Chile: lessons of the coup

FRFI 144 August / September 1998

1973-1998

25 years ago, on 11 September 1973, a military coup deposed the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile. In the ensuing blood bath, thousands of communists, socialists, workers and peasants were murdered, Allende amongst them. The national stadium in the capital, Santiago, was turned into a concentration camp, where hundreds were tortured and shot whilst the ruling class celebrated with champagne parties.

 

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Chile: Pinochet gets rich from bloody dictatorship

Over the past few weeks the Chilean press has developed a renewed interest in the so-called ‘Pinochet Trials’ after the Washington Post revealed on 15 July this year that the US Senate was investigating the Riggs Bank, suspected of money laundering, and harbouring the loot of dictators and ex-rulers.

Augusto Pinochet, the ex-Chilean dictator, seized power in 1973 after a bloody coup (backed by the CIA) which ousted the legitimately elected President, Salvador Allende. He subjected the Chilean people to 16 years of brutal oppression, where opposition faced assassination, disappearance, torture and exile. In 1998, in response to an extradition appeal from a Spanish judge, Pinochet was arrested on one of his regular shopping visits to Britain and detained for over a year. He was finally released by Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the ‘humanitarian’ grounds that he was old and sick.

 

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Chile: Bachelet victorious

In a straight fight against the right wing multi-millionaire candidate Sebastian Pinera, Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party took 53% of the national vote on 15 January to become Chile’s first woman President. She stood on a platform of workers’ and indigenous rights, calling for a reform of the state welfare system and the privatised pension scheme. Whether in practice she is any different from her Socialist Party predecessor Ricardo Lagos remains to be seen. Lagos pursued an aggressive neo-liberal policy of privatisation; that Chile’s economy continued to expand was mainly due to rising copper prices and rising demand for its agricultural exports. Politically, Lagos had sought to distance Chile from Venezuela and Cuba. Yet in 2003 it refused to support the US in the Security Council over the invasion of Iraq and its UN offices were amongst those that the US bugged in an effort to obtain advance information about their voting intentions. It subsequently refused to send troops to Iraq. In 2005, it nominated former foreign minister Jose Miguel Insulza as candidate for Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) against the US’s favoured candidate, Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico. Insulza won the election, the first time the US’s candidate had lost. Whatever policy Bachelet follows internally, it is likely that Chile will follow an increasingly independent path internationally.
Robert Claridge

FRFI 189 February / March 2006

 

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