Magazine article New Internationalist

Chile

Magazine article New Internationalist

Chile

Article excerpt

WITH its emaciated outline and its amazingly diverse landscape-from the parched Atacama Desert in the north, through fertile farmland and volcanoes to the fjords and glaciers of the south-Chile is a country of extremes. But the extremes it is best known for are political rather than geographic. The democratic election in 1970 of charismatic Marxist Salvador Allende led in 1973 to a US-backed military coup. Allende was murdered and the human-rights atrocities committed under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet caused consternation the world over. Even now, on each anniversary of the coup the Right holds a mass and celebrates while the Left demonstrates and demands justice for victims and their families. In the Pinochet years Chile also became the laboratory in which the Thatcher-Reagan guru Milton Friedman tested his monetarist economic doctrine in its most extreme form.

It is now seven years since the Chilean people voted 'yes' to democracy, effectively ending Pinochet's dictatorship, and five since they elected a new President. Yet Pinochet's influence remains: he is still head of the armed forces and has a high media profile as well as the support of the wealthy elite. In 1993, while President Aylwin was giving a speech in Norway about the good relationship between the Army and the Government, every member of the armed forces, including Pinochet himself, dressed in camouflage gear and took to the streets of the capital, Santiago, for 'training exercises'. Helicopters flew low over the city with soldiers hanging from ropes and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blaring out-an echo of Coppola's Vietnam movie Apocalypse Now. …

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