by Gustavo Gonzalez
(IPS) SANTIAGO --
to cover Augusto Pinochet's legal and living expenses in London has given rise to tension between the former dictator's supporters and his family.
The latest rift was sparked by declarations in Miami by Augusto Pinochet Hiriart -- the oldest son of the former de facto leader of Chile (1973-90) -- as he sought financial aid among the Florida business community.
Pinochet, 83, a retired general and current senator-for-life, has been under arrest in London since Oct. 16. He may be extradited to Spain, where Judge Baltasar Garzon wants to try him for crimes against humanity involving the roughly 3,000 people who disappeared during the dictatorship.
Pinochet's future should be resolved within the next few weeks, when the House of Lords -- Britain's highest court -- is to decide whether the charges against him are covered by the sovereign immunity that Britain recognizes for former heads of state. The extradition trial will get underway March 22 in London if Pinochet is denied immunity.
Acting foreign minister Mariano Fernandez denied in Santiago on February 24 that the verdict to be handed down by the seven-member appeals committee in the House of Lords would be divulged to the Chilean government 48 hours before it was made public.
over Pinochet's legal expenses and the cost of his family's stay in London, where they are renting a mansion in the exclusive Virginia Waters district, is growing among Pinochet's supporters.
Businessman Hernan Briones, president of the Augusto Pinochet Foundation, heads a group of entrepreneurs from Chile, Britain and other countries who have been covering most of the former dictator's expenses.
According to press reports, the group has raised around $3 million that have gone toward the fees charged by the British law firm defending Pinochet, publicity and public relations campaigns, and the rental of the Virginia Waters estate.
The British daily Financial Times reported Feb. 11 that the attorneys cost $2.53 million a month, the publicity campaigns had run to $466,000, and the monthly lease on the mansion was $14,700.
The Chilean army, which recognizes former army commander Pinochet as its "meritorious commander-in-chief," has also been one of his main financial supports since his arrest, Pinochet's wife Lucia Hiriart said last month.
Lawmakers from the ruling center-left coalition protested against the fact that aid to Pinochet was being taken out of the army's budget. The army brass, meanwhile, have chosen to avoid the issue, and have kept the amount of funds transferred to the ex- dictator secret.
The virtual breach of trust by Pinochet's family has forced the army to be more cautious, however, which has increased concern over financial problems among Pinochet's political supporters and his family.
Pinochet Hiriart told "The New Herald" in Miami that his father's legal costs amounted to $100,000 a week, with each defense attorney costing him $20,000 a week.
Briones, irritated by Pinochet Hiriart's remarks, countered that the British lawyers had been paid no more than $600,000 up to mid-December, and that the two Chilean lawyers representing him did not charge $20,000 a week for their services.
Pinochet's legal advisers are Hernan Felipe Errazuriz and Miguel Schweitzer, who served as ministers under the former dictator. According to Briones, only their travelling expenses are covered by the Pinochet Foundation.
"I do not agree that Augusto Pinochet Hiriart should be seeking funds in Miami, which should be raised here. It won't be hard to find people who criticize his outings in Miami," said Briones.
At any rate, analysts point out that the anti-Castro business community in Miami, which has reportedly met Pinochet Hiriart, appears to be more interested in seeing the legal action against the former Chilean dictator prosper, in order to set a precedent that could eventually be used against Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In any case, the discrepancies between Pinochet's oldest son and Briones, Errazuriz and Schweitzer are not new. According to the magazine "Caras," frequent rows have broken out, with Pinochet's family accusing the two lawyers of following an erroneous legal strategy.
Disputes have also emerged among the groups of Pinochet's supporters. Until recently, the Augusto Pinochet Foundation was basically the only such organization.
But in the past few weeks, two other groups -- the "Movimiento Vitalicio Augusto Pinochet Ugarte" and "Accion Pinochetista Unitaria" -- have begun carrying out public actions, while mutually criticizing each other and attacking Briones and his foundation.
March 1, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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