Friday, December 15, 2006

More on Pinochet...

Political Umpire sent me this link. It is by the former British ambassador to Chile and reads in my view as little but an apology for Pinny.

Skilton writes:

"Many Chileans see Pinochet as the man who saved them from the social unrest, economic chaos and anarchy of the Allende years, and prevented Chile from becoming a second Cuba. They also see him as the man who presided over Chile’s remarkable economic success, which brought jobs, homes, healthcare, etc, to vast swaths of Chile’s previously impoverished population."

These 'many Chileans' he speaks of seem to comprise mostly of the wealthy and the conservative middle classes, who clearly had reason to wish for the preservation of the status quo. A status quo which was indeed threatened by not only the Allende regime itself but the hopes it stirred in the working class and the poor. Economic chaos and anarchy was brought about largely by the deliberate sabotage of the CIA (Richard Nixon having made clear he did not want Allende in power). The human rights abuses were what Pinny and his mates saw as necessary to put the masses in line, and quench once and for all their hopes for a better future. This was the cost of 'Chile's economic success'. Torture, death, corpses. And who precisely did the economic success serve?

The novelist Isabelle Allende pointed to the fact that this 'economic success' did not benefit those at the bottom of the social ladder. It made the rich rich and the poor poorer. It may have made the middle classes better off, but not the poor. Social inequality on the whole rose during that period. Any trickle down effect was minor, and it's costs were great, rather like Thatcher's Britain. I have heard similiar arguments in fact made about Thatcher - that the British economy was in a better state after she had finished than before she was in power. They do not convince me. If such measures are indeed necessary why have the Scandinavian countries prospered and been stable during years of social democracy?

Skilton also writes:

"But it is undeniable, if uncomfortable, that by the time Pinochet left office in 1990, Chile was in a far better state than when he started."

This is a red herring as nobody knows what Chile would look like today had the coup not occurred. Allendes Chile was not to be. The great powers would not allow it to be.

5 comments:

james higham said...

If you look at Allende and then Pinochet, one has to wonder about the people, as one does about the British people who so eagerly clamoured for Tony Blair when all along it was clear he was a hollow man.

Ms Melancholy said...

I visited Chile several years ago as my sister had married a Chilean farmer and was living over there. I was shocked at his personal unwillingness to discuss the ‘Pinochet years’ and the general Chilean mood of ‘let bygones be bygones’. He had fled Chile in 1973 and had spent the best part of 15 years as a displaced person, wandering through Israel, Denmark, Holland and the UK. He returned to Chile following the elections in 1986 (?) and became a farmer, inheriting land that his father had worked during his lifetime. I encountered a general disregard for the poor that I found shocking. The shanty towns display a poverty that we can’t even imagine, and everyone I met seemed unwilling to accept it as a problem. ‘They choose to live that way’, was the usual response. It seemed to me that people had been so brutalised by the absolute terror of the early Pinochet years that they just couldn’t bear to look back and had abandoned any notion of social justice.

I couldn’t make sense of it then, and I still can’t. You are right that Pinochet (and the USA) created economic success for the middle classes, which served to widen the gap between those and the very poor that live in the Shanty towns. I understand that a newly acquired material comfort might make one less passionate about social inequalities.

When Pinochet was extradited back to Chile, I was told by my relatives that he would never be tried as Chileans did not want to look back. I feel deeply saddened that Pinochet escaped justice, but I don’t know whether I am in position to judge people who have been through the terror of those years.

I like your blog, by the way.

Liz said...

Indeed James, one does wonder. I think the reason people clamoured for Blair was because most of them believed that he would have been better than the Tories, they wanted a new beginning and all.
He is a hollow man but he did seem to have the necessary charisma for a demagogue!

Interesting observations, Ms Melancholy. It is true that increased material comfort can make people less passionate about social justice, and it may also be true to say that people have been brutalised by the Pinochet regime. The idea that the poor bring it on themselves is not unique to Chile, but I imagine it would stand out there more due to the fact that the poverty is worse than anything we see in Britain.

I'm glad you like my blog, thanks!

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