Thursday, 7 June 2012

Chile: Controversy over Pinochet documentary screening

Relatives of the disappeared in Chile have been calling for the public screening of a documentary about Augusto Pinochet to be banned. A number of groups signed a letter to president Sebastián Piñera and there has been criticism from quarters in parliament as well. The event, scheduled for Sunday, is planned by a group called Movimiento 11 de Septiembre and is being presented as a homage to the former dictatorship.

The families do not have the universal support of the human rights sector, however. For example, José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Human Rights Watch Americas, opposes a ban in the interests of free speech. This is also the official stance of the Chilean government, which points to freedom of expression as the reason why it does not have the power to stop the event.

This is a difficult issue. It's certainly in pretty poor taste when supporters of Pinochet and similar regimes can continue to gloat about their heroes in front of the victims and their relatives - but I guess that is the point of free speech, you can't just give it to the nice guys. I live in a country - Germany - where for obvious historical reasons it has been decided not to allow free speech in all circumstances concerning recent history. It is illegal here to deny the Holocaust or to display a swastika or make a Nazi salute (there are exceptions to the prohibition on the displaying of Nazi memorabilia for educational purposes - museums aren't breaking the law!). I understand why they've done it, but it's still pretty strange when you think about it, as repressing opposing viewpoints was such a central part of Nazi ideology as well. I'm not sure it's really the answer to memory debates. It would definitely encourage the "victim"/"wronged hero" stance which many of the right-wing supporters of previous miliary regimes seem to hold.

Most of the news reports explain very litte about the film itself. I found this via "paniko.cl":


From this, it certainly looks like the documentary is going to present Pinochet as saviour of a country in chaos, but I would caution that this is just a short clip.

Families of Chile's disappeared condemn homage to Pinochet (Santiago Times)
Chilean government will not stop screening of Pinochet documentary (Santiago Times)
Familiares de DD.DD piden al gobierno que intervenga para evitar homenaje a Augusto Pinochet (La Tercera)

2 comments:

settysoutham said...

Living in Chile, I have been distressed to see how much of the Allende hero-worship ignores his failures and attributes every bad thing that happened to either sabotage, conspiracy or coup. It's the flip side to the right-wing take that everything Allende did was Marxist, treasonous and seditious. Both sides have big blind spots. Something the left has rarely had to confront is why, after 16 years in power, Pinochet still won 46% of the vote in the referendum on continued military rule. I think films like this are very good for violating the orthodox thought patterns and forcing people to confront the humanity of their enemies, to recognize that pro-Pinochet does not always equal evil. But it's been a struggle, just as documents showing how many regular Germans went along to get along with the Nazis weren't published until decades after Hitler's fall.

Lillie Langtry said...

I think you're right that divisions can be pretty entrenched, they are in Argentina too. Not convinced that the documentary will do much to change that because those opposed to it won't dream of going to see it and those in favour are unquestioning Pinochet supporters (from one of the Santiago Times articles above: "He is by far the best president Chile has had... he is the one who made Chile go from being a mediocre country to the jewel of America").