Dispatch from Chile: On Pinochet, “He Did Nothing to Me”

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While the news of Pinochet’s death has been met with celebrations and rioting in the streets of Santiago, responses in the more rural environs of the country have been far more staid. Santiago, the political heart of the country, also holds fully a third of the country’s 15 million people and they are largely the ones who felt Pinochet’s wrath.

In the expansive, sparse southern tip of the lean country the size of California, residents respond with a mix of recollection and resignation. “Presidents don’t come to this part of the country,” says Theresa Ruiz, a seventy-some year old resident and innkeeper who was born and has lived her entire life in the Patagonian region of southern Chile. “We have had to take care of ourselves, to take care of each other, the government was never much help.” Nor, she said, did it particularly hurt her or those around her, saying, “Pinochet did nothing to me,” his actions were more of neglect. Ruiz adds that she’s glad his reign is over if he harmed people. “I would say that about half the country, a little more than half, are celebrating right now, the other half? They were not as affected.” Or, they benefited.

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