidential spokesman Osvaldo Puccio.

Right. How would it look for the United States to grant asylum to the daughter of a man who presided over one of the most brutal dictatorships of the last century? Particularly when the U.S. supported the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende's democratically elected government and put Gen. Pinochet into power? It would be a public relations disaster, maybe even more so because of the odd coincidence of the month and day in 1973 on which the coup occurred: September 11.

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