Thursday, October 20, 2005

The vise closes on Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet, the Right's most-loved sadistic dictator since Saddam Hussein fell out of favour, is going to have his day in court, it seems, whether he wants it or not. Chile's Supreme Court has just stripped the doddering old fascist of his legal immunity--so that he can face charges of tax evasion.

Well, it worked for Al Capone. They couldn't nail him for all the killings, including his well-known celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, so they got him on the tax thing and sent him up.

So far, Pinochet's defence lawyers have held off justice in several human rights cases by arguing that the Butcher of Santiago is too ill for a criminal trial. They're expected to pull the same ruse this time. But the complex tax-avoidance schemes in which Pinochet was involved, according to human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz, could only have been carried out by someone of completely sound mind.

Even conservative Chileans, who had long rationalized Pinochet's bloody reign as not corrupt, at least, are upset over revelations that Pinochet and his family hid millions of dollars in more than a hundred foreign bank accounts. His wife and youngest son actually did a little time for this, after a trial this past August. Some of the money, prosecutors charge, came from kickbacks from European weapons manufacturers.

Don't worry, though, Augusto-- if you're really as gaga as your mouthpieces claim, you won't even know you're in jail. And your good friend Maggie Thatcher might bring you flowers on visitors' day, no doubt accompanied by her not-so-strange bedfellow Jack Straw. Nice to have steadfast friends in all the Right places.

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