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The Pinochet affair has explosive worldwide implications, but the first target is Latin America. The leaders of the Cono Sur met in Brasilia and issued a statement supporting the Chilean official position. All feared that their own military could become involved like Pinochet. The Argentine government arrested a fourth general accused of crimes against humanity, but, like the other governments, it wants to wash its dirty linen at home.
All other Latin American countries are involved in different ways. Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan Indian awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle on behalf of human rights, was with the Dalai Lama a guest of honor at the Paris celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was photographed with President Chirac, and she said that the Guatemalan case should be investigated.
The most critical issue was Fidel Castro. The anti-Pinochet demonstrators were mostly leftists, some of them waving pictures of Che Guevara. Castro's victims in Spanish exile were demanding that Castro be investigated. This coincided with the publication of a book by his pathetic, alienated daughter Alma Fernandez entitled Castro's Daughter: An Exile's Memoir of Cuba (St.Martin's Press). She depicts her father as a monster. Soon after Castro's revolution, his sister found refuge in the United States and tearfully gave a similar account of him. It was hard to believe her at the time, since Castro was the hero who had overthrown the Batista dictatorship. We now await the response of the human rights activists.
Spain, which has been cultivating the Ibero-American republics, most recently at the Oporto conference of the group, now found itself the target of their recriminations. By an unfortunate coincidence, King Juan Carlos I was trying to demonstate that, unlike his grandfather Alfonso XIII, he would never tolerate a dictatorship. Therefore, to mark the human rights celebrations, he held an impressive ceremony in the Royal Palace at which he read a speech pledging support for democratic rights. There was no mention of Ibero-American ambassadors among the many guests.
Officially, Spain, Britain and France damaged their relations with Ibero-American governments. However, their peoples applauded. They were more numerous, but not necessarily right.
Ronald Hilton - 12/10/98