Home > World Events > Pinochet is dead. Hooray!

Pinochet is dead. Hooray!

December 11th, 2006

Murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet is dead at 91. While he escaped a formal trial and conviction for his crimes, the last decade of his life was spent under the continuous threat of prosecution, and he died under house arrest.

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  1. gordon
    December 11th, 2006 at 09:16 | #1

    That should have been “Murderous and corrupt dictator…”

  2. grace pettigrew
    December 11th, 2006 at 09:50 | #2

    Pinochet was an evil and corrupt bastard and will not be mourned by his fellow chileans, having killed and maimed so many of them. Michelle Bachelet’s own father was killed by Pinochet’s military goons, how fitting that she should now be running the country. Viva Chile!

  3. Mike Finley
    December 11th, 2006 at 11:05 | #3

    Pinochet was a great man as regards having made Chile the only South American country to become an abidingly stable,safe,prosperous one,respected by the West and its neighbours.
    A local powerhouse economically,which benefitted all.
    All around ,the neighbours were disintegrating-look at the socialist/criminal mess there now.
    Allende was such a disaster for the country,that a change was necessary.
    Regrettably,the couple of thousand lives that the overthrow cost,was how things are done in South America.
    The country and the current leaders owe it all to the man they profess to despise.
    Any local who is so naive as to think otherwise is beyond saving and doesnt know the true facts.

  4. Terje
    December 11th, 2006 at 11:06 | #4

    During his military career the guy rose through the ranks so he obviously had a lot of leadership qualities. In the military it is natural enough to be intolerant of opposition from those under your command so it seems natural that military commanders are unlikely to easily exhibit the tolerant qualities that we expect from leaders in a democratic government.

    Without ignoring the old saying that power corrupts I am still left wondering how a human being can go so far off the rails. And I have never been able to make much sence of Margaret Thatchers sympathetic attitude toward the man.

  5. Mumphilitti
    December 11th, 2006 at 11:17 | #5

    I haven’t checked, but I doubt you posted a similar note when Idi Amin died free in Saudi Arabia.

  6. December 11th, 2006 at 11:34 | #6

    I thought the reason why Thatcher was sympathetic to Pinochet was that Chile was one of the few countries to ‘support’ the UK in the Falkland War.

  7. Simonjm
    December 11th, 2006 at 11:43 | #7

    Terje the doctrine of necessity plus a healthy serve of bias and those handy pair of blinkers will get many people there.

    Iraq esp the defending of torture, renditions the denial of justice and the rule of law for Hicks and the disproportion use of force by the Israelis in Lebanon has convinced me that there’s a ethical -home team-bias which many people fall under.

    Combine this with historical examples the uni prison guard experiment indicates to me that many of us can become ‘monsters’ either directly or through support and not see the extreme harm involved.

    Most people don’t reason they rationalize, and are no more moral than a ancient roman on slavery or an Aztec on human sacrifice they run with the herd.

  8. Warbo
    December 11th, 2006 at 12:26 | #8

    While I agree with the main thrust of your comments, Terje, I can’t share your surprise at Thatcher’s sympathy. Although gratitude for assistance in the Falklands was surely part of it, I think the similarities ran much deeper than that, in philosophy if not style of government.

  9. jquiggin
    December 11th, 2006 at 13:55 | #9

    Mumphilitti comes up with my favourite Cold War gambit, practised by Stalinists and McCarthyists alike. No-one is allowed to attack the dictators the user supports unless they’ve done the same for every other dictator in history. I got the same in relation to Milosevic.

    I must admit, I missed the news of Amin’s death (in 2003), but I’m happy to give a belated cheer for that now.

  10. Jimmythespiv
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:20 | #10

    Markus Wolf is also dead, JQ, Hooray !

  11. El Bizarro
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:23 | #11

    Anybody who has visited Chile for more than 5 minutes would have learned what evil Pinochet had wrought with the connivance of supposedly democratic governments. The only people who are mourning his death today are the wealthy and well connected who were the ones who benefited from his brutal regime. Death catches us all though, my only regret is that it didn’t find Pinochet in jail, where he should have been rotting for all these years.

  12. jquiggin
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:31 | #12

    “Markus Wolf is also dead, JQ, Hooray !”

    Indeed, but if we’re going to celebrate the departure of second-rank accomplices like Wolf we won’t have time for anything else. Please take it as read that “Hooray” is the appropriate general response to the death of all dictators and their henchmen.

  13. Jimmythespiv
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:33 | #13

    I reckon Chile and Pinochet is one of those all to frequent cases of humanity questioning whether the ends (good) justified the means (bad). The fact that his economic reforms have not been undone is telling, though. And I draw your attention to Argentina, which had a more murderous regime (10,000 desparecidos), but instituted and maintained autarkic economic policies (thanks to Raul Prebisch), and also invaded the Falklands (thereby killing 800+ Argentine soldiers). Now, which country is in a better position today ? And did anyone crow about Galtieri’s death in 2003 on this site ? No, Pinochet is totemic because of his association with free markets and monetarism, which is why his death is more celebrated than that of other equally murderous Caudillos. The fact that Chile is such an economic success makes it all the harder for many to bear.

  14. Jimmythespiv
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:38 | #14

    JQ

    Point taken re the meaning of Hooray !

    I mentioned Wolf only because he died last week.

    A serious question though- when Soeharto finally shuffles off, will he deserve a more or less muted Hooray than Pinochet. And what about Jiang Zemin ? I use these examples to highlight the moral ambiguity of making such judgements.

  15. jquiggin
    December 11th, 2006 at 14:46 | #15

    No ambiguity for me as regards either Soeharto or Jiang Zemin, Jimmy. I think it’s you who has the ambiguity problem here.

    BTW, I missed Galtieri’s death also – why don’t you supply a list of recent dictatorial demises and we can do them as a combined celebration.

  16. Jimmythespiv
    December 11th, 2006 at 15:07 | #16

    …..but where do Jiang and Soeharto rank relative to Pinochet – or do you see them as all equally bad.

    Galtieri was an interesting case, and for mine, the way all dictators should go.

    He died in hospital in 2003, after doing 5 years in prison (1986-91). He had been pardoned by then President Menem as part of a poliitical deal. His death was met in Argentina in a most interesting fashion – he was ridiculed, and was utterly reviled- the butt of jokes. My point is that this sustained utter rejection by society must have been more painful than any other possible punishment ! And he had pancreatic cancer, which I am told is very painful.

  17. December 11th, 2006 at 15:53 | #17

    Let’s not forget that Pinochet became the useful idiot: a head of dictatorial ideology that was already well in decline and was shunned by most of the world. Perhaps now we can focus on the foundations and the body of support for monsters like him: USA’s military and intelligence services together with many unethical corporations ready to do their bidding and get rich in the process, all beacause he is one of “our bastards”.

    Most of the world had already realised he was a vulgar thief with millions stashed in secret bank accounts and a coward and an assasin with treasonous disrespect of his own country and its institutions, killing his own military colleagues who were/would be outspoken about defending democracy and the Chilean constitution.

    Most but not all. For example Margaret Thatcher and Kissinger still defend him and his actions.

    In Santiago we used to sing jumping up and down in the stadiums at the football:
    “He’s gonna fall, he’s gonna fall, he’s gona fall, he’s gonna fall!!!” that one day he will fall. And also many many others chants.

    That’s why there is such an outpouring of celebrations in the Chilean capital today.

    On the International Day of Human Rights, this USA backed assasin has finally died, barely escaping the many trials and court cases still haunting Chile’s memory.

    The vast majority of Chileans understand this very well, even if a small percentage (5% or so) may still support his ideology that the end justifies “any means”.

    That old chant eventually became: “Already fallen, already fallen, already fallen, already fallen”, in Spanish: “Y ya cayo, y ya cayoooo y ya cayooo y ya cayooo!

    And it is being heard loudly again in Santiago’s Plaza Italia, where we celebrate the football victories and championships.

    For the people of Chile, the celebration is of his fall, the awakening from the nightmare and the slow and painful re-building of a bright fair future with Peace and Justice, finally.

  18. Ian the Old Radical
    December 11th, 2006 at 16:04 | #18

    Hey come on JQ and others. What possible difference does it make if these and other monstrosities die years after they instigate/commit their appalling actions? Regrettably we’ll never get to celebrate the positive actions that prevent the monster getting power, because of course monstrosities won’t have happened.

    And where does personal responsibility stop? Pinochet didn’t personally murder and/or torture all those Chileans with his own hands. Wherever such monsters arise, there is a cohort of monstrous followers who make it happen.

    And I’m not saying that Pinochet et al aren’t evil. I am saying that a Pinochet does not take root unless there is something foul for it to take root in.

    What we need is a DNA test that identifies the monster gene so we can make some informed decisions about the carriers.

  19. December 11th, 2006 at 16:43 | #19

    I wish we were all immortal :)

  20. December 11th, 2006 at 17:07 | #20

    Ian,

    Should we round up the carriers and shoot them? Maybe beat them first until they confess to harbouring monster like inclinations?
    ;-)

    Regards,
    Terje.

  21. December 11th, 2006 at 17:16 | #21

    Pr Q gloats:

    Pinochet [Milosevic, Amin, Wolf et al] is dead. Hooray!

    For God’s sake, lets stop dancing on people’s graves, even dictators! This kind of thing is pretty unseemly. Pr Q would be the first to agree that there are worse things in the world than temporary tyranny, as the present distrubances in Iraq show.

    Regarding Pinochet I am sorry that the man did not get the fair trial that he denied to the many people whom he had murdered. I am not glad that he, or indeed any other person, has died. If one wants to oppose the death penalty with any credibility then it would help to take a generally principled line against death.

    I am not so morally dogmatic about Chile anymore. Like most Leftist-type persons I spent many days in the seventies and eighties cursing Pinochet and lighting candles to Allende. Nowadays I realise that Allende was not the saint I made him out to be. Pinochet seems to have been pretty diabolical for a while, although he also had his good points.

    Allende’s economic policies were semi-berserk. He had no right to launch a massive wave of nationalisations on the strength of an electoral plurality. It damn near sent the Chilean economy into the toilet, from which it was partially retrieved by Pinochet.

    Allende’s political policies were not much better. He courted radical Leftist communists and anarchists. Since when have these people ever done anything useful for social democracy? All they ever do is annoy authoritarian conservatives of which there are plenty in Chile.

    Chile would have been better off if Edwardo Frei won the 1970 election.

  22. December 11th, 2006 at 18:22 | #22

    Ian,
    Should we round up the carriers and shoot them? Maybe beat them first until they confess to harbouring monster like inclinations? ;-) Regards,
    Terje.

    Hey Terje, isn’t exactly that what they’ve been trying in Iraq? and with David hicks and many others in Guantanamo?

  23. Mike Hart
    December 11th, 2006 at 18:37 | #23

    Mr Finley, by your logic then National Socialism was a good thing for Germany as well. Try thinking about the connections between modern corporatism and facism, then go out and buy a Fanta, the real thing for the Nazi’s.

  24. Factory
    December 11th, 2006 at 20:18 | #24

    Jimmythespiv:
    “Now, which country is in a better position today ?”
    Erm, Argentina has a PPP of 14k, whereas Chile has a PPP of 11k. Their HDI is prolly statistically equal, although Argentina’s is 0.01 higher. So, like, what was your point?

  25. melanie
    December 11th, 2006 at 20:24 | #25

    I agree with Ian the Old Radical. Who cares if he’s dead? I’m just sorry that the British let him go home and the Chileans couldn’t get their act together in time. House arrest when you’re very old and sick can’t be much by way of punishment.

    It is very clear that the Pinochet dictatorship did no better in terms of ‘economic miracles’ than many less murderous regimes. If Chile has ‘returned to the international community’ (euphemism, euphemism) today, it is because the opposition is dead or dead scared. Bravo Augusto!

  26. Seeker
    December 11th, 2006 at 20:38 | #26

    “Michelle Bachelet’s own father was killed by Pinochet’s military goons, how fitting that she should now be running the country.” Grace Pettigrew

    And he has denied Pinochet a state funeral. Sweet revenge, of sorts.

    “My point is that this sustained utter rejection by society must have been more painful than any other possible punishment!” Jimmythespiv

    Fair point. We shouldn’t underestimate how degrading and destructive a punishment this sort of treatment can be, justified or not. For individuals within a highly social species, such as we humans, the threat of serious social sanction, humiliation, rejection, and isolation is only slightly less powerful than the threat of imminent death.

  27. melanie
    December 11th, 2006 at 21:02 | #27

    Btw, I don’t see the equivalence between someone like Pinochet and Markus Wolf at all. Of course there is an equivalence from a purely moral point of view. But the reason Pinochet was important to us is that we live in democracies where the citizen is not only able, but has a duty, to criticize the policies of his/her own government when the latter promotes repression of others. For those of us who actually believe in democracy, it was for the Chilean people to express their satisfaction or otherwise with Allende at the polls. It was not for Pinochet and his foreign allies (our governments) to decide what was best for the Chileans. I find it quite shocking that people who benefit from living in a democracy are ready to support a corrupt and murderous military dicatorship because they think they know best. Those people suffer from the Bush syndrome – ‘we’ll bring democracy to Iraq, but they have to do it our way (correctly)’. Hitler made an ‘economic miracle’ in Germany too – and, for this reason, he was admired in the 1930s by exactly that sort of person.

    If Allende’s policies had been so disastrous as some above make out, the Chileans would have eventually voted him out of office. They didn’t get the chance because our governments (and their ‘technical experts’) helped to make sure they wouldn’t. We were hypocrites: we demanded the aboliton of Markus Wolf’s version of repression, but not Pinochet’s.

  28. December 11th, 2006 at 21:53 | #28

    Carlos,

    It is definetly driven by the same destructive “us and them” mentality.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  29. December 11th, 2006 at 22:05 | #29

    Jack, and other apologists:
    Let’s talk economics and accurate history, ok?

    It’s not about being “morally dogmatic” but simply being factual and HONEST: from the day of the coup in 1973 until quite late in the eighties (’88 or so) the whole economy and its productive capacity was in ruins, even if the nominal rates of growth were becoming positive.

    Coming from such a low base those initial growth figures were insignificant for the majority of the population who were still well under the poverty line. We are talking about half of the whole population being under the poverty line!

    Some people were really starving, while he was stashing millions away, privatising public services to foreign corporations for very substantial “commisions”, selling state forests to send cheap woodchip overseas, and of course setting up our own home grown arms industry for foreign exports to those willing to pay the highest prices, and with all the corruption that brings (his own son was well involved in the weapons trade and the “Pino-che-ques” plus the secret foreign bank accounts, etc.

    That is why the dictatorship lasted until the nineties, Pinochet and his regime did not want to call the elections he had promised earlier, because he wanted to have a much better track record to sell himself as a presidential candidate, with all the benefits of the extra powers of “emergency” of the dictatorship and a very loaded “new” constitution.

    Even after he lost that election he had to be “persuaded” by his own advisors with an eye on history, about letting the elected centre-left coalition government take its place, by trying to paint himself as a selfless “father-of-the-nation” figure who only did the best for the country and its people.

    Of course he gave himself and his accomplices a constitutionally enforced amnesty for any crimes remaining the head of the armed forces while also giving himself the title of “senator-for-life” with another 10 hand picked “designated senators” in the 50-seat Senate, virtually holding veto over all legislation during the last 3 previous centre-left coalitions presidents from 1990 to 2006: Alwyn, Frei and Lagos. Only now in 2006 there is a more independent congress with both housees becoming more directly representative of the actual vote (reforms still ongoing…).

    But of course the centre-left coalition gets no credit for any good economic or social performance in these last 16 years they have been in charge from these very biased and dogmatic apologists! Plus they also have had to heal the very deep wounds still scarring all Chileans. At least other developing nations are learning from this experience, eg: Southafrica’s Reconciliation Commissions, etc.

  30. December 11th, 2006 at 22:16 | #30

    More economics:

    As for the “Chicago Boys”, they were the real dogmatic mercenaries willing to trade and advise with the murderous dictatorship just to “prove” their theories. They also were quite involved in the early eighties and not just in Chile, So let’s not forget the foreign debt crisis of that time.

    The IMF and the World Bank were also intimately involved in all this, add the endemic corruption created with those huge inflows of speculative capital and you have the logical result of many economic crises and terrible suffering for the population, just like in the current economic problems in Argentina, from Menem’s legacy.

    The “Chicago Boys” only got involved for the substantial fees and their own academic arrogance to try to prove their theories, so having a willing patient ready to take the harshest medicine was sinply a means to their ends, eg: forced lowering of the minimum wages without any unemployment benefits or social safety net, record unemployment and through the roof inflation and interest rates; all not so easily forgotten in that part of the world.

    That perhaps helps explain the current wave of social democracy and progressive left governments sweeping the LatinAmerican region at the moment. You reap what you sew.

    Let that be the lesson we all never forget. It may come in handy in the Middle East!

  31. brian
    December 11th, 2006 at 22:23 | #31

    I fancy that Pinochet will be placed in the same very warm corner of Hell , alongside Milton Friedman,who was such a good buddy in the Good Old Days…and a spare seat waiting alongside for Ariel Sharon in the near future…another day for dancing in the streets.!”

  32. December 11th, 2006 at 22:26 | #32

    oops, I meant: You reap what you sow :-)

  33. still working it out
    December 12th, 2006 at 08:03 | #33

    My parents in law are Chilean. Its just amazing how polarising this guy was. Chileans take politics way too seriously. Alot of ordinary Chileans loved the guy so much they put his picture up on the wall at home, even here in Australia. And others hate him. You almost can’t talk about Pinochet with a group of Chileans without starting a fight.

    As my mother in law said on the news of his death, “one uncle will be crying and another playing the coombia” (a happy dance song). What I noticed is that those that liked him thought all the economic problems came from the communists and didn’t really appreciate the sanctions. They just blamed the communists for everything. (Every one refers to them as communists).

    The best way to sum it up was that from what I have been told by people who were there:
    1) Before the coup, there really were economic problems. You could not buy bread in the shops. That created the crisis atmosphere.
    2) everyone has a story about someone that “disappeared”.
    3) You could see bodies floating in the river.
    4) Lots of innocent people were really scared for their lives.

    He was not a nice man.

  34. still working it out
    December 12th, 2006 at 08:08 | #34

    Chile is such an economic success makes it all the harder for many to bear”

    What planet are you living on ? Argentina matches it and its practially gone through a depression in recent years. Chile is a very poor country, as people who live there will know all too well.

  35. still working it out
    December 12th, 2006 at 08:12 | #35

    “The only people who are mourning his death today are the wealthy and well connected who were the ones who benefited from his brutal regime.”

    That’s simply not true. Alot of ordinary Chileans still support him very strongly. Its a bit like George Bush’s support from people at the economic bottom in the US. I guess some people are just attracted to very authoritarian leadership.

  36. James Farrell
    December 12th, 2006 at 09:17 | #36

    I think John has exactly the right take, and have expanded on the point here.

  37. Jimmythespiv
    December 12th, 2006 at 12:33 | #37

    Factory / Still working it out

    The data you use – PPP estimates from the CIA web site are highly illusory and cannot be compared. Argentina still has a multitude of exchange rates, which date from the decoupling of the US$1=Arg Peso 1 exchange rate. These skew out PPP data massively. For example, the current exchange rate is approximatly US1=AR3.1. But bank deposits were devalued in 2002 at US1=AR1.4. And the Central Bank is maintaining an artificially low currency as a form of industry protection. Look at the massive difference between the PPP GDP and the official exchange rate PPP. In fact, as an economist with a lot of very recent experience in Argentina, I think the CIA are smoking Budda sticks – and have provided a good example of the perils of PPP for ALL GDP per capita estimates.

    The real story is the last 25 years of growth and progress on governance and corruption in both countries -Chile has made impressive strides while Argentina continues to have worsening problems. THe challenge will be the next large external shock experienced by both countries- I suspect Chile will do a lot better.

  38. Dave Surls
    December 13th, 2006 at 13:47 | #38

    Pinochet headed up the government of Chile for 17 years and only managed to kill 3,000 commies and other leftist dirtbags?

    Not a very impressive record.

  39. jquiggin
    December 13th, 2006 at 13:51 | #39

    Hi Dave. Better lock the basement door, and tell Mom to keep a sharp lookout. Those commies might be coming after you, just behind the Iraqi refugees.

  40. Dave Surls
    December 13th, 2006 at 14:04 | #40

    “Those commies might be coming after you…”

    I hope not. Marxists have shown an amazing propensity for killing folks over the last three or four generations.

  41. Dave Surls
    December 13th, 2006 at 14:17 | #41

    If I was a military officer in Chile in the 1970s, and I’d grown up seeing what the communists had done in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and North Korea (and what people with their eyes iopen saw was literally tens of millions of people murdered in cold blood by their own governments), and then I saw communists about to take control of my country, I know what I’d do.

    I’d start killing communists.

  42. Simonjm
    December 13th, 2006 at 14:18 | #42

    Dave so did those ‘leftist dirtbag’ teachers students have it coming to them? What about the torture did they deserve that as well? How did the latest Chilean president get elected, such a person probably deserved to be tortured, obviously not the sort of person suitable for the office!

    Not like our capitalist masters who used to pay for right wing death squads, helped overthrow democratically elected governments and now torture kidnap plus bomb the crap out of those they want to liberate.

    Go figure!

  43. Dave Surls
    December 13th, 2006 at 14:55 | #43

    “Not like our capitalist masters…”

    There are certain advantages to working for capitalist masters that probably haven’t occurred to you (this is frequently the case with those who are chronically unemployed).

    1.) You can tell them to ram it up their asses if you don’t like the terms of your employment, and you won’t wind up like the kulaks wound up.

    2.) They tend to pay a lot more wages than commie police states do.

  44. Simonjm
    December 13th, 2006 at 15:09 | #44

    Dave are we to be like suppoters of Pinochet and praise those that kill and torture in our name so we can hold onto our wealth and go on our overseas ski trip?

    That those of the ‘left’ living in poverty and had the gall to want a better deal or their political rights deserve to be killed and tortured?

  45. Simonjm
    December 13th, 2006 at 15:11 | #45

    Ps that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to murder to attain a better deal no more than we should to keep it.

  46. December 13th, 2006 at 16:25 | #46

    Dave et al,

    This is how the pinochet fans gave their farewell to their beloved leader (front page of Chile’s La Nacion):
    http://www.lanacion.cl/prontus_noticias/site/artic/20061211/imag/FOTO17120061211215141.jpg

    That’s the simple reason we do not want any single repeat of the likes of such murderous dictators as pinochet, marcos, lennin, etc. All extremes are closer than they admit: the ends justify any means

  47. William
    January 4th, 2007 at 10:16 | #47

    Well, it’s a late, long old time after his death, but I think this site has it spot on: Pinochet is burning in hell, as he deserves to be. Ironically, he seems to have attempted a coup in hell… (though they seem to be less discriminating in many of their other choices http://hotbovine.com/page666.html

  48. Mark DeGroyn
    December 16th, 2008 at 06:23 | #48

    Carlos,
    Those guys are just expressing their hate for the left. That’s about the only good thing about the Nazis. Or maybe they are warming up their hands using their Dictator’s early heating by El Diablo.

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