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Pinochet Jails Priests, Leftists in Crackdown

September 09, 1986|WILLIAM D. MONTALBANO | Times Staff Writer

SANTIAGO, Chile — A day after an assassination attempt against President Augusto Pinochet, Chile's secret police raided slum neighborhoods, arrested five priests and silenced the opposition press.

Three French priests were arrested in a raid by troops in La Victoria, a slum district in southern Santiago that is an opposition stronghold. Two American priests were seized in a raid at Conconchali in the southern suburbs. The U.S. Embassy confirmed the arrests of Terence Cambias, 48, and Thomas Heneghan, 50, both Maryknoll missionaries, and said they were being held without charge Monday night.

At least four prominent political leaders were arrested during curfew hours before dawn Monday, and there were unconfirmed reports of other politicians and labor leaders also being held.

The government, acting under the state of siege imposed by Pinochet on Sunday night, banned six opposition news magazines. Late Monday afternoon, it ordered the British news agency Reuters to halt transmissions and did not cite a reason for the closure.

"People don't realize the danger we are confronting," the 70-year-old Pinochet said as he arrived in his gray, five-star general's uniform at the presidential palace Monday morning, after visiting members of his security escort who were wounded in the Sunday assassination attempt.

"We are in a war between democracy and chaos. Either we accept the chaos that the degenerate politicians are pushing, or we support the government, seeking democracy as the logical solution," said Pinochet, who on Thursday will celebrate the 13th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power.

Anniversary Rally

To mark the anniversary, Pinochet is to preside at a mass pro-government rally entitled "The First Day of the Future."

Chile's strongman escaped with flesh wounds on his left hand from the ambush on a narrow mountain road Sunday which killed five army and police members of his escort and wounded 11 others, two of them gravely. Three of the six cars in the presidential motorcade were destroyed.

Courage under fire by his unidentified military chauffeur in an armored Mercedes-Benz sedan apparently saved Pinochet's life. The armored automobile was ordered after the 1979 slaying of former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza as he drove along a street in Asuncion, Paraguay.

A six-car caravan returning from Pinochet's country retreat around nightfall Sunday was ambushed by at least a dozen terrorists about 20 miles from this capital. Gunmen in a house trailer being towed by a car sealed the road in front of the caravan. Another car blocked retreat. A coordinated crossfire from rifles, grenades and a rocket launcher poured into the motorcade, destroying the first three cars.

Cars Reversed

"We received intense fire from the front, the rear, the sides, even the top," Pinochet said. As bullets plowed into the sedan's armored panels and scarred its windows, the presidential driver and the driver of the last car in the caravan put their cars in reverse, knocked aside the vehicle blocking their way and returned Pinochet to his country home, where he spent the night.

"I never realized so much fire could be concentrated on a single car," Pinochet told visitors Monday. "My first reaction was to get out (to fight back). Then I realized I had my grandson with me. I covered his body with mine.

The 10-year-old grandson escaped unhurt.

The government was silent Monday on the results of a widespread search for Pinochet's assailants, describing them only as "leftist terrorist commandos." Although it has not yet said so directly, the government believes the attack was the work of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, a guerrilla group that is the armed wing of the Chilean Communist Party.

Communists Are Opposed

Now the longest-serving Chilean president, Pinochet is not popular, winning an approval rating of around 20% in polls. At the same time, however, judging from their voting pattern in bygone elections, 85% of Chileans oppose the Communists, who disclaim formal ties to the guerrillas.

Democratic opposition leaders condemned Sunday's attack, believing that terrorism not only invites the state to reply in kind, but also builds support for Pinochet. Democratic groups who have cooperated with the Communists in planning anti-Pinochet demonstrations are now distancing themselves.

Within hours of the attack, secret police had arrested Ricardo Lagos, leader of a moderate faction of the Socialist Party, at his home. Then they picked up Andrea Palma, a student leader; Herman Correa, a Socialist Party figure and chairman of a Marxist opposition fund, and Rafael Marroto, a suspended priest who is spokesman for the Revolutionary Leftist Movement, an extremist group. Jose Carrasco, a journalist linked to the group, was also jailed.

When newsstands opened Monday, the weekly magazines Hoy, Cauce, Analisis, APSI, Fortin Mapocho, and La Bicicleta had all been banned. In a country where newspapers and television tightly hew the government line, magazines and radio are the only serious outlets for opposition views.

Priests Arrested

At dawn Monday, secret police and troops in black camouflage paint poured in from armored personnel carriers and sealed off La Victoria. The police arrested French priests Pierre DuBois, Jaime Lancelot and Daniel Caruette. Parishioners told reporters that DuBois was beaten.

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