Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is at death's door. The 91 year old Pinochet suffered a heart attack in Santiago on his 91st birthday, prompting emergency surgery. While his condition is listed as "serious but stable", his family has made arrangements for him to receive the Catholic church's last rites.
Pinochet, who overthrew socialist President Salvador Allende in a 1973 military coup d'etat, is one of the last surviving South American right wing military dictators. Where once the military brasshat dominated nations like Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, their kind has been replaced by leftist populists like Hugo Chavez or, dully enough, actual representational democracies.
Pinochet's death will doubtlessly inconvenience those looking to put him in jail, but as always, it's easy to suspect that Pinochet is being being treated as a special case. Because of Allende's unabashed socialist leanings (yay!) and Pinochet's right wing leanings and CIA support (boo! hiss!), Chile had become something of a cause celebre for chic leftists in the 1970's and 1980's. While one certainly cannot gloss over Pinochet's deplorable record on political and human rights, it is worth noting, perhaps, that there has been very little hue or cry to put his ailing Cuban counterpart on trial. A cynic might chalk it up to Pinochet's lack of a romantic revolutionary image or Che Guevara-esque sidekick, but as we all know, I'm no cynic.
Should he recover, it remains to be seen if his farcical trial will be completed, or whether or not this frail, half dead caudillo will die without ever once accounting for his brutal rule. The smart money's on the latter.