Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Augusto Pinochet

This is about as eloquent as the point can be stated: “The rule of law was developed because anyone with too much power is capable of despicable acts”. - Alvaro Vargas Llosa commenting on the legacy of deceased Chilean General Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet, The Man in Full: The first lesson is that social utopias always end in tears. Chile had a democratic tradition when the Marxist left came to power in 1970, but that tradition was not strong enough to withstand the revolutionary path that President Salvador Allende chose to take. Scorning the institutions that had allowed it to gain power, the left pushed the system beyond its limits, thereby causing a brutal military reaction.

The second lesson is that there is no such thing as an "emergency" dictatorship. Those who called for military intervention, among them the center-right Christian Democrats, made a colossal error of judgment in thinking that the armed forces would go back to their barracks as soon as the "emergency" was over.

Communists, Socialists, Marxists, and Progressives all hate Pinochet with a passion. Chile was to be the socialist utopia in South America and the General crushed the experiment with cruel brutality. To this day, advocates for government control of the economy believe in their hearts that Allende and his followers would have created a just society from the inequities of Latin America.

Pinochet Descends: The dictator is dead. May he rest in agony. General Augusto Pinochet crushed the dreams of democratic socialists throughout Latin America, and indeed throughout the world, when he overthrew Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973. … The U.S. government was behind Pinochet, every bloody step of the way. When Allende came to power, Henry Kissinger infamously said: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Greg Palast: For nearly a century, copper has meant Chile and Chile copper. University of Montana metals expert Dr. Janet Finn notes, “Its absurd to describe a nation as a miracle of free enterprise when the engine of the economy remains in government hands.” Copper has provided 30% to 70% of the nation’s export earnings. This is the hard currency which has built today’s Chile, the proceeds from the mines seized from Anaconda and Kennecott in 1973 - Allende’s posthumous gift to his nation.

With the perspective of time it becomes increasingly clear events in Chile in the 1970’s were invaluable to the end of the Cold War a decade later. Still, tyranny is tyranny regardless of the justifying philosophy.

The Economist Obit: General Pinochet liked to portray himself as the selfless defender of God and country against atheist communism. Some of his friends, chief among them Lady Thatcher, appeared to support this view, ostentatiously taking tea with the doddering old man and stroking him with praise. But it emerged that he had up to $27m stashed abroad, as well as several false passports. That made him look like just another grasping, brutal caudillo. The courts closed in. Only claims—often unconvincing—of poor health blocked a trial. He insisted that he had acted for the benefit of all Chileans. By the end, few believed him.

History will undoubtedly consign the General to realm of those with no real honor.