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30 Years Later, a Coup's Scars Have Been Masked (Allende Good, Pinochet Bad)
New York Times ^ | September 7, 2003 | Larry Rohter

Posted on 09/07/2003 11:05:21 PM PDT by Recourse

September 7, 2003 30 Years Later, a Coup's Scars Have Been Masked


SANTIAGO, Chile — The first thing a visitor is likely to notice on entering La Moneda presidential palace here after a prolonged absence is that the bullet holes that once pockmarked the exterior have been plastered over. But while the visible scars of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende Gossens on Sept. 11, 1973, and installed Gen. Augusto Pinochet may have finally been erased, the same cannot be said of the deeper, interior trauma that was inflicted.

As it prepares to mark the coup's 30th anniversary, Chile likes to think of itself as a normal, even boring country — prosperous and calm, more concerned with mundane issues like the fishing law and the marriage code than plans to transform society. It has achieved that condition, though, only by ignoring — or by failing to heal — the most painful wounds left by its past, in what a resentful minority describes as a calculated act of "collective forgetting."

To the rest of the world, of course, Chile remains mostly a symbol rather than a real presence. In Europe and the United States, it is still possible to find people of a certain age who refuse to consume Chilean wine as a silent, quixotic protest against the atrocities that Pinochet's armed forces committed, while the wizards of Wall Street would rather praise Chile as their ideal of an open, capitalist economy in a developing country.

What few here or abroad wish to acknowledge, however, is that Chileans did not, at first, freely choose the economic model under which they now live. Instead, it was imposed on them as the result of the coup. Underlying the current prosperity, in other words, is a long trail of blood and suffering that makes the thought of reversing course too difficult to contemplate.

When General Pinochet was forced to leave power and democracy was restored in 1990, "the people who took over very deliberately decided for both political and psychological reasons that they wanted to bury the past," the writer Ariel Dorfman said. "They wanted a new life in which Chileans would no longer be victims, but the pain is still there and there is still a reluctance to talk about it."

Outwardly at least, Chileans are brimming with self-confidence these days, so much so that references to them as "the new Argentines" are beginning to appear in the regional press. As any Latin American knows, that is not a compliment but a way of suggesting that Chileans have become arrogant and patronizing, as their neighbors across the Andes were considered to be before their economy collapsed in 2001.

During the 1990's, Chile's resolutely free-market economy grew faster than any other in South America, at rates of up to 7 percent a year. This convinced many Chileans that the recipe that had been used here should be exported.

"Welcome back to a country that works," the press secretary for a cabinet minister told a reporter just arriving from Venezuela.

Though cocky, that assertion is hard to deny. Visitors from other parts of Latin America are startled to find that taxes are actually collected, that the police generally do not seek or take bribes and that the political culture here places a premium on public rectitude. An isolated case of payoffs in the awarding of government contracts — a story that would have been a minor scandal elsewhere — was front-page news for weeks earlier this year.

Politically, too, Chile seems increasingly distinct from its neighbors.

In their most recent presidential elections, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela all elected presidents who harshly criticized policies supported by Washington that restrict government expenditures, lower tariffs and privatize state companies. Instead, these successful candidates promised voters a greater focus on social justice and equality.

Here, in contrast, the nominally Socialist government led by Ricardo Lagos, once a member of the Allende cabinet, talks only about deepening free-market reforms. In a statement issued last month, the International Monetary Fund "congratulated the Chilean authorities" for remaining loyal to those principles during a global recession and predicted that Chile would be rewarded with increased growth next year.

And while Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, recently cautioned the rest of Latin America not to let Washington's plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas become "an instrument to suffocate our possibilities for growth," Chile has already negotiated such agreements with both the United States and the European Union.

"Chile has shown the value of free trade and having solid policies" and now "will have the opportunity to advance even further," President Bush said last week when he signed the accord.

But the modernization process has had its costs, as life here in the capital demonstrates. Though gleaming new hotels and office buildings have sprung up in neighborhoods that barely existed when Mr. Allende was overthrown, the magnificent view of the Andes that once dominated the skyline has been so diminished by automobile exhaust and smog that on many days the snow-capped mountains are not even visible.

The remnants of the left, demoralized and nostalgic for the Allende days, are disgusted by what they see and constantly complain that the populace is hypnotized by television programs that are among the most mindless anywhere. They forget that the agitprop of the Allende era was no better.

But even ordinary Chileans acknowledge a certain loss of solidarity and community.

"It took a trip to Brazil to remind me that our pace of life here is just not natural," lamented Ciro Colombara López, a lawyer. "People work such long hours and are so busy making money that they barely have time to enjoy life and talk to their neighbors anymore."

But the principal problem is the persistence of a huge gap between the rich, who delight in flaunting their imported cars and vacation trips to Cancún, and the poor in whose name Mr. Allende claimed to speak. Though spending on health, education and transportation has zoomed since democracy was restored, the historic dream of an egalitarian society seems as distant as ever.

"We're a country that has reduced poverty from 40 percent to 20 percent in 10 years, and how many countries can say that?" Mr. Lagos asked during an interview here. "But the people always want more, and we have to do much more. It is a tremendous challenge."

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: allende; chile; latinamerica; latinamericalist; pinochet
The author states that "the historic dream of an egalitarian society seems as distant as ever." The author is, of course, blitheringly unaware that such a society does not exist, and will never exist, so long as human beings differ in work ethic, intelligence, and ambition. His beloved socialism only made the rich poor, the poor still poorer, and the poltical classes the new aristocracy. Franco saved Spain from Communism, and Pinochet did the same. Chile is now a propserous country, with low tariffs and a privatized social security system. Why do people still fail to realize that Communism was a virus, and that Pinochet's actions were wholly justified?
1 posted on 09/07/2003 11:05:22 PM PDT by Recourse
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
NY Times barf alert *ping*
2 posted on 09/07/2003 11:17:28 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (~RINOs can eat my shorts - and you don't want to know when I washed 'em last~)
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To: Recourse
Why do people still fail to realize that Communism was a virus, and that Pinochet's actions were wholly justified?

What people? Only the international socialists whine; apparently, the folks in Chile love Pinochet. This is reported to me by my niece who lived there for a year or more teaching poor kids English and Algebra. The feeling there among the economically 'oppressed' is very upbeat: there is great hope for their childrens' success, as long as things remain as they are.

My niece has no corporeal political bent...she works for Jesus, so I suspect little bias .

Maybe some others can confirm this?

3 posted on 09/07/2003 11:53:44 PM PDT by dasboot (Celebrate UNITY!)
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To: *Latin_America_List
4 posted on 09/08/2003 7:08:21 AM PDT by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: All

5 posted on 09/11/2003 9:07:12 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: dasboot
I was in Chile in '89 when Pinochet was 'voted out' (actually a plebiscite, YES you want Pinochet to stay as President or NO you want free, open elections). It was an amazingly calm, ordered election (the NOs won and Pinochet ran, but lost in the presidential election).

The middle and upper class really liked Pinochet (many of them lost large amounts of land and property under Allende). Pinochet certainly wasn't an angel (there were many, many cases of human rights abuses). When I was there, Chilean society was amazingly modern and civilized and open. Lot's of newspapers and magazines were being printed (including some anti-Pinochet), people could gather, worship, speak pretty much freely.

6 posted on 09/12/2003 11:08:04 AM PDT by LakerCJL
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To: Recourse

Cars with Cuban license plates are parked near a poster of late Chilean President Salvador Allende, on what used to be the parking lot of the former Chilean embassy in Havana, September 10, 2003. Allende, who was Latin America's first democratically elected Marxist president, shot himself after a coup led by General August Pinochet on September 11, 1973.The former embassy building houses now a museum dedicated to Allende and is run by Chilean exiles. The writing on the Allende poster reads 'The Chilean people will accomplish your mandate.' REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Caption Correction: Aside from the idiotic oxymoron therein, Allende was NOT Latin America's "first democratically elected Marxist president." He "became" (openly) a friggin Marxist AFTER he was elected as a populist. Say what you will about what happened there in '73 Reuters, but let us please be honest about it.

Seriously, Chilean exiles in Cuba? ROFL! You gotta be reeeely dedicated to la revolucion to be a Chilean exile in 2003. Wait, there weren't any Cubans in Santiago in '73, were there?

("Baja, Fidel!" "Baja, Fidel!" they screamed to the old man as he was trying to get off the Havana bus...)

Nicollo unmasked: Bromleyisms here

7 posted on 09/12/2003 11:34:46 AM PDT by nicollo
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To: Recourse
8 posted on 09/12/2003 1:18:50 PM PDT by RippleFire
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To: Recourse; All
What Really Happened In Chile 30 Years Ago
Wall Street Journal ^ | Friday, September 12, 2003 | JAMES R. WHELAN
9 posted on 09/12/2003 1:23:39 PM PDT by backhoe
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