Reflections on September 11th 1973 in Chile

Economics, Government, History, Leadership, Recourse, Socialism

The date September 11 is seen as a date of remembrance around the western world of the Islamic terror attacks that occurred in the United States in 2001. The attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City and damaged the Pentagon building in Washington DC killed 3,000 people and began the War on Terror we are still fighting and living with consequences of today.

But it should also be remembered that on this date September 11 another major historical event occurred. That is 1973 Chilean coup d’état which saw the removal of the nation’s Marxist President Salvador Allende and the ascension of Military General Augusto Pinochet to Presidency who ruled Chile until 1990.

The conventional history of 9/11 in Chile is that Allende a democratically elected President in 1970 was removed under the direction of the CIA and the economic crisis in the nation was the result of economic warfare undertaken by the United States due to Allende’s socialist economic program being a threat to US capitalists’ interests. Pinochet then oversaw a brutal dictatorship which tortured and killed his political opponents and unleashed a wave of terror on the nation.

But this is fake history, the real history is that Augusto Pinochet saved Chile from an economic and humanitarian disaster, removed further threats from Marxist revolutionaries and oversaw the Chilean Economic Miracle to which to this day sees the nation as the richest in Latin America and the freest.

Chile in 1973 resembled current day Venezuela with inflation of 1000%, food shortages and a once democratically elected government transforming itself into a totalitarian regime. It is also worth highlighting that Allende only became President with 36% of the vote in a close three way race with no run off election. Allende was backed by the Soviet Union, by its security service the KGB and by Latin America’s most famous communist Fidel Castro who spent a month in Chile after Allende was elected to advise him.

Because the economic situation had become so dire in 1973 and Allende was not up for election until 1976 the Chilean Deputies Chamber the nation’s parliament voted to call on the military to end to the Allende regime, because they accused him of trying to install a totalitarian Marxist dictatorship.

Pinochet the man who replaced Allende was reluctant to carry out the coup d’état and only did so when he saw it was the only option. He was not an ideologue neither a socialist or anti-socialist. Hence when he came to power he still managed the economy in a protectionist and socialist manner.

Realizing that he was not fulfilling his objective to restore economic stability to Chile in 1975 he invited Chicago School economists Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger to advise him on economic reforms. On their recommendations Pinochet undertook a process of economic liberalization, privatization of state-owned companies, and stabilization of inflation. The resulting Chilean Miracle saw poverty fell from 50% to 7% and per capita income quadruple.

Of course the main criticism of Pinochet’s regime is the human rights abuses it was responsible for. Enemies of the military junta were killed, tortured or simply disappeared. The death toll from the regime is estimated t0 be around 3,000 and mainly occurred during 1973 to 1975 when the nation was in a virtual civil war.

Although some who were killed and taken away by the regime were innocent many of them were involved in Marxist revolutionary activity, were members of various terrorist groups who had also killed people, tortured others and killed civilians in terrorist attacks.

While the beginning of Pinochet’s regime was brutal if you were an ordinary Chilean citizen you still enjoyed many freedoms.  You could start your own business, buy or sell what you wanted. The media could still criticize the regime heavily, and you had organizations that opposed the government and political parties that opposed the government.

Even though Pinochet started out as a dictator once economic stability was restored to Chile he put the nation back onto the path to democracy it had previously enjoyed. A 1980 constitutional referendum was held in 1980 to approve a new Constitution and to extend Pinochet’s term as President by 8 years. It was approved with 67% of the vote with no substantial allegations of vote rigging or intimidation.

8 years later in 1988 Pinochet went to the public again asking for another 8 years as President which was rejected 44% to 56%. Pinochet then agreed to modify the Constitution and the full transfer to democracy was complete by 1990 with the election of a civilian President.

Not many dictatorships manage to save a nation from economic ruin, have a death toll of only 3,000 and allow a gradual transition to democracy. Compare Pinochet with Latin America’s other famous dictator Fidel Castro where 100,000 people were killed and he oversaw and economic disaster. Cuba to this day is still a dictatorship with Castro handing power to his brother. Meanwhile today Chile is a rich and free country.

Why idolize such a dictator? Surely you cannot look back on his legacy with admiration? But Pinochet was not a person who sought power, was an accidental dictator only trying to do the right thing by his people. Yet he is remembered as bloody dictator when he died while Castro was remembered by the left and media as a romantic revolutionary who freed his people. Again fake history.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and thanks to real history now being accessible through the internet the truth about how Pinochet actually managed Chile is now being discovered. One of his methods for killing communists throwing them from helicopters has now become a popular internet meme among right wingers about how they believe violent revolutionaries should be dealt with.

But Pinochet’s fans do not just include edgy shitlords on the internet but Britain’s most famous free-market Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was a personal friend, grateful for Chile’s assistance during the Falklands War and fought for his release from house arrest in United Kingdom when of all nations Spain decided to indict him for crimes against humanity. Pinochet’s economic legacy is also revered by the Chilean classical liberal Foundation for Progress headed by Axel Kaiser whose work provided the inspiration for essay.

Clearly what happened in Chile beginning with Allende’s election in 1970 was traumatic for nation. But Pinochet was the man who saved it, he wasn’t perfect but its hard to find any world leader who is not a killer. The events of 9/11 in 1973 put Chile on the path to prosperity and ensured it is one of the most stable of all the Latin American nations and should be remembered as a positive development. The challenge for Chile now is ensuring it does not repeat the socialist mistakes that began this period of upheaval and which still sadly continue to plague other Latin American nations.