The Miami Herald
Nov. 25, 2005

New Pinochet charges lead to house arrest

Augusto Pinochet suffered a second legal reversal this week with his indictment on human-rights charges.


LIMA - The legal web surrounding former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet tightened further Thursday when the former dictator was charged with responsibility for the kidnapping and death of six leftist activists during his iron-fisted rule.

It was the second time this week that Pinochet was indicted, and it means that he will mark his 90th birthday today under house arrest.

A birthday luncheon planned for today at home among family and close friends was canceled.

''The indictments have left him in no mood for the lunch,'' said Guillermo Garín, a retired general and spokesman for Pinochet.

Thursday's decision came only hours after his attorneys posted bail following his indictment Wednesday on unrelated corruption charges.

In that case, Pinochet was charged with evading $2.4 million in taxes and using false passports in secretly depositing more than $20 million in foreign bank accounts.

This week's developments mark the further decline of a man who, after overthrowing the leftist democratically-elected President Salvador Allende in a bloody 1973 coup, ruled for 17 years and once said that ``not even a leaf moves in Chile without me knowing it.''

Pinochet thought he would be remembered as the man who saved his country from the clutches of communism, but instead he is living his final years in disgrace, politically isolated, his support dwindling to a precious few.


The latest indictment alleges that Pinochet helped plan the kidnapping of six members of the leftist Revolutionary Left Movement in 1974.

The kidnappings were part of Operation Colombo, in which 119 leftists were kidnapped and never seen again.

Officials of the secret police, DINA, created Operation Colombo as a disinformation campaign to hide the kidnappings and disappearances.

They blamed the deaths on an internal struggle among leftist groups, planting fake accounts of this supposed clash in Argentine and Brazilian magazines that received wide coverage in Chile. Thursday's indictment occurred after a Chilean judge forced Pinochet and Manuel Contreras, who headed the DINA, to meet face-to-face last week and discuss who was responsible for Operation Colombo.


Each former general blamed the other, according to an account made public.

Pinochet said that Contreras was a rogue operator who hid his dirty deeds from his superior.

Contreras countered that he and Pinochet met on a daily basis and that he took orders from Pinochet.

Pinochet was indicted twice before on charges of being responsible for the deaths and torture of opponents, but courts ruled that he was mentally incapacitated to stand trial.

A new set of medical tests, however, determined that while he suffers from mild dementia and other assorted maladies, he is fit enough to stand trial -- a view disputed by Pinochet's attorneys.