Sunday, December 10, 2006

# Posted 11:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND GOOD RIDDANCE: A murderer died today. Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile was 91. In the aftermath of a violent coup d'etat in 1973, Pinochet emerged as the regime's strongman. Thousands were murdered in the early years of the regime, and the brutality continued until its end in 1990.

In today's Post, Latin politics expert Michael Shifter compares the legacies of Pinochet and Castro. Castro murdered on behalf of the left whereas Pinochet did so on behalf of the right.

One important point that Shifter overlooks is Pinochet's decision to hold a referendum on the continuation of his personal rule. Although no one knows for sure, Pinochet apparently did so because he truly believed he was popular enough to win.

Had Shifter been given more space by the Post, he might also have mentioned that the United States played a critical role in facilitating Pinochet's defeat at the ballot box and ending his regime. Without that help, Pinochet might very well have won.

Would that Castro made a similar gesture of repentance and let the people of Cuba show him how they really feel.
(17) opinions -- Add your opinion

I think Pinochet might win.
Good article.

Danny Ortega thought he'd win. He lost and now he's back. Cool things, elections.
I visited a very interesting site, they have a vast collection of books which have been categories and are presented to viewers in an easy-to-search format. You should check it out.

Uh oh! looks like another fight to see which version I like more...

Good riddance.
Hmmm...didn't notice that this got posted twice. I've now taken down the other copy. There were two comments attached to it. The first was just a heads-up about the duplication. The second comment read as follows:

"C'mon, Pinochet saved the Chilean economy from ruin. We all kind of liked him.

Just caused he tossed a few socialists out of a plane, who gives a damn.

They would have destroyed the country anyway if they had the chance."

I think Pinochet's beneficial effect on the economy is less than clear. Ten years into his rule there was a massive economic crisis. The success of the present may be as much structural as it is the result of his policies.

But that's open to debate, and I'm hardly an economist.
Are you getting Argentina mixed up with Chile with regards to throwing people out of aircraft?

Ortega came back as a devout Catholic.
throwing people out of aircraft

You are talking about Operation Condor.

About 30,000 dissidents were dissappeared this way. This joint operation was a cooperation between Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with the knowledge of the US.

And it is unlikely that Henry Kissinger will be going to Paris for awhile.
And I was favoring the first one more.
David, you know that the United States was a major force that got Pinochet into power and kept him there, right? (Oh, that Kissinger...) Yes, and he obviously wasn't too great for the Chilean economy; replacing democratically-elected leaders with a coup backed by the US was all too widespread and common during the Cold War.

Thanks for pointing this out. My relatives have suffered at the hands of both the totalitarian right and left in Latin America, so I always cringe when right- or left-wing Americans apologize for human rights abuse because they see one side as their team.
JT, always a pleasure to have you visiting OxBlog.

Clearthought, I'm glad you pointed out Kissinger's role in Pinochet's rise to power. An important reminder of what "realism" in foreign policy is all about.

With regard to replacing elected governments with dictatorships during the Cold War, even one instance counts in my book as "all too common", but actually there weren't that many.

Off hand, I can think of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in 1973. There were also instances in which we didn't do enought to prevent democratic governments from falling to a coup d'etat or other assault.

But the real thing we did is stand by and not complain too much about all of the dictators we chose to collaborate with. Was that the best way to prevent Soviet expansion? I don't think so.

And now we face the same question today. Should we push hard for democracy in the Middle East, or focus on stabilizing pro-Western dictatorships. Strangely, many of those who think we shouldn't have befriended dictators during the Cold War are now calling for exactly that approach to the War on Terror.
And why do you think that HK was being particularly realistic in his support of Pinochet? Realism refers to Metternich's balance of power concept. What balance of power are you referring to? If anything, he was being a proto-neocon in believing that eliminating a bunch of liberals in a Final Solution would fundamentally change things.

Coups in the Cold War, you can add JFK's replacement of Diem in Vietnam, the CIA-backed Ba'ath Party coup in Iraq in 1963, and arguably the military coup in Greece in 1967,
Read a book long ago called, IIRC, Diplomat among Warriors. The author was a career State guy, who had been involved in trying to get the Vichy French of North Africa on our side in 43, and gone on from there.
His explanation of the Guatemala issue was that the US prevented a communist coup, arranged for a plebescite, which went off well. Then the generals took over. The latter was not our doing.
The ability of Latin America to screw itself up all by itself makes some people, including Latin Americans, uncomfortable. It also makes some people incredulous.
It has to be somebody's (ours) fault.
Latin America had cathedrals, law courts, and universities when what is now the US had shacks no farther inland than shipborne artillery could carry. Only a slight exaggeration.
How'd we get all this power to screw up an ancient and settled society?
IMO, a lot of what is considered US intereference is an excuse.
An earlier commenter also referred to lack of interference--standing by--which has been added to the interference column so as to make our interference account heavier and the Latin Americans' troubles less their own fault.

Remember that Latin America was colonized by the turbulent spirits left over from the Reconquista, practicing an obsolete, crusading Catholicism, with the economic sense of the Dark Ages--having thrown out the Jews--and the labor relations skills of conquistadors.
The Brits had some of the same thing; left over soldiers from the Civil War. But those guys went to Ireland.
The results of the origins of Latin American society and political institutions are not our fault.
BTW. I referred to the Guatemalan thing when talking to a real lefty. Her view was that the CIA had gotten to the publisher and "revised" the text.
From which I deduced the book was right, she knew the book was right, but was hoping to fool me.

As far as I know, the only thing the US did in Chile was to send money to the trucker's or transport workers' union.

There were extensive Congressional hearings 'way back, and the sense of frustration at finding the US had done considerably less than asserted was palpable.
David, I have somewhat of a reply to your reply to my comment (confusing, yes), here. Thanks for replying to me, nonetheless.
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