Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that the death of Margaret Thatcher “is a great loss for the world”, while relatives and followers of Augusto Pinochet recalled how close the two leaders were and the support extended to the military regime.
“She was a brave woman who confronted the problems and had always an attitude to solve the problems. I believe it is a great loss for Britain and for the whole world” said the conservative leader during a public ceremony in Santiago.
Piñera added that Ms Thatcher made a great contribution to the downfall of the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain and to have freedom and democracy expand to all corners of the world”.
Likewise Pinochet followers of the deceased dictator Pinochet also regretted the death of the British leader recalling the closeness and support that the former prime minister (1979/1990) extended to the Chilean military regime (1973/1990).
The friendship of Thatcher with Pinochet was exposed when the UK at the beginning of the eighties lifted the arms sales blockade on Chile (standing since 1973) and sold the country military equipment worth the equivalent of 160 million dollars of our time.
That decision inspired the “gratitude” Pinochet followers had towards Margaret Thatcher, revealed retired General Guillermo Garín who was second in command of the Chilean Army and spokesperson for the deceased dictator (2006).
Furthermore Chile although formally neutral offered valuable logistics support to the UK during the Falkland Islands conflict with Argentina in 1982, as was confirmed by the former head of the Chilean Air Force and member of the ruling junta, Fernando Matthei.
“Thatcher was grateful for what Chile had done for Britain”, recalled Augusto Pinochet Hiriart, the eldest son of the former dictator.
“In the situation we were going through we couldn’t support the Argentines. It was pure logic since they were (Argentina) acting against us and a few years before in December 1978 were ready to invade us over the Beagle channel conflict”, said Pinochet Jr in reference to the sovereignty dispute between the two countries over three islands in the extreme south of South America.
Years later Thatcher was also very critical of Pinochet’s retention in London in 1998, following on an arrest warrant from Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón.
“She had no qualms about putting all her efforts and prestige in support of the liberation of Pinochet from such an injustice, without taking into account what was political correct”, said retired General Garín.
Pinochet regime former Foreign Minister Alex Schweitzer recalled that “Thatcher acknowledged Chile’s position during the Falklands conflict and this she gallantly showed when she visited Pinochet at the time he was retained in London”.
But Pinochet and Thatcher’s coincidences were not limited to geopolitical affairs but also in the economic field, both strong supporters of liberal policies.
“Pinochet was a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher policies but these policies had been first implemented in Chile before even President Ronald Reagan applied them in the US and Thatcher in the UK”, said Schweitzer.
General Garin added that during “the military regime, Thatcher was well updated. She was well aware about what had happened in Chile, the origins of the military government and also well briefed on all the modernization that liberal policies represented for Chile and its economy”
“Pinochet had great affection, closeness and gratitude for the courage Ms Thatcher showed when standing up for the Chilean government despite the massive, global communicational campaign launched by the Soviet Union” said Garín.