Naturally, the blogosphere is awash with claim and counter-claim from contending opinion on the right and left about whether or not Pinochet's deposing of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in '73 saved Chile from a 'Marxist' dictatorship, but I was particularly struck by this quote from an article published in the Economist in 1999 that was cut and pasted into the comments box of Marc Cooper's post, and which answers some of the bullshit from the right that Pinochet was Chile's saviour from a supposed creeping authoritarianism and dictatorship which was occuring under Allende:
"As to killings, any comparison of Allende to that regime is quite simply false. The new pamphlet, citing the old white book, records 96 “political” deaths, on right and left, during the Allende years. Hardly any, except a few during a minor mutiny in mid-1973, can be (or were) blamed on the official forces. In contrast, the pamphlet admits 1,261 such deaths—82 among the armed forces—in the few months after the coup. The pamphlet ascribes this to “bitter and brutal” fighting during a left-wing revolt. The 1,261 died, it says, “in the course of the struggle.”
They did not. It would be an odd urban struggle in which “well trained, highly armed” extremists lose more than a dozen men for every one they kill. In fact, as many have related who were merely held or tortured there, most of the deaths occurred in the national stadium in Santiago, where real or alleged enemies of the new order were held, to be singled out by masked informers, often for immediate execution. And that still leaves at least 800 later deaths under the regime, when it was in total control, to be accounted for. Or whitewashed?
For further evidence, go to a source of the time: The Economist, non-Chilean but firmly critical of Allende and what its then Chile specialist was later to entitle his savagely critical book, “Chile’s Marxist Experiment”. That title was in fact overblown. Allende’s economics were, approximately, Marxist and certainly disastrous. Not so the political system he ran. The opposition press and parties carried on. So did elections, and even in March 1973 the regime could win only 44% of the vote for Congress. Still, this paper was deeply suspicious, and the more so—in those days of raging cold war—because of Allende’s friendship with Fidel Castro.
Twice it sent its specialist for long visits. He wrote a six-page report in March 1972, one of five pages in October 1973, a month after the coup. The second time, our man clearly had free access to the regime and its evidence against Allende. But even in 1972 he talked widely to enemies of the Allende government. Both his reports damned it. Both produced mild versions of some charges now laid against Allende: for instance (1973), of Cubans training his personal guard, or guerrillas “tolerated” by the government, (though the actual ones our reporter met were a fairly hopeless, partly Amerindian group, more like Mexico’s Zapatists than the strike force of revolution). But what did this ferocious critic of Allende’s regime say of its now alleged political tortures or killings? Not a word.
And that bastard Pinochet died in a hospital bed, surrounded by his family, at the age of 91.