Pinochet in Suburbia (aka Pinochet's Last Stand) (2006)

 

 

 

Director:     Richard Curson Smith. 

Starring:     Derek Jacobi (Senator Pinochet),  Phyllida Law (Lucia Pinochet),  Peter Capaldi (Andy McEntee),  Yolanda Vazquez (Nicole Drouilly),  Anna Massey (Baroness Thatcher),  Patricia Villa (Cleaner),  Daniel Cerqueira (Victor Jobim),  Tim McMullan (Di Parfrey),  Pip Torrens (Michael Caplan),  Michael Maloney (Jack Straw),  Alex Blake (Adam),  Susan Wooldridge (Pam Harris),  Natasha Williams (Nurse),  Gethin Anthony (William Straw),  Vincent Curson Smith (Antonio).

 in 1998 British authorities arrest the ex-dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

General Augusto Pinochet overtook Chile in a violent military coup in 1973.  During his 17 year rule he ruthlessly suppressed all opposition to his regime.  In 1998 the retired general visited Great Britain on a vacation that was to change his life and the prospects for dictators worldwide forever. 

September 22, 1998.  Pincochet is at a British airport.  On the streets of London he sees a young woman with a Che t-shirt and is disgusted.  Andy McEntee, chairman of Amnesty International, United Kingdom, speaks with Nicole Drouilly, Chilean exile and activist, on the phone.  Nicole tells Andy that Pinochet is here. 

Pinochet goes to his hotel.  A Chilean housekeeper recognizes him and reports it to other Chileans.  Victor Jobim, Chilean Special Envoy, arrives to speak with Pinochet.  Pinochet has come for an operation in a private hospital.  Victor tells him Spain wants to bring him to trial.  Andy speaks with Juan Garces in Madrid.  Spain wants justice for the many Spanish victims murdered in Chile by the military government.  In all the Chilean military government murdered  3,000 with another 1,200 who just simply "disappeared".

Andy speaks with various agencies to get them to arrest Pinochet.  The all say they do not have jurisdiction in the matter.  Andy goes to the police.  The fellow he speaks with asks him why would the outcome be any different from other failed attempts to have Pinochet arrested.  Andy responds:  "Because we've now had international arrests for war crimes in Rwanda, in the Balkans."  He says that an extradition order from Spain can be used as the source of the authority to arrest the former dictator. Andy works on getting an arrest warrant from Garces.

An article in the Guardian screams "A Murderer among Us".  Jack Straw, British Home Secretary, offers his government's full support to the Spanish.  The police receive their Warrant of Arrest. 

October 16, 1998, 11:15 p.m.  The police come to the private hospital to put Pinochet under arrest.  The charges are read to him.  On television the BBC News reports that Pinochet has been arrested.  From 1973 to 1990 he and his government murdered Spanish citizens with the support of the United States.  Nicole calls Andy to tell him how very happy she is about the arrest.  Andy says he will use Nicole as his point of contact with the Chilean community in Britain. 

Michael Caplan is Pinochet's UK defense lawyer.  He talks with Pinochet and says that no head of state has been prosecuted abroad.  Lady Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain, is deeply disgusted that Pinochet has been arrested.  Jack Straw's son tells his father that he did well.  Outside the private hospital the Chileans stage demonstrations shouting "Murderer Pinochet.  Now is the time to pay four your crimes."  Mrs. Thatcher has a tirade published in the Times

October 28, 1998.  Bow Street Court.  Day 13 under arrest. 

November 4, 1998.  Proceedings begin in the House of Lords to review the case against Pinochet.  Nicole is given training in public relations to help better their presentation to the British public.  One suggestion from the expert is that they should not display their feelings for revenge against Pinochet.  The man is so insensitive that Nicole has to give him a dose of reality.  Her sister Jacquline was taken in October of 1974.  She was raped repeatedly on her bed before they took her away.  Nicole's anger overwhelms the expert a bit. 

Day 40 under arrest.  November 25.  A majority verdict from a panel of five Law Lords will decide General Pinochet's fate. The decision goes three to two against Pinochet. 

Royal Wentworth Park Estate, Surrey.  General Pinochet is to go before the court in early December.  He is being held at the estate under house arrest.  He tells his handlers:  "None of this is acceptable."  Pinochet has to be accompanied by a police officer even when he goes to the bathroom.  The police woman says that they are just following the Geneva Conventions in order to prevent self-harm or suicide. 

Pinochet appears in court.  He is presently a senator in the Republic of Chile.  The judges read the charges to the defendant:  torture, attempted murder and the taking of hostages.  Pinochet says he does not recognize the authority of the court.  (Pinochet's defense team will try to challenge the one of the Law Lord's biases.)

December 17, 1998.  The defense team wins a new hearing before the Law Lords (the British Supreme Court).  The court made its decision because Lord Charles Hoffman had close links with a campaign group that took part in the hearing.  This decision was the first time in one thousand years that a decision of the Law Lord's was overturned. 

Early January, 1999.  A new panel of Law Lords is set up.  Andy predicts that this time, the defense team will go on the attack against the case for extradition.  The U.N. Torture Convention was not signed by the UK in Spain until late 1988.  Nicole and her team of Chileans decide that their demonstrations need to create spectacle to get across to the British public the brutal nature of the crime for which Pinochet must answer.

Day 110 under arrest.  Pinochet is staying while his family flies back to Chile. 

Day 115.  Mrs. Thatcher pays a visit to Pinochet.  She says that she is ashamed of what her government has done to him.  She assures the general that the wheel is turning in their favor now.  Pinochet thanks Lady Thatcher.  Nicole gets permission to set up small crosses each with a picture of a victim for everyone of the victims of Pinochet on Parliament Square. 

Day 143.  Pinochet apologizes to the woman police officer for his rude behavior to her when he first came to the estate.  He learns that she is engaged to be married. 

In court Pinochet denies that he ever gave an order for torture.  He refuses to answer the question about who is responsible for the torture that occurred in Chile. 

March 24, 1999.  The Law Lords decide to side with the challenge to the extradition case.  Nicole is very upset.  Mrs. Pinochet returns from Chile.  Jonathan Powell, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, goes to Jack Straw to put pressure on him to drop the entire case.  He tells Straw:  ". . . don't get out of step."  Mrs. Thatcher again visits Pinochet.  She films a video there in support of Pinochet.  She calls him the "savior of Chile".  That is thought to be a big strong so they use a little less flattering term.  She says:  "Today is Pinochet's day."  But none of this changes Pinochet's pessimism.  He tells his wife:  "Nobody can help us here.  We are alone."

April 15, 1999.  Pinochet has been tied up in Britain for six months.  Andy has an extradition order and Jack Straw says that the extradition can go ahead.  Nicole's living sister Michele arrives.  She wants to be with Nicole to see Pinochet in court.  Mr. Caplan files an appeal.  The resentful Mrs. Pinochet says to him:  "You are a cat running out of lives, Mr. Caplan."  Caplan explains that he wants to stall the extradition case.  Michele tells Nicole that their "disappeared" sister was four months pregnant.  The Chilean envoy tries to make the case that Pinochet will face justice in Chile.  He warns that if Pinochet dies while in Britain, the British will have made him a Chilean martyr.  The envoy floats the idea that perhaps Pinochet can get out of Britain for medical reasons.  This would be an easy way out for Britain. 

Three weeks later the High Court will decide if Pinochet's extradition can be upheld.   They rule for the extradition.  Chile asks for Pinochet's release on medical grounds.  It is said that there is a risk of possible cerebral hemorrhages.  At first Pinochet rejects the idea of getting out of Britain on medical grounds.  In fact, he curses up a storm over the very idea. 

Day 394.  The woman police officer goes on leave to get married.  Pinochet wishes her "Good luck". 

Pinochet decides to pretend he is too feeble and senile to stay in Britain.  The British ask him to undergo independent medical and psychological tests.  Pinochet resents it but does go through the tests.  The tests are believed to show that Pinochet is not fit for trial.  The decision is made by Straw not to extradite Pinochet.  Nicole is upset again.  She had just collected 70,000 signatures against Pinochet.  Andy consoles her by saying that it was all just a political decision, pure and simple. 

The woman police officer returns to the estate.  It's a very different Pinochet that she sees.  She is suspicious and wonders what the old man is up to. 

March 2, 2000.  Pinochet's last day in Britain.  Pinochet leaves for Chile.  He had been in Britain for sixteen and one-half months. 

Twenty-four hours later Pinochet gets off the airplane.  Once he has his feet on the ground in Chile, he immediately gets out of the wheel chair and walks unaided. 

 

General Pinochet was never prosecuted for human rights abuses in Chile.  He died there December 10, 2006 at age 91. 

 

Pretty good movie.  I think it got a little bogged down covering all the different courts that Pinochet had to go through.  And the real horrors of what Pinochet and his government did is never really shown.  (But, on the other hand, that can be seen in other films dealing with Chile.)     The decision to let Pinochet leave Britain was indeed a political one.  It is just amazing how often governments let world class human rights abusers walk free.  (Just think how many Nazi war criminals the USA let escape.)  Stronger laws against these kinds of criminals need to be put in place.  And there should be sanctions against countries who harbor or help such criminals escape.  It's just another sad episode in the history of the escape of way too many human rights abusers.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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