“There are no political prisoners in Chile. The disappeared? In my personal opinion I believe its sheer propaganda” General Pinochet, Santiago 1978
As well as sucking the life out of its citizens by shutting down political and cultural activity and exterminating its perceived enemies, what the Pinochet regime did best was to create, propagate and manage propaganda.
The smear tactics of the Pinochet propaganda machine reached a nadir with ‘Operacion Colombo’ 1975, in which 119 young people were abducted and later massacred.
To cover up the crime, a ‘press leak’ was fabricated claiming that MIR militants were killing each other, when in reality they had been singled out for being in opposition to the Junta. This story made front page news, absolving the authorities from culpability of crimes against humanity.
El Mercurio newspaper along with regime-owned and controlled TV channels, were instrumental in creating a false sense of social disorder in order to justify massacres and cover up disappearances & human rights violations.
The orchestration of events and the beliefs that were fabricated under Pinochet’s have unfortunately filtered through the generations, as those who supported the regime continue to justify their actions, in a post dictatorship climate that has not had the political will to question the legality of the 1980 constitution. Thus the country limps on in the shadow of the shrill one, still slightly afraid to challenge its legacy. In this climate old myths about Pinochet have been allowed to fester.
These are my top annoying myths that need shutting down for good.
1. It was a civil war: What a load of rubbish! The Allende revolution was founded on reason, not violence. Allende was proud of this rational road to Socialism. The Pinochet regime used the full force of the very well equipped military against its own people. There was no armed coordinated resistance to the coup. The military ruthlessly pounded down old people, teenagers, pregnant women and even children. We now know that all of the so called ‘shoot outs’ of ‘militants’ during the 70s and 80s were fabrications staged for the media, to induce fear in the general public. The whole of the country was under siege and curfew well into the 80s. The militarisation of the country didn’t stop there, University heads were replaced by retired army generals, schools suffered the same fate. School kids were forced to sing the national anthem every morning and were regularly required to perform military marches. It was stones V tanks, simple.
2. The regime saved the Chilean economy: A miracle! This is the biggest load of hogwash ever invented by Pinochet and his cronies. After a decade on a jolly, the Friedman gang messed up proper with GDP dropping by 19% and the economic crisis taking hold. By 1983 real wages has dropped by 40% and unemployment was hovering around the 30% mark. Infact, Pinochet had to get rid of the Chicago Boys and implement SOCIALIST economic reforms to save face. He renationalised the banks and industry (expropriation with no recompense) including CODELCO and the banks. It was only when Chile transitioned to democracy that it began to recover from the heinous economic experiment inflicted on the nation. Policies implemented under the regime continue to hurt Chileans today, including the privatisation of education and pensions. The numbers speak for themselves: in 1970, 20% of Chileans were poor. By 1990 this had doubled to 40%. Chile is still reeling from the pension scandal exacerbated during the 1982 crisis. Many of Pinochet’s reforms remain deeply entrenched in current economic desicion making. Chile is the only country in the world that has privatised its water.
3. What happened during the regime is in the past. Just forget it! Try telling that to the families of the 3,065 people registered as disappeared, who are still searching for the cadavers of their loved ones. Technically a murder case isn’t closed until the bodies are found and the perpetrators of the murders are tried in the judicial system, this is universal practise. Sadly in Chile attempts to address this issue have been at best feeble. We are also in the dark about our icons: Allende’s death is still a mystery (eye witnesses swear he was riddled with bulletholes plus his wife was not allowed to see his body) and his so called ‘suicide’ is now widely suspected of being yet another staged political smear against the much loved socialist martyr . Pablo Neruda’s death is also under intense scrutiny with his exhumed body currently under expert forensic investigation. Victor Jara’s killer remains at large in the US, awaiting extradition.
Exile is golden Another hangover from the military regime was the banishment from Chile of its countrymen & women. In this context, the return from Exile during the 1990s was an epic failure with many citizens still unable to go back to Chile’s hostile social and working environment. Adding to the list: Torture victims still haven’t been compensated by the state for the suffering and disability caused by state violence, Currently human rights groups are putting together a large lawsuit to claim recognition & compensation. The Valech report holds information that will not be declassified for another 50 years!
The Junta and its regime of political terror and social control has made Chile into a country of delatantes and scapegoats which will not be rectified until the truth is rightfully reconstructed and told.