The arrest in London last October of Chile’s aging former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, has, if nothing else, revealed some disturbing political fault lines that reach around the globe and even criss-cross the Vatican.
The eighty-three-year-old senator-for-life endures house arrest in a posh English country home awaiting the outcome of extradition hearings that may land him in a courtroom in Spain. Meanwhile, lawyers, activists, politicians, cardinals, and even the pope are arguing over his fate as well as related issues of national sovereignty and impunity for human-rights abusers.
In mid-January, I returned to one of the epicenters of this quake: Santiago, Chile. Under a gritty, gray sky, in the heart of the downtown shopping district, only blocks away from the site of Pinochet’s bloody 1973 coup d’état, I walked alongside a demonstration organized by the Families of the Detained-Disappeared. Faces were familiar to me from the years I had served in Chile as a Maryknoll missioner. The protesters, mostly women, carried pictures of loved ones on placards with the words, "Where are they?" Even under civilian rule their question has not been answered satisfactorily. As they marched, they shouted their support for the Spanish judge who is trying to bring Pinochet to justice. They also demanded an end to impunity.
I have long considered the Families of the Detained-Disappeared the conscience of Chile....