Document-maven and father, John Dinges, writes in the Huffington Post and CIPER about John and Cindy’s vacation to the south of Chile to eat salmon and ride horses, to Santiago to meet with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and to Vina del Mar to celebrate the New Year. Relevant documents are here and here.
“The trip was arranged by Chile’s ambassador to the United States, Hernan Felipe Errazuriz. According to a contemporary government document obtained from Chile, Errazuriz arranged for a special government liaison to help McCain while in Chile for the “strictly private” visit, and described him as “one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy.”
“McCain, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition in Chile, as far as could be determined from a thorough check of U.S. and Chilean newspaper records and interviews with top opposition leaders.”
“McCain’s visit with Pinochet took place at a moment when the Chilean strongman held virtually unrestricted dictatorial power and those involved in public, democratic opposition were exposed to great risk.”
It came also at a moment when “methods of torture reported include beatings, electric shocks to the genitals and other parts of the body and rape of women prisoners,” according to an Associated Press report.
Only 12 days later Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy was welcomed with eggs and a road blockade when he visited in a show of support to the Catholic Church and human rights groups.
It is also the year in which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a review of the human rights situation in Chile, from 1973 to 1985.
It was published in September 1985. Here are some excerpts.
Under the section, Right to Personal Liberty
“As may be seen from the foregoing account, the right to personal freedom has suffered a sustained deterioration because of the measures adopted by the Government of Chile during the period covered by this report. The periods of preventive detention have increased, from 48 hours under the earlier system to 20 days in the situation the present regime provides for. “
That might seem of interest to McCain.
Under the section, Political Rights at Present
“The intolerance of any form of opposition by the Government of Chile that follows from the exposition in Section C of this Chapter, and the absence of channels of participation of the Chilean population as a consequence of the rigid application of the provisions of the 1980 Constitution, have helped to generate serious social problems which have begun to emerge more forcefully since 1983.”
So, in case the situation in Chile is not clear enough, a final section from the report concluding:
“It must therefore be concluded that the right to personal freedom has been and is seriously violated by the Government of Chile, which is consequently creating a pervasive state of insecurity in the population and giving rise to conditions for the commission of extremely serious violations of the right to physical integrity and life, as follows from the accounts contained in the respective chapters.”
That might be of some interest to McCain.
1985 was also the year in which a team of five doctors visited Chile as a delegation of the American Committee for Human Rights. According to press reports at the time, the group, citing first-hand accounts of torture victims, said that Chilean physicians were aiding the Chilean security apparatus in an effort kill less victims and make torture more effective. The job… “examine the blindfolded victims to assess before, during and after how much torture the victim is able to withstand.”
“Since 1981 the US State Dept has recorded 286 cases of torture in Chile with the number increasing each year. Statistics kept by the Chilean Commission for Human Rights are more than three times higher.
In the past six months, however, the focus of the torture has apparently shifted from extracting information from political prisoners to “communicating with the population about the reign of terror that now exists, said Dr. Robert Lawrence, Chief of medicine at Cambridge Hospital.”
McCain. How could you? What has changed in your judgment between then and now?
From the Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog, comes the McCain campaign’s response.
“There is a huge difference between a junior Congressman meeting a dictator and a President holding unconditional summit meetings with dictators. As the cable describing the meeting recounts, Congressman McCain said meeting with Pinochet was like talking to the head of the John Birch Society. John McCain was a key Republican supporter of Chile’s transition to democracy and led on numerous legislative initiatives, including securing U.S. funding for the plebiscite which ended Pinochet’s rule.”