L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

13 December 2006 Blog Home : December 2006 : Permalink

Pinochet, Omlettes, Eggs and Democracy

I've never really cared much about Chile's past. I thought Pinochet was relatively bad but in the grand scheme of things no worse than any number of rulers. What I had not realized was quite what a catastrophe the Allende regime was that he overthrew. Fortunately over at Chicago Boyz there is an excellent essay on The Allende Myth by Vladimir Dorta, which shows that this Samizdata analagy sums up Sr Allende very very well indeed:

Bragging about low unemployment under hyper-inflation is like bragging about the airspeed of aircraft in a power dive towards the ground.

For reasons that are beyond me Allende seems to have intentionally destroyed as much as he could of his country's productive assets and he clearly hoped to get rid of the rest and most of the national institutions such as the military and the judiciary as well. In fact Allende seems to have been the role model for Comrade Bob Mugabe and to have been following the ideology ofFidel Castro if not Pol Pot. Given that level of idiocy combined with a refusal to stop when a majority of his citizns complain I think that Allende deserved his abrupt descent from power.

It seems to be generally accepted that about 3000 people were executed by the Pinochet regime, the majority in the year or two immediately following the coup. This is considered to be a bad thing but it may be worth, as the WaPo did to compare those deaths to the ones caused by Marxists in Latin America:

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

I don't know how many of them were innocent and how many fervently desired violent marxist revolution but I'll bet that a fair few were in the latter category and therefore, in my opinion, deserved their fate since they would have done the same or worse if they had won. 3000 people was in any case 0.03% of the total population in 1973/4 or a death rate of 0.3/1000 population (Chile's total death rate in 2006 was about 5.8/1000 - a rate BTW which is just over half the UK's rate), which is pretty minimal all things considered.

Not all military dictatorships are good (Franco), nor are all coups (Venezuela) but some are more malign than others. From Turkey to Pakistan to Thailand to Fiji the ultimate check on democratic misrule seems to be the military. As Big Lizards argues this may turn out to be the path for Iraq too. It occurs to me that Iraq (to pick a country totally at random - NOT) might prefer a Pinochet in comparison with either Saddam Hussein or its current mess. Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens at a rate of something like 10,000 per year on average, he also invaded his neighbours, sponsored terrorism and so on. Pinochet on the other hand successfully reformed his country's economy, stepped down vuluntarily and, apart from offering the Roxal Navy a little assistance in the Falklands war made no hostile moves on his neighbours or any other nation.

On the whole I think it is fair to say that Chile did far better as a result of the coup than they would have had it not occured and almost certainly fewer people died. Hence on balance it was a good thing and hence Pinochet should be praised rather than cursed.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin