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SOCIALIST PARTY member JOHN REID - a regular attender on the 16-month long anti-Pinochet picket - reports on the anger, dismay and sense of betrayal as news was received that Home Secretary Jack Straw was letting the brutal dictator off the hook and allowing him to return to Chile.
FEDOR CASTILLO was held prisoner in Santiago football stadium after the 1973 military coup and tortured by Pinochet's thugs. He still bears the mental and physical scars of his ordeal, including problems with his lungs.
Fedor still finds it too upsetting to talk in detail of his ordeal as do others on the picket. He remembers his two dear comrades and friends, Alex Jakar and Ulysses Marino, who were held with him and were tortured, murdered and disappeared.
Fedor says: "this is a political deal not humanitarian, all documentation on Pinochet's tests and the secret talks between Britain and Chile should be made public".
Another person on the picket who declined to be named also suffered brutal torture. "Straw will have to explain himself to the British public and the victims of Pinochet. When Pinochet returns to Chile and takes up his post as Senator, he has said he will return to public life. He has been fit and mentally alert enough to make statements and to entertain guests and politicians."
MABELLE BORJA'S comments were damning: "We have been shafted by New Labour, betrayed by a man of straw."
It seems that a political deal was drawn up as early as last September in New York between Chilean foreign minister Juan Gabriel Valdes and British foreign secretary Robin Cook. As an ally during the Falklands War and as a market for exports, British capitalism is anxious to fully restore its relations with Chile.
Unfit for trial?
PINOCHET WAS tested by doctors who, according to Straw, declared him unfit to stand trial. He allegedly failed a senility test, although the documentation has not been released.
During his stay in Britain this allegedly senile man has met with and talked with a whole range of right-wing politicians including Thatcher.
It now emerges that the doctors who examined Pinochet did not state he was unfit to stand trial and conceded that he could recover.
Pinochet's alleged senility is as convincing as that of former Guinness boss Ernest Saunders who was released from prison supposedly suffering from pre-senial dementia and then made a miraculous recovery. Expect the same miraculous recovery when Pinochet returns to Chile.
Pinochet will attempt to return in triumph but he has been humiliated over the last 16 months. A new generation of workers are aware of his brutal and bloody legacy. Over 70% of Chileans think he should answer for his crimes.
The working class of Chile now must exert mass pressure to put this tyrant on trial and make him answer for his crimes.
In The Socialist 21 January 2000: