Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dictator Pinochet - gone but not forgotten

Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who terrorized Chileans for his 17-year reign, after he led the the coup against Salvador Allende, ending of one of the world's great Democratic Socialist experiments in 1973, died today at 91, denying Chileans and the international community a chance to bring him to justice. I am sure Betty and perhaps Little Hun, who both lived in Chile in the aftermath of Pinochet's rule, will have more to say on this death.

But I believe it is only fitting to refer readers to the words of Marc Cooper, a FOB (friend of the Blog) and one of the great writers of our time on Latin American Politics. Cooper wrote a wonderful piece for the Nation in 2003, "Remembering Allende," to mark the 30th anniversary of the coup, which was, of course, also the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

As Cooper wrote,

Though most often characterized as the "first freely elected Marxist head of state," who proposed a "peaceful transition to socialism," Allende intended something more sweeping. His insistence on the use of democratic means to achieve power and radically reconstruct society was neither a mere tactic nor just a euphemism for minor and moderate reform...

Allende saw a third way--in no way to be confused with Tony Blair's self-declared middle path between corporate free markets and social democracy, but rather an authentically socialist and democratic alternative to meek social reform, on the one hand, and authoritarian "people's democracies"--Stalinist dictatorships--on the other.
It is important to remember that, in addition to his years of terror and criminality, General Pinochet dealt global politics by ending Allende's groundbreaking experiment.


venus infers said...

oh, why does everybody keep forgetting kissinger? --v.

Betty & Bimbo said...

hey everybody!

i'm getting to these posts a little late but just a few thoughts...

i would have been excited when allende was elected, but - and here's the part that's impossible to separate from kissinger, nixon and co. - not soon after. the u.s. was watching this election carefully, and pounced. even at a micro level, chilean truck drivers were paid not to bring food into the capitol, etc.

pinochet's crimes were often brutally out of sync with the reality on the ground, and gratuitously brutal and horrific. is there ever a reason to torture anyone? his paranoia was gargantuan, and fueled by the U.S.'s own "issues" (psychological and otherwise) in no small part. this was an extension of the cold war far from its home turf.

i'm glad he's gone. i wish nothing but clarity, peace, and happiness for chile.

now time for some coffee...

Betty & Bimbo said...

there are many good articles today for readers who are new to this is one:

Betty & Bimbo said...

Marc Cooper writes today that Pinochet's tangible legacy in today's Chile is its social stratification. By the 80s the torture, killing, and mayhem had slowed down, and was certainly not out in the open.

Encouraged by a Reagan administration in Washington and rising Thatcherism in Europe, [Pinochet's] military regime instituted a savage free-market capitalism, in many cases reversing decades of carefully constructed social welfare reforms. At gunpoint unions were outlawed, labor laws were abolished, universities were stifled, tuition was hiked, national health care and social security programs were privatized and these already unequal societies were rigidly stratified into rich and poor, strong and weak, the favored and the invisible.

Pinochet even attempted to build a new Terror International by setting up what became known as Operation Condor. Established in Santiago, the short-lived network aimed at making repression and murder more efficient through increased coordination, information sharing and joint secret operations among the allied dictatorships. The most prominent victim of this alliance in murder was former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his associate Ronni Moffett, blown apart by a 1976 car bomb in downtown Washington DC – a bomb set by Pinochet’s dreaded secret police, known as DINA.

Even after this barbaric act of terror, even after the world began to learn of Pinochet’s other mass crimes, it was jarring to see how much the American press still pandered to him as the man who was bringing economic revival to Chile. No matter that his “shock therapy” nostrums prescribed by the recently deceased Milton Friedman pushed Chile to the brink of bankruptcy and that the first public rebellions against the regime in 1983 were as motivated as much by hunger than by political rage.