Pinochet`s Demonization Exemplifies Propaganda`s Power
Gen. Augusto Pinochet served as president of Chile
during a troubled period of that country`s history. His
fate was to become the world`s most demonized person in
the last quarter of the 20th century, and his death on
Dec. 10, 2006, was met with a new outpouring of
denunciation by the international left.
Just as the neoconservative Bush regime had no
factual basis for its demonization of Iraqi president
Saddam Hussein as a threat who would arm terrorists with
weapons of mass destruction to be used against America,
the international left has scant evidence in behalf of
its demonization of Pinochet.
Unlike Bush`s war on terror, in which U.S. troops are
fighting abroad, Pinochet was confronted with an
indigenous terrorist movement. Chilean terrorists
engaged in assassinations and bombings of public
infrastructure. Pinochet was able to put down real
terrorist movements with less damage to Chile`s civil
liberties than Bush`s trumped-up "war on terror"
has caused to America`s.
According to the
Rettig Commission, [Full
text]Chile`s struggle with terrorism resulted in
2,300 (both sides) dead and missing. Pinochet`s
detainees number less than Bush`s, and the torture used
against Chilean terrorist suspects was perhaps less
draconian than that used by the United States against
suspected Muslim terrorists. The Bush regime is
responsible for many multiples of the deaths for which
the Pinochet regime was responsible. Yet Pinochet is the
The propaganda against Pinochet has fantastic
elements, such as
"eyewitness" accounts of bodies of slain
innocents thrown overboard from navy ships on the
Mapocho River, which runs through Santiago. Anyone who
has seen the "river" knows it is not navigable.
The international left loved Salvador Allende`s
socialist rhetoric and his policies against "the
rich," policies that destroyed Chile`s economy and
led to public agitation for his overthrow. The left
hates Pinochet for overthrowing Allende and for turning
Chile`s economy over to Harvard and University of
Chicago educated economists, who privatized Chile`s
social security system and put in place the
institutional basis for Chile`s successful market
economy. These are the real reasons for Pinochet`s
The international left cannot make up its mind
whether Allende was overthrown by Pinochet or the CIA.
In some accounts, the reason to hate Pinochet is that he
is the puppet of capitalist America. Why then demonize
the puppet instead of the puppet-master?
In truth, Allende overthrew himself. He disregarded
the constitution, permitted private property to be
seized by communist organizations, tolerated and
assisted the formation of armed groups that operated
independently of the government, and disorganized the
economy to the extent that there were
mythology, "the popularly elected Allende"
was overthrown by the tyrant Pinochet. This is far from
the truth. Allende received only 36 percent of the vote
and was appointed president by the Chilean congress
after Allende swore an oath to respect the constitution.
Three years later, on Aug. 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."
Allende was censured for systematically violating
private property rights and illegally taking over 1,500
farms from their owners and hundreds of businesses. The
resolution condemned Allende for aiding and abetting the
establishment of illegal armed groups that "intend to
replace legitimately constituted powers and serve as a
base for the dictatorship of the proletariat." The
resolution noted that this goal was publicly
acknowledged by Allende himself.
The censure of Allende called upon the military to
intervene and oust the Allende government. Housewives,
unable to find food for their families, had been calling
for military intervention for months. When the women
would encounter military officers in the streets, they
would throw corn kernels at their feet and cluck like
had to be forced to act by the elected
representatives of the people. The irony is that Allende
would likely have been pushed aside by the parallel
government that he was allowing communists to create.
Pinochet is demonized despite the fact that he
established a broad-based commission to create a new
constitution and scheduled elections to return the
government to civil authority. To achieve reconciliation
among Chileans, both terrorists and the military
government were amnestied. Pinochet permitted himself to
be voted out of power.
The military government kept the amnesty, but
successor governments did not. In his old age, Pinochet
was harassed by vengeful leftists determined to overturn
the amnesty only with regard to Pinochet. That fact
alone is testimony to which side of the conflict
represented true character and a spirit of good will.
Today, government corruption is on the rise in Chile,
as power-seeking politicians seek to remove
constitutional restraints and to create economic
dependencies that expand political power. It remains to
be seen if the legacy of freedom that Pinochet gave to
Chile will survive or whether it will succumb to the
power of propaganda, just as America`s freedom is
succumbing to neoconservative propaganda about the need
for a police state to protect Americans from terrorism.
Paul Craig Roberts is
coauthor with Karen Araujo of "Chile: Dos
Visiones — La Era Allende-Pinochet" (Santiago:
Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Paul Craig Roberts
him] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration.
He is the author of
Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington;
and the Soviet Economy and
Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy,
and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice. Click
here for Peter
Brimelow`s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.