Posts Tagged ‘Pinochet’

According to Greg Grandin [ht: sb],

“I didn’t know absolutely nothing.” That double negative is from Sergio de Castro, talking about the killing, disappearances, and torture that took place when he served as Chile’s economic and finance minister during the Pinochet regime’s most brutal period. It’s from a great documentary that premiered this week in Chile, Chicago Boys, made by Carola Fuentes, a journalist, and Rafael Valdeavellano, a filmmaker.

Less than a month later, a former conscript in the Chilean army, Guillermo Reyes Rammsy, was charged with murder after confessing on a live radio phone-in to participating in the deaths of eighteen opponents of the military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The extraordinary confession began on Wednesday afternoon when a man called in to Chile’s most famous talk show “Chacotero Sentimental” (Loving Betrayal) and told host Roberto Artiagoitía that he was considering suicide.

After briefly describing a frustrated romance, the caller went on to describe his involvement in a string of human rights crimes. He said that, as a conscript, he had participated in 18 executions, following Pinochet’s military coup against the government of president Salvador Allende.

“The first time [I killed someone] I cried but the lieutenant was saying: ‘Good soldier, good soldier, brave soldier.’ Then ‘Pow. pow,’ again,” he said. “The second time I liked it. I enjoyed it.”

Over the next 20 minutes, the caller described a string of human rights abuses that he had witnessed during his time in the army. “I participated in 18 executions … We shot them in the head and then blew up the bodies with dynamite, there was nothing left, not even their shadow,” he said.

Reyes’s arrest “was cheered by human rights group who have long fought for a better understanding of how the Chilean army killed then destroyed the bodies of the victims.”

One can only hope the confessions in the Chicago Boys will help bring the other—the free-market criminals—to justice.

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Special mention

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The Wall Street Journal, it seems, can’t get enough of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

Just last week, the editorial board published a statement in which they argued Egyptians would be fortunate if their newly installed military government behaved like Pinochet’s.

As it turns out, they expressed their admiration for Pinochet in an earlier opinion piece, published in 2010 [ht: mfa] arguing that Chile had survived its earthquake better than Haiti had because of the years of Pinochet dictatorship:

One reason is luck, as the quake hit offshore and away from populated areas, save for the city of Concepción. But even in that city of one million, the death toll might have been worse. That it wasn’t is due in part to Chile’s stricter building codes, which have been developed over long experience with quakes along the Eastern Pacific fault line. Chileans have prepared well for the big one.

But such preparation is also the luxury of a prosperous country, in contrast to destitute and ill-governed Haiti. Chile has benefited enormously in recent decades from the free-market reforms it passed in the 1970s under dictator Augusto Pinochet. While Chileans still disagree about Pinochet’s political actions, they have not repealed most of that era’s economic opening to the world. In the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, compiled by the Heritage Foundation and this newspaper, Chile is the world’s 10th freest economy. Haiti ranks 141st.

There is, of course, no mention of the brutality of the dictatorship itself—or, for that matter, of the fact that Chile currently has one of the most unequal distributions of income in all of Latin America, which is a legacy of the way the economy was restructured (with the help of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys) under Pinochet. As for Haiti, the fact is the country was unprepared precisely because of the legacy of a pair of U.S.-backed dictators and of the successful implementation of “free-market” reforms.

But facts certainly won’t stand in the way of the Wall Street Journal‘s sympathy for the dictator Pinochet.

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On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled “After the Coup in Cairo.” Its final paragraph contained these words:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal—the editorial was unsigned—think Egyptians will be fortunate if the new ruling generals preside over a long period of terror.*

Only in America can the editorial board of a major newspaper blithely make such a suggestion.

*That period—which included political repression, mass incarcerations, thousands of political prisoners who were killed, and widespread human rights violations—lasted 17 years in the case of Pinochet.

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Corey Robin, in a second reply to his critics (of his essay “Nietzsche’s Marginal Children,” on which I commented here), further explores the connection between Friedrich von Hayek and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

In that context, Robin shows how free-market libertarianism stumbles on the relationship between capitalism and violence:

Whether we call it primitive accumulation or the great transformation, we know that the creation of markets often require or are accompanied by a high degree of coercion. This is especially true of markets in labor. Men and women are not born wage laborers ready to contract with capital. Nor do they simply evolve into these positions over time. Wage laborers are often made—and remade—through violence, coercion, and force. Like the labor wars of the Gilded Age or the enclosure riots, Pinochet’s Chile was about the forcible creation, at lightning speed, of new markets in land and labor.

Hayek’s failure to fully come to terms with this reality—his idea of a good “liberal dictator” shows that he was more than aware of it; the fact that so little in his work on rule formation gives warrant to such an idea demonstrates the theoretical impasse in which he found himself—is why his engagement with Pinochet is so important. Not because it shows him to be a bad person but because it reveals the “steel frame,” as Schumpeter called it, of the market order, the unacknowledged relationship between operatic violence and doux commerce.

The argument, I think, is even more general. Yes, we need to remember the labor wars of the Gilded Age, the enclosure riots, and the Chilean dictatorship’s forcible creation of markets. But we also need to recognize the violence involved in forcing people to have the freedom to sell their ability to work every day, around the world, within the “normally functioning” market order.

It’s that dimension of the relationship between capitalism and violence mainstream economists of all stripes refuse to acknowledge.