Extracts from General Pinochet's Statement

09 November 1998

Extracts from the first statement by former dictator General Augusto Pinochet since being arrested in London.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

There are few countries which have nothing in their past to regret.

My wife was the one who explained to me why I had been arrested, as I lay in my hospoital bed after an operation. She was in tears as she tried to speak. I was hurt and bewildered.

I had come to Britain as a Special Ambassador for my country. This year, as one previous occasions, I was greeted formally by representatives of the British government at Heathrow airport.

I always love visiting Britain. The friendship between our two countries is, of course, an historic one.

That friendship has stood the test of time. When Argentine forces occupied the Falklands in 1982, I instructed my government to provide, within the context of our neutrality, whatever assistance we could to our friend and ally. I considered this a matter of Chile's national honour.

Today, as I am in this country under arrest, I pay tribute to the sense of honour and valour of all those in this country who have shown their support, especially Margaret Thatcher, whose words have moved me beyond measure.

I am saddened that the experience of my arrest has shaken my belief in Britain. Previously, I never doubted that Britain was a country where people may move about freely. I did not believe that I would be the subject of spurious attempts by foreign prosecutors to convict me on unproven charges.

Virtually a whole generation has gone by since the painful events of 1973. Today, we understand that reconciliation is essential to peace.

We accept that reconcialiation has been brought about in Northern Ireland and South Africa. There are few countries which have nothing in their past to regret. The opening up of old wounds, bringing back into debate issues where the true facts have long since been forgotten, serves no purpose.

Chile deserves the same rights as any other country. But in the weeks since my arrest we have seen only a travesty of the truth.

Let us cast our minds back to the chaos that existed in South America in the early 1970s. The freedoms which had been so hard won from colonial domination were being crushed by Soviet-inpsired and funded military and political forces.

Chile was crippled. There was hyperinflation and a shortage of food, medicine and basic necessities. Law and order had broken down as armed paramilitary bands were killing, raping and confiscating at will.

Both chambers of parliament passed a vote of censure against Allende.

The people believed that for the survival of Chile and for the preservation of freedom in South America as a whole it was essential that Marxism was defeated and Allende's government removed.

My fellow citizens have come to terms with our nation's past. They are my true judges. This is why I shall fight this extradition request with all my spirit. And God willing, I shall then return home to Chile with my family where I hope to spend the last years of my life.