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Chile: Visit Is Not About Pinochet

August 9, 1999

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A Chilean military delegation denied news reports Monday that it was in Madrid to review efforts to get Gen. Augusto Pinochet released, or to look for accommodations should the former Chilean dictator hand himself over to Spanish authorities.

Brig. Gen. Juan Carlos Salgado told reporters that the military delegation was in Spain for ``institutional purposes.″ He did not specify what that meant but said it was not connected to the Pinochet case.

He admitted the delegation might meet with Pinochet’s lawyers in Spain. But he said that would only be for a briefing on the current state of the case, the private Europa Press agency said.

Salgado said the delegation would travel to London but did not say for what purpose, the agency reported.

The Spanish daily El Pais had reported that the delegation would go to London on Wednesday to report to Pinochet.

The newspaper said the group is in Madrid to gauge reactions to its recent proposal that Spain drop the extradition request and Pinochet’s case be put to arbitration. The delegation also will hear lawyers’ opinions on how appeals to Spanish prosecutors to scrap the case are developing, the paper said.

Meantime, Chilean media reported that the delegation was looking for a residence for Pinochet should the general hand himself over to Spain.

Salgado denied that report. One of Pinochet’s lawyers, Fernando Escardo, told Europa Press the idea of Pinochet moving voluntarily to Spain was ``absurd,″ and had never been discussed.

Pinochet, 83, was arrested last October in London on the orders of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

Garzon wants the ailing general extradited and tried in Spain for alleged human rights abuses committed during Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship. Several other countries have lodged similar extradition requests.

Although it processed Garzon’s extradition request, the conservative government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is openly uncomfortable with the effect on relations with Chile. Opposition parties have recently accused it of seeking a way out.

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