HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AUGUSTO
Peter Kornbluh writes: Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who turned 90 November 25, spent his birthday under house arrest. Thanksgiving week he was indicted and detained for not one but two major crime sprees, the first for tax evasion and passport fraud in the corruption scandal relating to secret US bank accounts set up by Pinochet and his family in the United States containing more than $27 million. Only minutes after posting bail November 24, he was indicted again and remanded back to his mansion for human rights atrocities. Those atrocities, known as Operation Colombo, are among the most heinous committed during Chile’s dictatorship. The second indictment, on charges of “permanent kidnappings,” issued by Judge Victor Montiglio, relates to a macabre effort by Pinochet’s regime to make some of the 1,100 disappeared Chileans reappear by planting disfigured bodies on the streets of Buenos Aires with false ID cards and creating disinformation to suggest they were missing militants who had died fighting one another outside Chile. The Colombo case marks the fourth time that Pinochet has been indicted since he returned to Chile in March 2000 from his long detention in London. In two previous human rights cases he has successfully argued that he was “mentally unfit” to be prosecuted. But in the Colombo case court-appointed doctors examined him and ruled that while he suffered from mild dementia typical for his age, he was in fact fit to stand trial. At 90, Pinochet is now closer than ever to receiving the gift of justice for his many crimes against humanity.
This year’s winner of the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship is Jonathan Kozol, who has an article in this issue. The $100,000 award, administered by the Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute, is given annually to an American citizen who challenges the status quo through “socially responsible work of significance.” Kozol was honored for exposing in eloquent articles and books like Death at an Early Age and The Shame of the Nation the damage to children inflicted by class and racial inequality in public education.