It’s rather too easy to tut at Chileans celebrating the death of General Augusto Pinochet and to agree with those who tried to take justice to him that international law moves too slowly. It would have been far better for him to face trial. But we didn’t live through those years. And there is something poetic about Pinochet kicking the bucket on Human Rights Day.
Importantly, the world has moved on a little. There is hope that Pinochet’s arrest in London set a precedent, as he only escaped trial through illness. The USA’s reaction implies regret for supporting his regime: ‘Our thoughts today are with the victims of his reign and their families.’
But Thatcher cannot forget he was her friend; Thatcher and Pinochet were political soul mates. His helping Britain win the Falklands War (help the Iron Lady has claimed made him our bezzy-mate for eternity) was mere icing on the cake of their relationship.
The link that predates and is stronger than the Falklands War is monetarist economics. In common with Thatcher, the economic ideas of Milton Friedman guided Pinochet to such an extent that when her Minister of Trade, Cecil Parkinson, visited Chile he proclaimed: ‘It is very similar to what we are trying to develop now in Great Britain.’
At least Freidman later admitted he got things wrong. Thatcher never has and never will. Her supporters pretend her loving Pinochet was out of character, but her silence on Iraq since the 1991 war shows she still remembers Saddam Hussein as a friend and her staunch support for PW Botha, apartheid South Africa’s most vicious face, remains unforgotten (even though David Cameron’s apologised on the party’s behalf). And yet she remains the Tory’s sacred cow.