Pinochet remains a strongly divisive figure in Chilean public opinion
Chilean Executive spokesperson Andrés Chadwick asserted the government’s impartiality toward Sunday’s screening of “Pinochet,” a documentary on Chile’s former dictator, amid calls from human rights organizations and local and national politicians for President Sebastian Piñera to intervene.
“In our country, and in democracies, there is the legitimate right to express oneself,” Chadwick said. “We as government, neither favour, collaborate, participate nor take part in this type of homage”.
Senate President Camilo Escalona from the opposition Socialist Party (PS) denounced the administration’s stance.
“The government cannot keep quiet,” Sen. Escalona said. “It is true that, from a formal point of view, the law does not authorize the cancellation of the event. But it appears to me that a condemnation from the public authorities is a moral obligation”.
In response to public scrutiny, President of the Union of Retired Officials of the National Defence (UNOFAR) Adm. Jorge Llorente, defended Pinochet.
“He is by far the best president Chile has had,” Llorente said in an interview with the ORBE Agency.
When asked about the opposition to the event from human rights groups and government officials, Llorente answered: “It must be because they're very scared.”
“Pinochet’s image has been defamed, and they have tried to destroy his image,” he said. “But I will reiterate, he was the best president in Chile and he is the one who made Chile go from being a mediocre country to the jewel of America.”
Professor Alberto Coddou of the Centre for Human Rights at Universidad de Diego Portales and José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Human Rights Watch Americas, said that the event should not be cancelled.
“Stopping the event would be going back in time,” Coddou told The Santiago Times.
“Our main worry is that it could represent a denial of what happened during Pinochet's regime, such as the proven violation of human rights. Forbidding the movie screening, which is in fact a documentary and not a direct homage to Pinochet, would also make his supporters into victims and this would be the worst thing to do.”
In Chile, there is no law that prohibits inciting hate, and some consider banning the screening a violation of free speech.
“If a sector of the country feels inspired by this man, and want to re-vindicate his image, I feel like it is their right,” Vivanco told Radio ADN. “The freedom of expression and national and international standards protect the rights of this group of Chileans.”
“That sector of Chileans that are inspired by dictatorships, brutality and even corruption have the right to pay this type of homage, and the state has the obligation to take the necessary measures to guarantee the exercise of that right.” he added.
Movimiento 11 de Septiembre, the event’s organizer, told The Santiago Times that the event is merely a documentary screening, “not a homage.” About 4,000 people are expected to view the film at Teatro Caupilcán at 11:00 am on Sunday.
The documentary, “Pinochet,” by director Ignacio Zegers received the prize “Hispania de Oro” at the International Festival of Great Hispanoamerican Film (FIGCH) last March.
By Sumy Sadurni -The Santiago Times