Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chile's 9/11 terror.

Thirty-five years ago today Chile faced its own 9/11 act of terror: the army of Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Socialist President Salvador Allende.

President Allende’s socialist views collided with the uncompromising stand of a formerly pragmatic political center and with the ferocious defense of the status quo by the right. At the same time the global standoff between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics led to Allende's Chile being judged a threat by President Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger. The White House declared a silent war to destabilize the Allende administration: slashing aid, denying export credits, refusing to renegotiate the Chilean debt, discouraging investment by American businesses and covertly funding strikes and terrorist actions against the government.

Many of those who backed the 1973 coup had wanted the armed forces to simply restore order and then call for elections. Pinochet did initially bring about order after a period of instability and chaos. But having seized power he decided to keep it. He ordered the murder of union leaders, the exile of thousands of dissidents, the torture and disappearance of political prisoners, and the terrorist bombing of exiled leaders.

But during that time, he also changed Chile’s economic system. Pinochet introduced major free-market reforms inspired by University of Chicago Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. Inflation was drastically reduced, state-owned businesses and social security were privatized, the financial system was deregulated, external tariffs were lowered and non-traditional exports fostered. There was a social cost though: Income distribution deteriorated, and Chileans living under the poverty line climbed from 20% in 1970 to almost 40% by 1988.

In 1998, a judge in Spain issued an arrest/extradition warrant for Pinochet in connection with the slayings of political prisoners, and the former dictator was arrested in London. He was returned to Chile, where he was hounded by those seeking justice up until his death in 2006, although he was never sentenced for his crimes.

Pinochet's memory still conjures up different meanings for different people. Some still view him as the leader who transformed Chile into a prosperous economy -- despite the human and social costs. But as Chile continues to prosper under democratic rule, Pinochet more likely will be remembered as a notorious symbol of repression, one that casts a shadow on the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Pray for the families of all those who disappeared.
And for wisdom for those who have authority and influence in Chile.
And that the USA will stop interfering in the lives of countries that disagree with US interests.

(with appreciation to the Los Angeles Times:,0,2739862.story)

1 comment:

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hi Pete,

Thanks for this memorial.

I have just completed reading 'Confessions of an economic hitman' that discusses many such dictatorships that were funded and facilitated by the American CIA to further US economic policy in regions of the world where there was an interest in mineral resources (such as Iraq and Iran), or a particular piece of technology (such as the Panama Canal).

It is so sad how greed and power drive us to abuse... Sadly it is most often the poor and the helpless that suffer most while the wealthy get off scotfree.

There is much work left to be done, here in South Africa, and among our neighbours to the North.

Rich blessing for this Saturday!