Confessions of a General

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The smell of his own fear was an unfamiliar experience for General Augusto Pinochet. That much is clear from the former Chilean dictator's statement Sunday on his detention in Britain. "My wife was the one who explained to me why I had been arrested...," Pinochet began. "I was hurt and bewildered." Even if the House of Lords this week overturns his arrest, the general's opponents will take his statement as a victory. "This is the first time Pinochet's been forced to account for himself, and he's clearly shaken," says TIME Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett. "He never imagined anything like this could happen to him."

Pinochet's statement defends his junta's human rights abuses on the grounds that he was at war with dangerous Marxists. But there are cracks in the general's once-stony demeanor. "I wish things could have been different," he says at one point. His claim that his arrest is "certainly not British justice" remains to be determined this week by the House of Lords -- but it won't be helped by the fact that none of the 3,000 people kidnapped and killed by his junta ever saw the inside of a courtroom. The British take a dim view of that sort of thing.