To advertise on this space
Per inserzioni pubblicitarie
Um hier Werbung zu machen


All the news not fit to print
To advertise on this space
Per inserzioni pubblicitarie
Editorial correspondence | Back to Politics | Back to the world news

Pinochet: the other side of the story

  • (December 1999) Pinochet: the other side of the story. While all eyes are on Britain's struggle to decide whether general Pinochet should be extradited to Spain as a criminal or returned to his homeland as an ex ruler, something historical is happening in Chile. Since 1973, when Pinochet killed the democratically-elected communist president Allende and seized power, the world has heard only one version of the facts: Pinochet was an evil man, a little Hitler of the impoverished south, who made thousands of opponents "disappear" and ruled brutally over poor Chileans.
    The story is quite different, and is finally being told, of all people, by Pinochet's own enemies: the Socialist Party, which hopes to win the next elections thanks to its revisionist attitudes. Although it does not promote Pinochet among angels, the new version of the facts shows that blame was not all on one side, and that many Chileans were more than pleased by the infamous coup.
    Ricardo Lagos, the socialist candidate to president, has admitted that Allende made several mistakes which sent Chile's economy plunging into a free fall. He has admitted that Allende's government was "experimenting" beyond the constitutional law, by allowing communist-inspired abuses against private property. He clearly blamed Allende for the country's hyperinflation, shortages and financial collapse that were mentioned by Pinochet as the very reasons for seizing power. Nunez Munoz in person, the elderly president of the Socialist Party, criticized those who think that the CIA was responsible for the coup. While the United States obviously did not feel too sorry, it was Allende's own debacle.
    The truth is that Pinochet's coup against Allende was welcomed by many, as any visitor to Chile in those years can report. The Christian Democrats, the largest party in Chile, approved the coup, albeit with reservations. Patricio Aylwin (who would become Chile's first democratically elected president after Pinochet's resignations) thanked the army for "saving Chile's democracy".
    Students and workers were persecuted, and the methods cannot be excused. But there is also no doubt that Chile's economy started reviving almost immediately, and within a few years it overtook all the economies of South America. Chile came to be called "the Switzerland of Latin America", thanks to its cleanniness, efficiency and (relative) wealth. So much so, that today most Latin-american economies are clearly inspired by Pinochet's experiment, and the leader of neighboring Peru, Fujimori, has clearly replicated Pinochet's authoritarian strategies (with equal success, at least initially).
    While the West was flooded by communist propaganda describing Chile as hell, Pinochet was probably enjoying the highest approval rate in the whole of Latin America. He is the only dictator in modern history who let people vote against him. It is now clear that Pinochet was convinced of winning that referendum. He lost it by a very narrow margin. Two or three years earlier, when Chileans were still afraid of a revival of communism, he would have won it.
    Proof is that Allende's disciples have lost all elections since the return to democracy. Over and over again, Chileans have voted to keep the leftists out of the government.
    It appears that, 30 years later, the Left is finally capable of facing its guilt, not only of exposing Pinochet's guilt.
    All of this does not erase the crimes committed by the army, crimes which Pinochet must have been aware of, crimes committed mostly against unarmed students. But the fact that socialists are finally able to face "their" responsabilities in that national tragedy bodes well for the national reconciliation. Now that they too apologized to the nation, they can aspire to the post of president.
    Note for Europeans: There is a widespread belief in Europe that Allende was "democratically" elected by the majority of Chileans. That is not correct. Allende's party only won 36% of the votes. Allende was elected by Chile's parliament in a confused and rigged procedure. After being elected, Allende proceeded to change the rules of the game in order to guarantee that his party would truly win all future elections (a` la Soviet Union). Not only the facts prove it, but Allende even said it in public that his goal had become to make "the revolution irreversible" and to "destroy the burgeois state". Eventually, Chile's parliament tried to revoke his mandate (an impeachment motion failed by only two votes), but Allende refused to resign. That is when the army took over and installed Pinochet. There was certainly nothing democratic in Pinochet's coup, but there was also little that can be called "democratic" in Allende's election and in his government.
    Note of December 2001: The UDI, founded as the right-wing party of Pinochet's followers, increased its share of the votes to 25% in 2001, thereby becoming the largest party in Chile. Ricardo Lagos is still president, but Joaquin Lavin looks set to win the next presidential election in 2005.
Editorial correspondence | Back to the top | Back to Politics | Back to the world news