December 10, 2006


Former Chilean Dictator Pinochet Dies at 91 (Eduardo Gallardo, 12/10/06, Associated Press)

Pinochet defended his authoritarian rule as a bulwark against communism -- and even claimed part of the credit for the collapse of communism. He repeatedly said he had nothing to ask forgiveness for.

"I see myself as a good angel," he told a Miami Spanish-language television station in 2004.

With his raspy voice, he often spoke in a lower-class vernacular that comedians delighted in mimicking. But his off-the-cuff comments sometimes got him into trouble.

Once, he embarrassed the government by saying that the German army was made up of "marijuana smokers, homosexuals, long-haired unionists." On another occasion, he drew criticism by saying the discovery of coffins that each contained the bodies of two victims of his regime's repression was a show of "a good cemetery space-saving measure."

Shrewd and firmly in command of his army, Pinochet saw himself as the leader of a crusade to build a society free of communism. Amid the upheaval in 1973, the economy was in near ruins, partly due to the CIA's covert destabilization efforts.

Pinochet launched a radical free-market economic program that, coupled with heavy foreign borrowing and an overvalued peso, triggered a financial collapse and unprecedented joblessness in the early 1980s. Eventually, the economy recovered and since 1984 Chile has posted growth averaging 5 percent to 7 percent a year.

Key to the economic recovery was a group of mostly young economists known as the "Chicago Boys" for their studies under University of Chicago professor and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. They lifted most state controls over the economy, privatized many sectors and strongly encouraged foreign investment with tax and other guarantees.

Pinochet tried to remain in control of the nation of 15 million people, but Latin America was gravitating toward civilian rule. On Oct. 5, 1988, he lost a national referendum on a proposal to extend his rule until 1997. He was forced to call a presidential election, which was won by center-left coalition candidate Patricio Aylwin.

Pinochet handed over power to Aylwin in March 1990 but remained army commander for eight more years and then was a senator-for-life, a position guaranteed under the constitution written by his regime.

Pinochet dies at 91, mourned by Thatcher (Toby Helm, 11/12/2006, Daily Telegraph)
Baroness Thatcher, who remained a loyal supporter to the last, was said to be "greatly saddened" by the news.

She maintained that Gen Pinochet had offered vital help to Britain during the Falklands conflict in 1982.

Kind of fitting that he follows shortly after Ms Kirkpatrick, since no one better illustrated her point that democratic adults need to be able to differentiate between anti-Western totalitarians, who are the enemy, and pro-American authoritarians, who want nothing more than to resume their evolvution towards the End of History, once the immediate threat is vanquished and traditional institutions shored up.


Dictatorships & Double Standards
(Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, November 1979, Commentary)

The foreign policy of the Carter administration fails not for lack of good intentions but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest. Only intellectual fashion and the tyranny of Right/Left thinking prevent intelligent men of good will from perceiving the facts that traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies, that they are more susceptible of liberalization, and that they are more compatible with U.S. interests. The evidence on all these points is clear enough.

Surely it is now beyond reasonable doubt that the present governments of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos are much more repressive than those of the despised previous rulers; that the government of the People's Republic of China is more repressive than that of Taiwan, that North Korea is more repressive than South Korea, and so forth. This is the most important lesson of Vietnam and Cambodia. It is not new but it is a gruesome reminder of harsh facts.

From time to time a truly bestial ruler can come to power in either type of autocracy--Idi Amin, Papa Doc Duvalier, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot are examples--but neither type regularly produces such moral monsters (though democracy regularly prevents their accession to power). There are, however, systemic differences between traditional and revolutionary autocracies that have a predictable effect on their degree of repressiveness. Generally speaking, traditional autocrats tolerate social inequities, brutality, and poverty while revolutionary autocracies create them.

Traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other re- sources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope, as children born to untouchables in India acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill. Such societies create no refugees.

Precisely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes. They create refugees by the million because they claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands in the remarkable expectation that their attitudes, values, and goals will "fit" better in a foreign country than in their native land. [...]

There is a damning, contrast between the number of refugees created by Marxist regimes and those created by other autocracies: more than a million Cubans have left their homeland since Castro's rise (one refugee for every nine inhabitants) as compared to about 35,000 each from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In Africa more than five times as many refugees have fled Guinea and Guinea Bissau as have left Zimbabwe Rhodesia, suggesting that civil war and racial discrimination are easier for most people to bear than Marxist-style liberation.

Moreover, the history of this century provides no grounds for expecting that radical totalitarian regimes will transform themselves. At the moment there is a far greater likelihood of progressive liberalization and democratization in the governments of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile than in the government of Cuba; in Taiwan than in the People's Republic of China; in South Korea than in North Korea; in Zaire than in Angola; and so forth.

Since many traditional autocracies permit limited contestation and participation, it is not impossible that U.S. policy could effectively encourage this process of liberalization and democratization, provided that the effort is not made at a time when the incumbent government is fighting for its life against violent adversaries, and that proposed reforms are aimed at producing gradual change rather than perfect democracy overnight. To accomplish this, policymakers are needed who understand how actual democracies have actually come into being. History is a better guide than good intentions.

Persistent Persecution of Pinochet (James R. Whelan, 4/10/00, New American)
It is a matter of no mean importance to repeatedly portray a government leader as a "dictator." Eventually, the proposition is accepted without question. It is then only a question of which evil deeds he committed — after all, isn’t that what dictators do, commit evil deeds?

Was Pinochet, in fact, a "dictator?" Not if words have any meaning, he was not. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia English Dictionary, a dictator is "a ruler with (often usurped) unrestricted authority." Pinochet never possessed "unrestricted authority."

The government Pinochet headed was "authoritarian," and, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick pointed out years ago, there is a very real and important difference between an authoritarian government and a dictatorship. In an authoritarian regime, most people are free to live their lives, unmolested by the government. In a dictatorship, there is no freedom. Pinochet himself once described himself as a "dictator" — but in the classic, Roman sense: A man who rescued a tottering country from collapse. That is precisely what Pinochet and his colleagues did in Chile, beginning in 1973.

Pinochet came to power at the head of a four-man military junta — composed of the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Carabineros (para-military national police force) — who, together, staged the Sept. 11, 1973 revolution. In 1980, Chileans voted in a plebiscite — by a two-to-one margin — to approve a new Constitution, and with it the continuance of military rule for eight more years, during a carefully phased transition back to democratic government. Pinochet then became a constitutional president, under the very same constitution which has remained in force ever since, including under two democratic governments. Jose Toribio Merino Castro, head of the Chilean Navy, led the newly created legislative branch. The third branch of government, the judiciary — though generally favorable to the aims of the Pinochet government — remained independent throughout military rule.

The "Pinochet Constitution" was the most carefully crafted in the country’s history. Many people, including two ex-Presidents, helped draft it. Later, following his defeat in the 1988 plebiscite which the military government planned, organized, and staged exactly as it had said it would, Pinochet agreed to negotiations with the united, center-Left opposition, which led to 54 amendments to that Constitution. He did so even though the military were still very much in power. Eighty-five percent of the Chilean people voted in favor of those changes, further legitimatizing that Constitution.

'He broke the chains of communism for us' (Jeremy McDermott, 12/11/06, Daily Telegraph)
Although he left power 16 years ago, Pinochet remained a senator for life. He continued to influence Chilean politics, dividing this traumatised and conservative society between those outraged at the human rights abuses he presided over and those convinced that the military ruler saved the country from a Marxist disaster and set it on a path to becoming the economic success story it is today.

"He broke the chains of communism for us... we didn't become a second Cuba, and that's thanks to him," one woman told local television. [...]

Last month, during celebrations for his 91st birthday, Pinochet took responsibility for all the actions carried out during his regime, but expressed no remorse, insisting everything was done to save the country.

"Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour toward anybody, that I love my country above all else."

He was asked in 1989 before he gave up power how he would fare under divine judgment.

"I'll go to heaven. Where would I have gone, do you think? To hell? No, don't worry, I'll go to heaven."

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 10, 2006 3:09 PM

partly due to the CIA's covert destabilization effort

As opposed to Allende's criminal incompetence? Nope, no bias here. The AP's just quoting Capt. Jamal Hussein again.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 10, 2006 5:31 PM

Where's macduff???

Did he read "The Allende Myth" yet?

Or his he partying w/his friends that another one died?

Posted by: Sandy P at December 10, 2006 6:15 PM

Will any of the reporting of Castro's death mention the numbers he killed and imprisoned?

We're waiting.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 10, 2006 10:06 PM

According to US progressives: Bush is Hitler, Pinochet was a dictator, Iran is a democracy.

Posted by: ic at December 11, 2006 3:54 AM

Let the so-called, self-proclaimed "progressives" prate about Communist "progress." The world has seen what that "progress" entails.

Pinochet at least knew that the only good Communist was a dead Communist.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 11, 2006 5:11 AM

Of course Iran is a democracy, just an illiberal one at this point.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2006 7:38 AM

I have an uncle who is a Trappist Monk in Santiago and he has been there since the 1960's. I believe his opinion is that although Pinochet was not perfect, he was the best option and he made the country a better place.

Posted by: pchuck at December 11, 2006 11:04 AM

"Kind of fitting that he follows shortly after Ms Kirkpatrick, since no one better illustrated her point that democratic adults need to be able to differentiate between anti-Western totalitarians, who are the enemy, and pro-American authoritarians, who want nothing more than to resume their evolvution towards the End of History, once the immediate threat is vanquished and traditional institutions shored up."

You mean threats like the British fleet in the Falklands?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at December 12, 2006 6:43 AM

Wasn't a threat to Chile, which is why he backed Britain.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2006 8:33 AM