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Of Dictators, Diabetes, and Dementia
  1. Gonzalo Alvarez
  1. Department of Neurological Sciences, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Chile., Email: redpin64{at}


Not a leaf stirs in Chile without my knowing it!’ thundered General Augusto Pinochet in the heyday of his power, when he ruled over the destinies of Chileans with an iron fist. That image is a very far cry indeed from the present one, which is that of a benign old gentleman resembling Father Christmas but without a beard. He is quite unsteady on his feet, probably because of sensory ataxia, itself caused by a diabetic polyneuropathy, which he is certain to have. The General was never the same again after being released following prolonged house arrest in Britain, which included complicated legal procedures right up to the final destination of the House of Lords. Mr Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, released him on the grounds of cognitive impairment, reported by a team of British specialists who examined him in detail. But Chilean law does not consider physical illness a

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