June 15, 2011

When Pinochet Saved Chile

Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile on September 11, 1973, when Congress called upon the army to save the country from the pro-communist Allende government.

General Augusto Pinochet

The Allende Years

Salvador Allende won the presidency in a three-way race in 1970 with only 36 percent of the votes. He declared that “Santiago will be painted red with blood if I am not ratified as President,” and as soon as he was ratified he began destroying the constitution.

Allende set out to take control of the country’s industry, taking hundreds of businesses from their owners without compensation. He seized land and more than 1,500 farms. He centralized education and filled the schools with Marxist propaganda. He inflated the money supply, printing more and more money to pay for his projects. He gave out welfare to his political friends. He crashed the entire economy, and Chile came to suffer from massive debt, default, 140% inflation, empty grocery stores, and a revolt by every property owner and business interest in the country. People had nothing to eat.

Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende
The Chilean courts denounced Allende’s breaking of the law, and Allende responded by refusing to enforce more than 7,000 court rulings. Criminals were set free with no consequences for their actions. Chile soon became a haven of crime, run by gangs and communists swarming over the country from all over South America.

Following the industrial collapse, the country was filled with an army of illiterate peasants preparing to fight against the “capitalists” the government told them were behind the destruction of the economy. Fidel Castro’s embassy in Santiago swelled to a staff of 1,000 people ready to assist in the coming communist takeover. 

Peasant Allende supporters
Under Allende, the Chilean Communist Party sent its members to Cuba to receive training in guerrilla warfare. Cuban officers followed them back to Chile as military advisors to the communists. Guns, explosives and ammunition were smuggled in from Cuba. This smuggling operation was protected from high up in the Allende government. In the streets, the communists were doing what they always do before a takeover: beating up shopkeepers, vandalizing and looting stores, attacking political opponents, attacking anyone who wore expensive-looking Western clothing, and generally terrorizing the populaze to break their will to resist. They began a terror campaign of assassinations and bombings.

Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro

Protesting Women

Housewives who couldn't feed their children started demonstrating. In the March of Empty Pots in 1971, more than 5,000 housewives marched in Santiago, banging empty pots and pans to show they had nothing to fill them with. The unarmed women were attacked by communist gangs. Other youths, many the sons of the women in the march, then came to their aid, fighting the communists. When the police arrived, they aimed their water cannons and tear gas mostly at the women.

Chilean women now began urging the army to revolt against Allende. For the army's reluctance to do so, women threw chicken feathers at military parades (telling the soldiers they were chickens). The women formed the organization Feminine Power, which came to play a significant role in resisting Allende's actions. It was the largest political activism by women to ever take place in Latin America.

When hearing of the March of Empty Pots, feminists in the West dismissed the women with contempt, since they were mostly middle class and upper class, and therefore must be lying in order to make Allende look bad. When feminists talk about women taking a role in Latin American politics they always ignore the March and the role Chile's women played in urging the military to revolt. In her book Right-Wing Women in Chile (Pennsylvania State University Press), leftist professor Margaret Power describes interviews with women all across Chile, who told interviewers of their struggle. Margaret Power dismisses them outright. They are either lying or they only think they remember correctly; their memories have been distorted by right-wing propaganda, she says. She also says these women exploited the wishes of women to be more active in politics.

Men and women vote separately in Chile, and it is therefore possible to see that even working-class women voted more for conservative candidates than working-class men did. According to Margaret Power, this is simply the result of middle-class women exploiting working-class women's wishes for sewing machines (no small thing at the time) and other material improvements.

They were women, they were active in politics, they opposed a totalitarian regime. But they were Right, not Left. So today they are forgotten.

Veteran women supporters of Pinochet, 2000

The Congress Censure

Three years into Allende's presidency, on August 22, 1973 the Chilean Congress censured Allende for violating law and the constitution in order to “establish a totalitarian system absolutely opposed to the representative system of government established by the Constitution.”

Allende was censured for “making violation of the Constitution and the law a permanent system of conduct,” and for “systematically trampling the powers of the other branches of government,” while at the same time “violating the civil rights of the citizens guaranteed in the Constitution and permitting and stimulating the formation of illegal parallel powers which constitute a grave threat for the nation.”

These illegal armed groups “intend to replace legitimately constituted powers and serve as a base for the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

In other words, Allende’s rule was that of a criminal organization, while aiding in the formation of communist guerrillas.

Allende now was unable to find majority support in the Congress, but he had other plans for staying in power. According to documents found in the presidential palace after the coup, Allende was planning to massacre his conservative military opponents and some 600 politicians, journalists, and conservative opposition members by the end of 1973.

Not surprisingly, the Congress supported the military’s coup as a way to save Chile. In fact, their August 22 censure of Allende called for the military to save the country – the military was acting on behalf of the elected Congress. On September 11, the military threw out Allende, then went into the towns and cities and arrested the gangs operating there.

Allende with the Soviet-made AK47 thought to have been used in his suicide 1973

General Pinochet Takes Power

General Augusto Pinochet took power and defeated the communists. According to the Rettig Report of 1991, Pinochet’s struggle against the communists resulted in 2,300 (both sides) dead and missing. Some claim it was 3,000 dead. Many of these were foreigners, drawn to Chile at the prospect of taking part in a communist takeover.

The left-wing media in the West hated it; they had watched with approval the preparations for another communist dictatorship. (The same media who had never said anything about the 20,000 executed in Cuba, and the hundreds of thousands of Cubans put in concentration camps.) They now started hating Pinochet with a force reserved for Hitler and anyone else who stands in the way of communism. Suddenly publishing the violence in Chile was allowed – now that it wasn’t the Left committing it.

The military was brutal in its suppression of the communists. It was South America after all, the home of Indian-Spanish latinos. But there is no moral equivalency. Communists killed more than 60 million people in Russia, they massacred the Polish elite in the Katyn Massacre, they raped more than a million women after WWII, they killed 20 million people in China, and they killed a third of Cambodia’s population. To name a few of their crimes. Chile was facing yet another communist plan for taking over a nation, complete with terrorist bombings of the infrastructure, and these terrorists were met with a deserved response.

The Left propagates some fantastic eyewitness accounts, such as bodies being thrown overboard from ships on the Mapocho river that runs through Santiago. As Paul Craig Roberts has noted, anyone who has seen this “river” knows that it is not navigable. This is the same strategy the Left has always used for armed conflicts. In regard to Cuba, they had talked of thousands of dead in battles with Batista’s government, and claimed that the economy was run by the Mafia, none of which was true. (There were 182 dead, both sides put together.)

Chilean Prosperity 

One thing the Left will not mention is that Pinochet had strong support from the Chilean people and Congress. Under Pinochet, Allende’s economic disaster came to an end. The economy was repaired and the nation prospered. Pinochet lowered tariffs, privatized large portions of the health care and social security systems, and re-established rule of law in the economy. Pinochet allowed back the investors from America and other Western nations, whose skills Chile sorely needed. The stores filled with food again.

Pinochet never planned to be dictator for life. He created a strong constitution and from the beginning made plans for future elections. When he had left power after seventeen years and allowed his enemies back to the political game – something the communists would never do voluntarily – Pinochet still had strong support among the people. Chileans then had one of the highest living standards in Latin America.

Augusto Pinochet and Pope John Paul II, 1987. Under Allende, Catholic churches were bombed by the communists.
As a way to promote reconciliation in Chile, both the remaining members of left-wing terrorist groups and the military were given amnesty. The military government kept the amnesty, but successor governments did not. In his old age Pinochet was harrassed by vengeful leftists, determined to overturn the amnesty for Pinochet – but not for the terrorists.

Pinochet supporters after his death in 2006
Augusto Pinochet died of old age, 91 years old, in 2006. Today government corruption is once again on the rise in Chile and constitutional restraints are assaulted, as the Left creates voting blocs dependent on government welfare in its usual strategy for holding power. Should the Left succeed in once again overthrowing the rule of law in Chile, the hard-working, job-creating, industry-building middle class that is the basis for any country’s prosperity will be under threat. If the Allende government showed anything it is that worshipping democracy as an end in itself – Allende came to power democratically after all, with 36 percent of the vote – is a dead end. It is not democracy that builds a nation’s prosperity, but the productive middle class.

Chilean Pinochet supporters in a march in favor of their former president
Indian Pinochet supporter

Leftist demanding Pinochet's immunity be lifted, 2006, a few months before his death at 91 years of age

Leftists rioting at Pinochet's death