Tory MP has "huge admiration" for Augusto Pinochet

Andrew Rosindell declares his support for the brutal dictator.

Trigger warning for sexual violence and rape. This post contains graphic descriptions of acts of torture.

Political Scrapbook has been running a series of posts on Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, mostly focusing on the £36,000 of free travel he has claimed in the last year alone, as varies countries paid for his trips to the Cayman Islands, Taiwan, Lebanon, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and more. But today, they've revealed his astonishing comments about the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

Defending one of his councillors joining the "Augusto Pinochet Fan Club" on Facebook, Rosindell told the Romford Recorder that:

Pinochet ousted a communist regime in Chile that was butchering its people. Compared with the rest of Latin America during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Chile turned into a free society where people were able to prosper.

If [the councillor] happened to join a group, then so what? I would happily be a member of that group. I have huge admiration for General Pinochet.

These are some of the actions of the man Rosindell has huge admiration for:

In January 1974, Chilean Air Force troops deposited the body of a seventeen-year-old boy, an MIR party member, in a town south of Santiago. Part of the boy's abdomen had been subjected to vivisection. Both his legs were broken, and also his left arm. His entire body was covered with holes made by cigarette burns. He had also been castrated. . . There were a lot of women as badly beaten up as the men were. They bad also been brutally raped; they had internal ruptures and were bleeding profusely. One kept moaning. The torturers had inserted a sharp object in her vagina, and it had cut through the peritoneum. Some of the people there said they had recognized the interrogators: they were Navy infantrymen trained at the American bases in Panama. [Robinson Rojas Sandford, The Murder of Allende and the End of the Chilean Way of Socialism]

The methods of torture described in the preliminary reports from COPAHI, the "Cooperative Committee for Peace in Chile" are the following:

  • Application of electrical current in various parts of the body, usually the gums, genitals and anus.
  • Blows.
  • Blindfolding or hoods.
  • Burning with acids or cigarettes.
  • Immersion in gasoline or water.
  • Whipping in general.
  • Incarceration in unhealthy conditions or with vermin.
  • Being forced to participate in or witness sexual activities [62].
  • Being rolled over rocks.
  • Being forced to witness torture.
  • Ingestion of excrement.
  • Rack.
  • Hanging by the neck.
  • Deprivation of water for a week.
  • Deliberate fracture of a wounded arm.
  • Being thrown from a height blindfolded.
  • Knives inserted under fingernails or toenails.
  • Cutting on the hands.
  • Being exposed naked to the sun.
  • Not identified (caused death). [María Eugenia Rojas, La represión politica en Chile: los hechos]

In some camps, routine sadism was taken to extremes. At Villa Grimaldi, recalcitrant prisoners were dragged to a parking lot; DINA agents then used a car or truck to run over and crush their legs. Prisoners there recalled one young man who was beaten with chains and left to die slowly from internal injuries. Rape was also a reoccurring form of abuse. DINA officers subjected female prisoners to grotesque forms of sexual torture that included insertion of rodents and, as tactfully described in the Commission report, "unnatural acts involving dogs." [Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability]

"I have huge admiration for General Pinochet".

Chilean crossing a street in Santiago, behind a military tank which is on its way to the Presidential Palace, Santiago, 30 June 1973. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.