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Two Obits of Chile Under Pinochet

Adam Bernstein

I wrote today of the legacy of a U.S. ambassador to Chile during the early years of the Pinochet dictatorship. It's a life story I hope readers would find of interest for how the diplomat, David H. Popper, balanced U.S. policy to support anti-Communist military regimes, against public demands from Congress and humanitarian groups that the Chilean junta stop killing, jailing and torturing its political opponents.

At one point, Mr. Popper was warned by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to separate the issues of human rights and military aid. When the ambassador is said to have ignored Kissinger's warning by challenging high-level Chilean defense officials on their human-rights record, Kissinger cabled the embassy in Santiago: "Tell Popper to cut the political science lectures" to the Chileans.

John Dinges, author of "The Condor Years," on the Pinochet era, said Mr. Popper "presided over the delivery of such an ambiguous message on human rights that the Pinochet government heard what they wanted to hear -- that the U.S. supported the dictatorship, including the repression."

I also see today the Times of London brought forth the story of a woman whose five leftist children were murdered under Pinochet's watch. It's a stark reminded of the human cost of politics.

By Adam Bernstein |  July 31, 2008; 12:58 PM ET  | Category:  Adam Bernstein
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