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Views in brief

January 26, 2007 | Page 12

Pinochet's accomplices
Borat doesn't help our side
Time to close Hutto prison

Pinochet's accomplices

CHILEANS HAD plenty to celebrate this New Year's. Just weeks before 2006 came to an end, the news that hated dictator Augusto Pinochet had died brought joy to millions in Chile and around the world.

On September 11, 1973, Pinochet came to power through a violent military coup supported by the U.S. During his 17-year rule, Pinochet turned the Andean nation into a laboratory for state terror and the neoliberal politics that would drive millions into poverty throughout the region in subsequent decades.

Amid fireworks, champagne and shouts of "¡Él que no salta es Pinochet!" (If you don't jump you're Pinochet!), I had the good fortune of ringing in the New Year in Chile with a Chilean friend of mine who grew up in exile in Norway. Her parents won a "Pinochet scholarship" to that country after having occupied the Venezuelan embassy with other students in 1977 demanding refugee status.

Her father, a teenager and student leader, had been among the thousands rounded up and tortured in the national stadium in the wake of the coup that brought Pinochet to power in 1973. He wasn't murdered, as an estimated 3,000 were, but survived underground until he hopped the embassy fence. His family was harassed and his brother detained and tortured to find his whereabouts.

The story of my friend's family is not an unusual one--thousands of families were torn apart by the violence of dictatorship. These families' joy at the dictator's death is tempered by a sense of justice denied, echoed by the cover of one Chilean magazine, The Clinic, that ran the headline "El perro muerto--se fue sin pagar" (The dead dog--he left without paying), alongside a photo of the bloated face of the former dictator Pinochet's corpse, with a superimposed Hitler moustache.

Pinochet narrowly escaped trial for his crimes, but his accomplices are still alive in Chile and abroad. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger not only had a role in the coup, but helped Pinochet export his model of repressive sadism to neighboring Argentina, Bolvia, Paraguay and Brazil through "Plan Condor" that coordinated information among those countries' secret police forces.

It's time Kissinger and his ilk were held responsible.
Karl Swinehart, Los Angeles

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Borat doesn't help our side

IN THEIR views on the movie Borat, both Brian Jones ("Comin' to America," November 17) and Brian Lenzo ("Too hard on SW's review," December 15) end up trivializing the bigotry that permeates the movie and the world.

While the movie has funny moments where it shows and exposes the deep prejudice embedded in American society (for example, how crazy right-wing evangelicals are), the problem is in how the movie does so.

In a racist society like ours, making fun of racism (or sexism and homophobia) by being racist does more to perpetuate racism than undermine it. Not only does the movie perpetuate anti-Muslim prejudice (Crazy Muslims don't let women drive! Let's liberate them!), but the whole portrayal of Kazakhstan, the people and culture, perpetuates racist ideas about the "third world" in general: that people in "third world" countries are backwards, dumb and poor (They can't run their own countries--let's do it for them!).

Average Americans know nothing about Kazakhstan. Most of my college students can't even locate it on a map. It sickens me that, for many people, this movie is their first introduction.

So while progressives can find instances of humor in Borat and a TV show like South Park, let's be clear that other people are laughing for different reasons than ours; because they are racist, or think it is okay to be racist (South Park is written by a couple of libertarians, by the way). This is not what "moving consciousness forward" looks like.

While the title is unfortunate, if progressives want a good laugh, you should watch Roseanne Barr's Blonde and Bitchin', available on DVD.
Michael Estrada, San Francisco

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Time to close Hutto prison

PLEASE THANK Cindy Beringer for the article she did on the Hutto prison camp in Taylor, Texas ("Immigrant families behind bars," January 19).

It is really a criminal act that has, up until now, been gotten away with by the ruling class. It's a pretext for three companies to make profit.

We do intend to hold a vigil next month under the national spotlight. Again, thanks. We need to spread the word. This will take grassroots awareness to defeat.
Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr., Del Rio, Texas

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