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Pinochet Defenders Set Up Hot Line

March 11, 1999

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Supporters of Gen. Augusto Pinochet have set up toll-free hot lines and turned to wine and compact disc sales to raise money for the former Chilean dictator’s defense.

They have set up bank accounts for donations in both Chilean pesos and dollars, hoping to whittle down the mounting legal bills in Britain, where Pinochet is in police custody in a rented mansion while his fate is decided.

Britain’s House of Lords will rule whether Pinochet is allowed to return home _ or faces a long legal fight against extradition to Spain, where a prosecutor wants to put him on trial for alleged crimes against humanity during his 17-year rule.

An official Chilean report says 3,197 people, including Spaniards, were killed or disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police during his dictatorship. The 83-year-old general’s lawyers contend he is entitled to immunity as a former head of state and that trying him abroad is an affront to Chile’s sovereignty.

Most of the money raised for Pinochet’s defense so far has come from anonymous bank deposits. The Pinochet Foundation, a private group of supporters and former aides, has also set up four toll-free hot lines to accept donations.

Other fundraising efforts include the sale of a Cabernet Sauvignon called Capitan General _ for Pinochet’s army rank _ at $25 a bottle.

Willy Bascunan, a popular Chilean composer and fervent Pinochet supporter, has also chipped in with a compact disc of rousing martial music, on sale for $30. One song alludes to Pinochet’s plight: ``I miss the trumpet ... with its reveille. But today, when I wake up, it’s a different situation: I am in a foreign land.″

The foundation won’t say how much money has been raised, but says the effort has been a success. Deposits in the bank accounts have ranged from as small as $1 to thousands of dollars, fundraisers say.

Alfonso Marquez de la Plata, a former Cabinet member considered the driving force behind the fundraising effort, would not disclose the names of donors or the size of donations.

But, he said: ``Our former president has many more friends than he thought.″

Meanwhile, fundraisers are bracing for another round of steep bills from Pinochet’s British lawyers.

``We have already paid $600,000 to the lawyers, but new bills for another $340,000 are due soon,″ Pinochet Foundation president Hernan Briones said.

The Pinochet Foundation is paying for the rented mansion and Pinochet’s legal expenses, but other expenses are paid for by Pinochet, said Hernan Guiloff, a Chilean businessman who is known to be a major contributor to the defense fund.

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