The aftermath of General Augusto Pinochet's funeral, and legacy, continue to reverberate in Chilean politics and the Chilean Armed Forces: the General responsible for the Metropolitan Santiago area, one of the country's most important was sacked Friday following statements on support of the 1973 military coup and praise for the dictator.
General Ricardo Hargreaves had only spent one day as commander of the Santiago garrison when details of an interview he granted La Prensa Austral from Punta Arenas, his previous post as head of Chile's sensitive extreme south military region, reached the Chilean capital. "The military must restrain from political statements or even close to political statements. His words endangered the profound trust of Chileans in the Army", said Defense Secretary Vivianne Blanlot. General Hargreaves thus becomes the second officer to be punished in 24 hours for having publicly stated support and adherence to the military coup of September 1973 which ousted the elected government of Socialist president Salvador Allende, and for a superlative description of Pinochet's 17 years of dictatorship. The other sacked officer was Captain Augusto Pinochet Molina, grandson of the General who during the funeral ceremony unexpectedly took to the podium to praise the 1973 coup, compared the dictator "who defeated Marxism in the midst of the Cold War" as one of the world's great leaders and blasted the Judiciary for going after his grandfather and family. General Hargreaves last Wednesday told La Prensa Austral in Punta Arenas that he shared and continues to share the "Pinochet cause" which begun on September 11, 1973. "I'm an admirer of General Pinochet, he accomplished his duty under very special circumstances in a very specific moment", said General Hargreaves and he's a man "to whom we are highly indebted, not only the Army but the whole country". "My feelings are of acknowledgement towards a man who was able to lead a great responsibility in a moment when the country was absolutely in disarray and in collapse. He took the responsibility, he fought for what he believed was important for Chile", said the former military officer. "I participated of that cause. I shared it completely and continue to share it and I believe what General Pinochet achieved is what the country today is enjoying: a tremendous well being and a great forward thrust, that undoubtedly is Pinochet's great legacy to Chile". Regarding the riots and protests during Pinochet's funeral Hargreaves described extremely out of place, "I had the feeling that as a country we have not learnt enough about this matter". The La Prensa Austral interview was published three days after the dictator's death last Sunday December 10. "This is not about Pinochet, but rather about all the military", said Minister Blanlot, "they must give guarantees every day that never again, for political reasons, interest or temptations, will they ever use those weapons which have been entrusted to them, against the people". "Armed Forces are here mainly to protect all Chileans from external threats", said Blanlot and "Chileans must trust their Armed Forces because in an act of supreme trust they have been given the weapons to defend us". "We're struggling for the Armed Forces to recover the profound love and trust of the people, and situations as these, only help to endanger that mutual profound trust", added Blanlot. According to Chilean press reports as soon as Army Commander in Chief General Oscar Izurieta was informed of the interview he called General Hargreaves and personally requested his resignation. Hargreaves assumed full responsibility of his statements and accepted the resignation request. Chilean political analysts considered the incident far more serious than that of Pinochet's grandson because it involved a "three stars" general at the peak of his career, a potential candidate for Commander of the Army, which reveals how strong the support for the former dictator's leadership remains in the services.