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Michelle Bachelet on Chilean Troops Working for Blackwater in Iraq and Fujimori’s Extradition to Peru

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is in New York this week for the United Nations 62nd General Assembly. We play her comments on Chilean troops working for private security firm Blackwater in Iraq, as well as the extradition of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori from Chile to Peru. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is behind bars at a police station in eastern Lima. On Friday, the Chilean Supreme Court ordered him to be extradited back to Peru to face charges of corruption and sanctioning massacres by paramilitary death squads.

Fujimori ruled Peru from 1990 to 2000. In the 1990s, he defeated an insurgency led by the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group. He now faces charges of unleashing a death squad of military intelligence officers responsible for killing 25 people in two separate massacres.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, this week, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet discussed Fujimori’s extradition during an event in New York hosted by Human Rights Watch. In a moment, we’ll play her comments, but first I wanted to play a short clip of Carol Bogart, the associate director of Human Rights Watch.

CAROL BOGART: This extradition is the first time that a head of state is being returned to his country to stand trial for human rights crimes and only the third time that we’ve seen, after Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Charles Taylor of Liberia, that we’ve seen a head of state going to stand trial for human rights atrocities committed under his reign.

The trick in such prosecutions is, of course, drawing the line between the head of state and the brutal men on the ground who actually carry out his wishes, the command responsibility of the commander-in-chief for what minions under his command do. So prosecutions are one way of serving justice, and they are one way that we know we are making human rights progress in the world today.

But another way that we — another tool that we have besides international tribunals is, of course, trying to achieve change inside countries. And what we saw last Friday was not only an enormous change for Peru, but the evidence of an enormous change in Chile, which began, of course, arguably, when Pinochet left power, but most dramatically in 1998 in October, when he was arrested in London and which set in motion so many changes not only in Chile, but around the world, and has made possible the very idea of prosecuting heads of state for the things they’ve done to their own people.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Carol Bogart, the associate director of Human Rights Watch, speaking at the event hosted by Human Rights Watch Tuesday in New York. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also spoke. She was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly. I had the opportunity to ask President Bachelet a question, but I first want to play an excerpt of what President Bachelet said explaining Fujimori’s extradition from Chile to Peru, and then answering my question.

PRESIDENT MICHELLE BACHELET: During APEC meeting in Australia, we had a meeting with President Garcia. We spoke about different aspects of the agenda. And, of course, Fujimori’s issue was one of the things we discussed about, because we knew that soon there will be a decision of the justice.

I would like to tell you that, for us, during the military regime, when we didn’t have — I mean, when justice was not autonomous — they didn’t have the freedom and independence to make the best decision — we had a lot of injustices, a lot of arbitrarities, so we — abuses. So, I mean, we couldn’t expect that the judiciary system will help us many times. So we understood that as a democratic government, we respect the decisions of the justice, and we let them do their job. And, of course, as a government, we would give all the help so they will have the best condition to do their job. So that’s why we made no pressure. When journalists asked me about this before they made the decision, I made no comments, because we say the democratic governments don’t comment on judiciary system decisions, and — because we believe that it’s important, the independence of the three power, the executive, legislative and judiciary system.

But having said that, with President Garcia, I told him that soon there will be a decision and that, of course, at [inaudible] we didn’t have any information which the decision will be, but he will have to consider there could be different decisions — extradition or not extradition — and that they were both possible, and that he has to be ready for that, for both scenario. So, and — but I will tell him as soon as I knew, as soon as it will be public, because, of course, we respect also that the judiciary system makes public all the decisions.

So I called him, because I think that when you have a neighbor, that a decision like this will give them some consequences, political consequences. He has to be aware of it. He has to know the information. He has to do to make the decisions that a president has to make. So I just told him, “The decision was made: Fujimori will be extradited to your country. And let’s see how we can do it to implement this decision as soon as possible, because that’s the best for both countries.” And that was it. And he was very — how could I say? I mean, and that is because we have — I mean, I understand that the best way — the best for Chile is that all our neighbors are in the best conditions possible in every aspect: social, political, economical conditions. And the way that we can deal with things that we agree and the best way to deal with disagreements is the best respectful and a relation built in confidence, that people can speak freely and honestly about the different problems and can stand also to say “This is possible” and “This is not possible.” So I did it because of respect for my president colleague, because this is an important issue in Peru.

And, of course, he already knew that that was one possibility, so they were prepared. And we did everything in 24 hours, and everything went right. So, that, I think, it’s the best way of how you relate to your friends, to your neighbors. Maybe you can disagree on many other issues, but to be respectful, to try to do things the best way so they can deal with those issues the best way possible, I think, is — it’s a good way of relating in external relationships and in issues that sometimes are very complicated for another country.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you a question about war. Your thoughts on the war in Iraq, possibly with Iran, Guantánamo, and Chilean soldiers from Pinochet time being used by Blackwater in Iraq?

PRESIDENT MICHELLE BACHELET: Well, that’s like four questions, I would say.

MODERATOR: Yeah. You can choose whichever one you want.

PRESIDENT MICHELLE BACHELET: Yeah, I’ll start from the easiest thing. When I was minister of defense, I knew that Chilean people were recruited to go into Iraq, and as former soldiers or former police people. And we — they had people who were, you know, recruiting them. And we made like a sort of a research on this issue, survey, I mean, trial, because we saw that they couldn’t — I mean, in Chile, nobody can use arms — I mean long arms, hard arms, weapons — but the armed forces and the police people, and they have been trained. And we did a lot of investigation about this, because we didn’t think that — we didn’t want to have like a third force or something, paramilitary force or something like that, in our country.

Second, we made publicly some statements saying that we didn’t believe that was safe, because this is a private issue. I mean, they went people by people, their recruiting. It wasn’t that there was an office in Chile, a state office; it was a private issue. They recruited every guy. They paid money. There are some recruiters who gain a lot of money, too, in this. And we told them that, first of all, this was an individual choice, that it was not safe, and that we did not recommend it. And we couldn’t do anything else, because in Chile there’s freedom to make those sort of choices, of decisions.

So, and there has been some — but most of them have come back, because they didn’t like the experience. You know, they gained some money there, but they didn’t have a good experience. So most of them came back to Chile. I don’t know how many there are still there. But the last time I asked about it, there wasn’t so many.

You asked about a lot of other issues that are very complicated. I just want to say that Chile, when we were in the Security Council, we were against the Iraq invasion. And I think it’s a very complicated issue, because I think it’s sort of a Catch-22 right now, because it’s not easy when you go somewhere to get out, and it’s complicated. But I don’t want to make any comments, because this is an internal decision of this country, and I’m here, and I shouldn’t do any other comments. And, of course, if you ask me without names, I think that human rights must be respected anywhere, everywhere. So I think that answers you all the other issues that you asked.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the Chilean president, the first woman president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, answering my question about how she feels about Blackwater recruiting Chilean soldiers who served under Pinochet and about her views on Guantánamo, the war in Iraq and a possible war with Iran. Michelle Bachelet, the president, herself was tortured under the Pinochet regime. She was held in a jail cell, as was her mother. Her father was a general under the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende. He was jailed, he was tortured, and he died.

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