My second cousin Jaime has noted the death of a former fellow alumni, one Augusto Pinochet. And, given that Mark has given me free rein to comment via this wonderful medium, I thought that I would let Jaime add some thoughts of his own...
Ah yes, Augusto... I remember him well from my days at military college, where he taught geopolitics rather badly. I did learn some valuable lessons (don't allow your children to be taught by Marists being one of the key ones) but I think that the most curious thing was his lack of pride in denying what he did.
It is all very well being a brutal dictator, although not to my personal taste, and my fellow junta members and I would never have done such things in our beloved (censored by the office of the Attorney General of Amaranth) but if you are going to do it, especially under a series of supportive American administrations, it is considered proper etiquette to ensure that everyone knows that you are. Otherwise, what is the point?
On the other hand, he really should be given credit for his creation of a meaningful personality cult. Any dictator with aspirations to grandeur should accept titles used by the leaders of our independence battles, claim the special protection of the Virgin Mary and join White's. So often, Latin American dictators have fallen short in this area. Who remembers Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, or any number of Bolivians (although you would have to have a pretty good memory to keep up in that country - I understand that they've introduced a queuing system whereby you get invited to the Presidential Palace when your number comes up)?
Naturally, a key part of maintaining power is to build strong relationships with key political allies. Fellow dictators will take care of assassinating exiles who pose a medium or long term threat and, outside your regional sphere, other hard men (Margaret Thatcher, for example) will laud you to the skies if you buy their country's torture equipment.
But his biggest mistake? Holding a plebiscite to ratify another ten years in power. Real dictators don't do that, at least not without making sure of the result first. Give old Alfredo credit, he did get that right.
I also understand that he took credit for saving the economy. Odd really, because any dictator knows that the only point in having a functioning economy is to raise sufficient funds to purchase the arms and equipment required to keep the population from rebelling (successfully, anyway, a romantic but doomed rebellion allows you to legitimately kill and torture political rivals).
And whilst I have wistful memories for the good old days, society has moved on and, to be honest, the uniforms looked silly anyway...