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Following Pinochet’s Steps

by DR. CESAR CHELALA

The bloody repression of Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo lifts the Egyptian military’s mask and shows them to be as bloody as Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, and as anti-democratic in their ways. The Egyptian military attacks on defenseless civilians cannot be called anything less than criminal. How else can one call the murder of hundreds of people, including women and children?

There is an ominous resemblance between Egypt’s General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi and the late Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. A resemblance that goes far beyond the upright, defiant and dark-glassed physical appearance. Perhaps a psychologist could explain the dictators’ penchant for using dark glasses at all times, as if there is something they don’t want the world to see, the inner thoughts of ruthless people.

Since the beginning of the coup, and as a result of military repression, it is estimated that hundreds of people were killed, over 10,000 injured and there have been so far 2,000 political arrests without legitimate charges.

Al-Sisi claimed that the nationwide rally supporting the overthrow of a democratically elected president –even if ineffectual- gave him the mandate to fight “violence and terrorism.” Instead, as a result of Al-Sisi’s directed repression the number of people killed can still reach or even surpass those killed in Chile during Pinochet’s despotic rule, more than 3,000.

Adding to their resemblance, both Al-Sisi and Pinochet were named by a democratically elected president whom they ended up betraying. So far in Egypt, as it happened in Chile, General Al-Sisi’s actions have increased polarity among the Egyptians: either they are with the government or they are against it.

“Security forces have repeatedly failed to protect protesters, bystanders and residents from attacks by armed assailants. They have also failed to intervene effectively to end violent clashes between rival groups,” stated Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

In the meantime, both the official and the pro-coup private media continue to minimize popular demonstrations against the coup. Many among those now supporting the army seemed to have forgotten their past crimes, and are inclined to believe in the generals’ good will and support for the country’s democratic institutions. They may yet be disappointed. “Given the security forces routine use of excessive force, such a move is likely to lead to yet more unlawful killings, injuries, and other human rights violations,” had presciently warned Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui before these events took place.

“Time and again the Egyptian security forces have resorted to lethal force, with complete disregard for human life,” stated by Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. Will there to be an end to Egypt’s present nightmare? It certainly will be, but not through the use of force and as long as the military are the ones really in power in the country.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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