Weekly World News Brief

Friday, December 15, 2006

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

General Augusto Pinochet Dies

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, 91, died on Sunday, after complications following a heart attack and a pulmonary oedema one week earlier. Pinochet led a U.S.-backed coup against Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government in 1973, and ruled the country through a military regime until 1990. Pinochet’s final years were deservedly ruined as he tried to avoid justice for his actions during his rule. Until 1998, Pinochet enjoyed immunity after appointing himself as a senator for life upon his retirement from power. Following an unsuccessful attempt to extradite him to Spain for the murders of two Spanish citizens during the 1973 coup, his immunity was lifted and his crimes against humanity prosecuted by the Chilean judiciary. The finding of millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts was the nail that sealed the coffin for whatever little prestige Pinochet had left among his compatriots. All of the charges brought against him were unresolved at the time of his death; upon learning of it, Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti said, "Death has beaten justice." Pinochet was refused a state funeral by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, whose father was killed in the coup.

Iran Organizes Holocaust Negationism Congress

In a move that will probably endear him even more to the world, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered the closing speech in a conference organized by his government to “debate in a scientific manner” the reality of the Holocaust during World War II. Far from anything resembling scientific rationality, the conference became a haven for a number of cuckoo pseudo-academics, former Ku Klux Klan members, and good old fashioned anti-Semites. The conference was widely denounced, among others by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay, and condemned by the U.S. State Department.

Stroke Threatens Power Balance in U.S. Senate

Earlier this week, U.S. senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) suffered a brain stroke. He has since undergone risky brain surgery to drain blood from his brain and is said to be recovering, although his situation is still critical and no medical prognosis can be ventured. Should Johnson die as a result of his condition, his seat in the Senate would be filled by an appointment made by South Dakota's Republican governor. If the appointment is fulfilled along partisan lines, this would bring the balance of power in the Senate to 50 seats for each party, with Vice-President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote.

Fidel Castro's Death Is Imminent

According to a multitude of reports emerging in North American, Latin American, and European media, Cuba’s strongman Fidel Castro, 80, may be close to death. The U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in a report leaked to the Washington Post that Castro is very ill and his death may be a matter of months at the most. Castro has led the Caribbean island nation with an iron grip for over 50 years, and Cuba remains one of the last orthodox Marxist-Leninist states in the world. Castro is set to be succeeded by his brother Raúl, 75, who lacks Fidel’s charisma but is said to be even more orthodox than his older sibling. If and when Fidel Castro dies, the ensuing huge power vacuum may not be filled through an orderly transition of power to the younger Castro. The role of the Cuban exiles in the U.S., as well as the role of the U.S. Government itself, may be crucial to Cuba’s future.

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