Okay this isn't going to make me look good but I might as well be honest!
When I heard during the weekend that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was close to death, my immediate response was along the lines of "Where's the champange!" followed by the guilty feeling that I was somewhat descending to his own level!
Only an ignoramous would say that Pinochet's regime between 1973 and 1989 was a utopia. Many disappeared, the human rights abuses were at a fairly abomnable level and what is more he overthrew a democratically elected government. That is a fact, whether you approve of Allende's Presidency or not!
And to add insult to injury, the coup was supported by the American government, his regime was supported by the British government led by Margaret Thatcher, and for the past fifteen years he has pathetically tried to evade the justice that would be more conciliatory towards him compared to what he meted out to others! Not only that, but those who have backed his regime have added wholesale to the sometimes unhealthy cynicism many have towards succesive US governments. A classic and crass example being the comment of Henry Kissinger who allegedly stated with regards to the Millitary Coup of 1973:
"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves..."
Personally I don't think that the Generalismo has got away with it. He dare not travel abroad for fear of arrest and extradition, his last years have been spent trying to avoid being put on trial in his home country, and therefore his less than perfect past has come back to haunt him!
But therein lies the crux of the matter. How many of us have less than perfect pasts and where do you draw the line in failing to forgive?
Some years ago I was spending my year out as a Resident Assistant Warden at a Church of England Retreat and Conference Centre. During that time I worshipped at a Church in Northampton called St Hugh's and at some point they had a missionary from the Chilean Anglican Church come to stay.
This was during the time of Pinochet's internment in the UK and this guy caused a bit of a stir by saying we should let him go after having briefly met him. So when I had the chance to meet this missionary in person (during a prayer breakfast, I challeneged him on his views. Not in a confrontational manner, but in a roundabout English way.
The guy stated that Pinochet needed to face trial in Chile, I replied that this was unlikely to happen, although the missionary disagreed. I also asked how Pinochet was. Apparently he was bearing up, saw himself in a no lose situation and stated to the missionary that he was a Catholic and read the Bible. I don't know if Pinochet was reading the same Bible as me, but it did make me think about whether I regarded the Dictator as forgiven and how much of this was justice, not revenge (although I still hold that by arresting him we did the right thing!)
So right now, I think I would rather pray for General Pinochet than waiting to celebrate with a bottle, because God knows he needs forgiving!