Pinochet and the White House

A quote from Gideon Rachman on his blog, 11 December 2006

For some on the right in Britain, America and parts of Europe, the Pinochet regime had a lot to be said for it. Not only did it prevent Chile “going communist”, it also served as a testing ground for important free-market economic reforms – such as the privatisation of pensions. The fact that Chile today is both democratic and more prosperous than the Latin American average is used to illustrate the argument that a “Pinochet period” might be necessary in some countries. [...] To the left, of course, any justification for Pinochet’s deeds is an abomination. [...] it was interesting that the White House spokesman also emphasised Pinochet’s victims – which shows that, these days, even a conservative America president is reluctant to go down the Kirkpatrick route on Latin American dictatorships.

Moral relativism

@ Kapitein + pvdh

At least the anti-american European far-right and the naive left-have something in common: moral relativism.  That includes of course historical falsification. 

Allende did not "face ousting by his own parliament for unconstitutional policies".   His unconstitutional policies are beyond historical doubt, but the parliament was powerless to remove Allende.  He did not "face ousting" by parliament.  Especially since Allende had been creating separate security forces (with foreign communist support, cold war) to prepare his marxist coup.  Hence the parliament asked the army (Pinochet) to remove Allende first.

Whatever the tribulations of south american 'caudillos' of the left or the right, the application of moral principles must be consistent.   Therefore, all regimes "with the fearful knock on the door at night" should be condemned.    In that context, one can only wonder about the "sympathy" that has been publicly expressed by numerous Belgian politicians and 'cultural leaders' for Castro, or the sympathy expressed for Zimbabwe's Mugabe by an 'idealistic young Belgian in a (admittedly rare) fit of irrational anti-Americanism.   

The historical record shows:

-- that, compared with Pinochet, Castro and Mugabe are responsible for many more victims of "the fearful knock at the door at night". 

-- Pinochet voluntarily relinquished power (although there was pressure on him, including from Washington).  Mugabe and Castro never will relinquish power. 

one of the comments I fully agree with

"To the left, of course, any justification for Pinochet’s deeds is an abomination." I would expand that to include anyone with a conscience. No-one, whatever their political stripe, should tolerate a regime that employs the fearful knock on the door at night. Political utilitarianism of the ilk you describe is chilling and dehumanising and speaks volumes about those who endorse such sentiments.

Expresso | December 12, 2006 at 11:05 PM

Weighing the evidence...

Leftists are quite right to point out the role that the United States played in overthrowing democratically elected governments in Latin America and replacing them with authoritarian regimes to: (a) protect American business interests, and (b) prevent foreign Communist influence from Cuba or the Eastern bloc (notable examples being the School of the Americas and the Guatemalan coup in aid of the United Fruit Company).


However, in the case of Chile, while the US incited the assassination of military chief Schneider, Pinochet was not himself involved, and Allende was already facing ousting by his own Parliament for unconstitutional policies.