By TIM JOHNSON
Herald Staff Writer
SANTIAGO, Chile -- Through cunning and guile, Gen. Augusto Pinochet ruled
Chile for nearly two decades, foiling every attempt to unseat him.
So, given his craftiness, how did he blunder into arrest in London?
The complicated answer rests basically on the friendly bilateral ties after
help to Britain during its 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
Relations were so warm, and Pinochet felt so relaxed in London, that he
declared the British capital an ``ideal'' place to live, the local El Mercurio
Indeed, Pinochet had visited Britain in 1993 and 1996 while still
commander-in-chief of the Chilean army.
``On previous visits, Gen. Pinochet had gone to see how a joint project
Chile and England to develop a missile, named El Rayo, was advancing,'' political
analyst Ricardo Israel said.
Pinochet's previous travels to England were shrouded in secrecy to sidestep
protests by Chileans forced into exile during Pinochet's 1973-90 military rule.
During those trips, the Labor Party had not taken power in Britain, and the ruling
Tories remained grateful to Chile for its help in keeping the Falklands under British
While the Chilean role during the war has never been made entirely public,
Chileans say they believe the Pinochet regime gave the Royal Air Force access to
local air bases, hoping that Britain would administer a pounding to rival Argentina.
Given Pinochet's ties to the British military establishment, the dour former
strongman may have miscalculated how his fate might change with the arrival of
Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair to power, analysts said.
Blair has promised to make British foreign policy more ethical in its application
human rights issues.
Moreover, Britain is subject to new European judicial conventions that
may tie its
hands in responding to a Spanish judge's request to interrogate the former Chilean
strongman over genocide and torture allegations.
Still unanswered is why Pinochet traveled to London to undergo surgery
Oct. 9 on
what aides say was a herniated disc, rather than being treated at home.
``One could be treated in Chile, or one could bring the [British] surgeon
said Israel, the analyst.
Modern Chilean hospitals perform far more complex medical procedures, and,
given the lengthy recovery time from back surgery, some Chileans wonder if
Pinochet did not actually receive other treatment for a more dire illness.
His current medical condition has not been made public.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald