As we remember the brave men and women who died in the terrorist attack of 9-11, we also look south to something very consequential that happened on another September 11 in Chile in 1973::
“Chile’s armed forces stage a coup d’état against the government of President Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America. Allende retreated with his supporters to La Moneda, the fortress-like presidential palace in Santiago, which was surrounded by tanks and infantry and bombed by air force jets. Allende survived the aerial attack but then apparently shot himself to death as troops stormed the burning palace, reportedly using an automatic rifle given to him as a gift by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.”
Allende was elected in a 3-way race in 1970. His presidency divided the country and created economic chaos, i.e. food shortage, labor strikes and violence was rampant.
The nation was in turmoil and President Allende had lost control of the situation.
Please don’t get fooled with the international left’s romantic and nostalgic recollections of the Allende years. They were bad for Chile.
Of course, Allende was elected and nobody likes to see a military “coup” replacing what voters selected.
At the same time, Allende was trying to transform the Chilean economy way beyond what anyone had voted for:
“He embarked on what he called “the Chilean path to socialism,” nationalizing the copper industry that had been dominated by U.S. companies and using the money to fund land redistribution while improving health care, education and literacy. The embrace of socialism, which included a three-week visit by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was a Cold War nightmare for U.S. President Richard Nixon, who approved a covert campaign to aggravate the country’s economic chaos and helped provoke the military takeover. The Sept. 11 coup initially was supported by many Chileans fed up with inflation that topped 500 percent, chronic shortages and factory takeovers. But it destroyed what they had proudly described as South America’s strongest democracy.” (AP)
Pinochet’s term was not easy either. There were serious human rights violations. We can not overlook those excesses when we praise the work of “The Chicago Boys” in the economy.
Where is Chile today? Chile is the jewel of Latin American economies. It is no longer a 3rd world country and enjoys a very stable economic and political environment.
Is Chile better off today? I say yes but I respect those Chileans who lost loved ones during a very difficult period.
Like in Egypt recently, there are times when elected leaders push the country into chaos and the army has to step in and clean things up.
Finally, Pinochet left power after losing big in a plebiscite in 1988. Chile began its return to democracy the next year and here we are.
At the end of the day, Pinochet’s legacy is a prosperous and non-communist Chile, as Paul Weyrich wrote when Pinochet died in 2006.