Chilean President Sebastián Piñera expressed his condolences over the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Monday.
“I wish to express my condolences and solidarity with the family of Margaret Thatcher and the British people,” said Piñera at an event this morning.
“She was a brave woman who faced her obstacles and always had a strong attitude to solve problems. (Her death) is a great loss not only for Britain but for the entire world,” added Piñera.
During her eleven years in power, the “Iron Lady” had close ties with numerous conservative leaders including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and ex-Chilean strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet. It was under her rule that in 1980 Britain lifted its arms embargo with Chile that had been put in place since the Pinochet-led military coup d’état against the civilian government. According to the Chilean press, Britain sent over $160 million worth of weapons to Chile including missiles and jet fighters.
The relationship between Thatcher and Pinochet was strengthened during the Falklands War of 1982. Even though the military regimes in Chile and Argentina were close allies during the infamous Operation Condor, the Pinochet regime would send Britain intelligence information regarding Argentina.
Thatcher was steadfast in supporting Pinochet after both leaders left their respective posts of power. In 1999 she blasted British leaders for contemplating the extradition of Pinochet to Spain where he faced charges of human rights abuse.
“Today I break my self-denying ordinance and for a very good reason - to express my outrage at the callous and unjust treatment of Senator Pinochet,” declared Thatcher who had largely been out of the public eye since departing 10 Downing Street in 1990.
“What is planned there is a show trial - lingering death in a foreign land,” she said.
In the end, Pinochet would not be extradited to Spain. He would eventually return to Chile and die in impunity in 2006. Thatcher was one of the few international figures who mourned the death of someone she considered her “friend.”
Speaking of Pinochet, Wikileaks revealed today that the Vatican allegedly turned a blind eye to atrocities committed in Chile during the first few weeks of the military junta:
In a 1973 diplomatic cable addressed to Henry Kissinger, then serving as the United States' Secretary of State, high-ranking Vatican official Giovanni Benelli was quoted as relaying "his and the pope's grave concern over successful international leftist campaign to misconstrue completely realities of Chilean situation." Benelli dismissed reports of massacre as "unfounded" and "possibly [the] greatest success of Communist propaganda," while explaining away whatever violence had occurred as "unfortunately natural following coup d’état."
The cable was written five weeks after the coup, during the reign of Pope Paul VI, with reports already surfacing that political opponents of the regime were being arrested and killed.
Video Source– You Tube via user Metro Trujillo (Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher met with ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet when he was under house arrest in England in 1999).
Online Sources – La Nacion (Chile); La Tercera; BBC News, Huffington Post, GlobalPost, latinamericanstudies.org