Monday, July 21, 2008

‘Suspected leftists’ again

Reading various news items lately, one cannot help but reach the conclusion that, at various times in various parts of the world, it has historically been hazardous to one’s health to be suspected of being a leftist.

This has been true quite notably in South American countries . . .

A Chilean judge on Thursday indicted a deputy of former dictator Augusto Pinochet and two others over the disappearance of five leftists believed murdered and hurled into the ocean from a helicopter. ...

Pinochet, who died in 2006, never faced a full trial for crimes committed during his 17-year dictatorship, when the government killed about 3,000 people and tortured another 28,000 — most of them suspected leftists.

And in neighbouring Peru . . .

Peru’s disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori should not be held responsible for human rights crimes committed during his time in office, the man who ran his feared counterinsurgency network said on Monday.

Vladimiro Montesinos, who is serving a 20-year sentence for arms trafficking and corruption, took the witness stand and vigorously defended Fujimori from charges that he ordered a death squad to kill 25 suspected leftists in the 1990s, when Peru was battling the Maoist group known as the Shining Path.

Just as an aside, this seems a fascinating case. Montesinos’ testimony would seem quite convincing — ignoring the minor detail of his conviction “for arms trafficking and corruption” — after all, he “ran” Fujimori’s “feared counterinsurgency network”. His credibility as a witness might even survive the following detail:

Montesinos and Fujimori, who saw each other for the first time in eight years on Monday, did not speak but appeared to exchange knowing glances of mutual trust. [JAS: Such perceptive journalists!]

Fujimori, 69, faces up to 30 years in prison. Though his political career has ended, analysts say he his positioning his daughter, Keiko, a prominent member of Congress, to run for the presidency in 2011.

If elected, she might be able to assure better treatment or a shorter prison term for Montesinos, who was convicted in 2001. She has promised to pardon her father if she wins the presidency.

That 2011 election should be one to watch, so make a note in your diaries! In fairness to Fujimori, however, it should be noted there was method in his madness . . .

While in power, Fujimori defeated the guerrillas and brought order to a chaotic economy.

So, in spite of the systemic human rights abuses — or maybe directly because of these — perhaps Fujimori has had a bum rap...?

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic side of the continent . . .

An Argentine court sentenced two former police officers on Friday to life in prison for participating in the 1976 “dirty war” massacre of 30 people whose bodies were thrown into a pile and dynamited. ...

The massacre took place at the start of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, during which human rights groups say up to 30,000 suspected leftists were abducted and killed. An independent commission confirmed about 11,000 deaths.

And meanwhile, across the Pacific . . .

According to the National Archives and Records Service, a total of about 750,000 South Korean civilians were killed or went missing and 1.08 million non-combat North Koreans died during the [Korean War].

Of these, a 2005 survey funded by the National Human Rights Commission estimated that at least 250,000 South Korean suspected leftists were killed by their country’s army, police and militias.

More detail here:

With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula in the summer of 1950, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head. ...

Some bodies were dumped into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or the sea. Women and children were among those killed. Many victims never faced charges or trial.

The extermination campaign, carried out over mere weeks and largely hidden for a half-century, is “the most tragic and brutal chapter of the Korean War,” said historian Kim Dong Choon, a member of a 2-year-old government commission investigating the mass executions.

Of course, all this was absolutely — albeit ‘tragically’ — necessary, to put a stop to those butchering, mass-murdering leftists.



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