September 11, 2003, Episode 44:  September 11th, 30 Years Later

This week we take some time to look back and reflect upon an event that seems distant in time and space, yet continues to shape the world and reflect so much of current crises on the world stage.  Today, we remember Chile

The CIA World Factbook lists for Chile most of the same information that it does for every other country it mentions. It quietly notes: 

"A three-year-old Marxist government was overthrown in 1973 by a dictatorial military regime led by Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, first implemented by the PINOCHET dictatorship, led to unprecedented growth in 1991-97 and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government."

It is worth noting that the CIA itself was almost universally suspected of financing and overseeing the 1973 coup, a suspicion curiously missing from the online version of the CIA World Factbook.

Marcela Rios Tobar, a survivor of the September 11, 1973 coup, who is now a PHD candidate at the University of Wisconsin where she studies political science. Using her own experiences, her sociological background and her current research, Marcela paints a much different picture than the CIA Handbook. 

 

CARL: 

It is a nave mind that equates "peace" with a lack of violence.

What better source for current information on Chile than the CIA World Factbook?

According to the Factbook, Chile has: a land area of 756,950 square kilometres and a coastline of 6435 kilometres. a population between 15 and 16 million in 2003 a birth, death, and infant mortality rates of 16.1, 5.63, and 8.88 per thousand, respectively, and a life expectancy of 73 for men and 80 for women.

Economic, transportation, and communication data make Chile appear to have escaped the perpetual poverty characteristic of the region. Chile's current political structure looks on paper like a cross between the U.S. and Canadian federal systems, but even the CIA Factbook acknowledges a slightly more complex picture:

Quote, A three-year-old Marxist government was overthrown in 1973 by a dictatorial military regime led by Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, first implemented by the PINOCHET dictatorship, led to unprecedented growth in 1991-97 and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government, close quote.

It is worth noting that the CIA itself is almost universally suspected of financing and overseeing the 1973 coup, a suspicion curiously missing from the CIA World Factbook.

In 1494 the Pope, without consulting the indigenous populations, of course, divided South America between Portugal and Spain. In the years that followed, Spaniards took indigenous lovers and wives, leading to the emergence of a new ethnicity known as Mestizos. Spanish feudalism created a strong class system with landowners (often Spanish) holding a great deal of power over the middle classes (often Mestizos) and lower classes (often indigenous).

In the 1960s, the Social Democrats attempted to create a more equitable Chile. In 1970 Salvador Allende's government comprised a coalition between socialist and Marxist factions. Because Chile's sitting government was friendly with Castro and sought to nationalise a number of business interests, including US-owned copper mines, Nixon's government sent the CIA to assist the upper class's efforts to regain power in what culminated in a bloody coup on September 11, 1973. Following the installation of Pinochet, so-called quote, economic and social stability, close quote, was created at the cost of 70 to 80 thousand opponents being killed or, quote, disappeared, close quote, by Pinochet's regime.

Since Pinochet stepped down in 1989, Chile has returned to Social Democratic rule, but the party has abandoned its radical policies of the past. Many have speculated that this is because of the strength of the post-Pinochet economy. One wonders, however, if this reluctance for open consideration of radical reform comes less from the five digit gross domestic product per capita than it does from the five digit casualty figures they suffered the last time they raised these issues in earnest.

This week, on "First Person, Plural" we talk with Marcela Rios Tobar, a survivor of the 1973 coup, who is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin where she studies political science. Marcela paints a much different picture than the CIA Factbook, one in which symbolic violence prevails not only in Chile, but throughout South America. Join us as we take an hour to remember the anniversary of an event whose repercussions are still being felt around the world in an episode we call, "September 11: Thirty Years Later."

copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2003

 

 

 

A SHORT PRIMER OF CHILEAN HISTORY 

Chile has a history that includes violent conflicts, but it also has a history of much going conspicuously unchallenged during these conflicts. The Spanish and the Portugese divided up South America in 1494, with Brazil going to Portugal and the rest going to Spain by papal order. Of course, the natives of the New World were not consulted by the Europeans in the matter. The Mapuche tribes were said to offer the most effective resistance to the implementation of the European agreements. Racism and classism played an immediate role in the feudal society set up by the Spanish, with a new race and social class created as the mestizo population, a result of intermarriages between Spaniards and natives, emerged. The mestizos were assigned the work of tenant farmers in the new culture, and the class structure carried over from plantation life to Chile's considerable mining operations.

Viewed from this perspective, Simon Bolivar's quote, liberation, close quote, of the Chilean upper class from its counterparts in Europe could be construed as a relatively minor matter. The installation of Bernardo O'Higgins, son of an Irish couple who had moved to South America, as Chile's first chief executive, tends to confirm suspicions of the Europeans keeping things in the family, as it were. As was apparently obligatory for the European diaspora in those days, Chile fought with its neighbors over political boundaries. Significantly, trysts with Peru and Bolivia yielded additional territory in the 1880's. As was also customary, Chile had its own civil war, this one marked by division along class lines, in the 1890's.

Into this history of aggression coupled with hegemony came the events leading to the 1973 coup. The 1960's saw the Christian Democrats institute social programs while in power. The voters responded by seeking more extreme measures, and in 1970 they elected a socialist-communist coalition headed by Salvador Allende. The new government nationalised many private industries, including the U.S.-controlled copper mines. Open association with Fidel Castro did not help Allende pass any ideological purity tests in the States either, and on September 11, 1973, Pinochet-led forces bombed the presidential palace and assumed power. Pinochet brought, quote, economic stability, close quote, to Chile, but at the cost of 70 to 80 thousand opponents killed by his regime during his extended term in office. By the time elections returned to Chile in 1989, the people of Chile had grown so tired with the cost in blood of the so-called economic stability in the nation that they voted Pinochet's candidate, Hernen Buchi, out of office in favor of the Christian Democrats' nominee, Patricio Aylwin. The economic machine built by Pinochet's cadre survived their political defeat, however, and no serious deviation from the developmental model instituted during the 1980's has been discussed since the quote, peaceful transfer of power, close quote. One wonders if the stifled initiative of the Chileans regarding this topic has less to do with their post-Pinochet five-digit gross domestic product per capita (the actual figure varies from source to source) than it does with the five-digit casualty figures they suffered the last time they raised the issue in earnest.

One wants to believe from the relatively rosy demographics that apply to Chile today that the repercussions of the Pinochet dictatorship have been contained at last. It has been thirteen years since elections were restored to the country and Pinochet found himself ousted. But the scars of such experiences can last long after the capacity for physical harm is gone. Genocide is one common goal of military action, but sometimes those initiating the action want to kill only enough of their quote enemy close quote to bring the rest of the population to its knees in perpetuity. Imposition of a new social order is the real goal, and the measures used to impose the new order are designed to create a culture that is supremely durable. Eradication of the new order can be insidiously difficult.

copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2003

 

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