FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why They Hate Bush in Chile

by ROGER BURBACH

Fifty thousand demonstrators greeted George Bush on his arrival in Santiago Chile for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting of twenty-one Pacific Rim nations. The largest and most militant demonstration since the dictatorship of General August Pinochet, the protestors called for an end to neo-liberal free trade agreements like those advanced by the APEC leaders. The demonstrators carried banners proclaiming “No to the dictatorship of the market” and asserted that trade accords drive workers and peasants into a “race to the bottom.”

The ire of many protestors centered on Bush and the war in Iraq. Chants of “Terrorist Bush,” and ” Bush, Fascist, Thief, Murder!” rang through the air. While the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, groups of anarchists, punks and others broke away from the main march to vandalize a McDonald’s restaurant and corporate stores. About 200 people were arrested and over 25 injured.

Bush, on his first trip outside the United States since the elections, found another unwanted answer to the question he posed in the aftermath of 9/11: “Why do they hate us?” It is certainly not for “our freedoms” as Bush inanely asserts. Aside from the war in Iraq, many protestors in Chile are deeply hostile because the United States backed a military coup on September 11, 1973 that took away their freedoms. It deposed the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and marked the beginning of a seventeen year dictatorship. One banner stated: “US Terrorist State: The First September 11.” A common refrain of demonstrators who want no further US meddling in their affairs proclaimed: “Bush, listen, Chile is not for sale.”

More than three thousand people perished in the aftermath of the coup, another 35,000 were imprisoned and tortured. With the acquiescence of the CIA and the cooperation of military regimes in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, the Pinochet dictatorship set up an international terrorist network, Operation Condor, that targeted opponents throughout the world. Prior to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the most sensational terrorist act in Washington D.C. took place in 1976 when Orlando Letelier, a leading Chilean opponent of the Pinochet regime, died when a bomb was detonated in his car just blocks from the White House. A young assistant, Ronnie Moffit, was killed along with him.

Even when Pinochet gave up the presidential sash in 1990, he continued to dominate the country’s politics as commander-in-chief of the military. The United States orchestrated a controlled “transition” in which a coalition of political parties took office on a centrist platform and followed the authoritarian constitution drawn up by Pinochet. The Communist party and other militant organizations on the left that had backed Allende were excluded.

This austere civilian order was shaken by Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998 for crimes against humanity. Returned to Chile in March 2000 for alleged health reasons, the quiescent Chilean judicial system finally turned on Pinochet and became prosecuting him for his crimes. The Chilean political establishment, now headed by President Ricardo Lagos, sought to defuse tensions with the business community and right wing backers of Pinochet by pressuring the judges and medical examiners to get him off the hook, this time because he supposedly had “light dementia.”

Events of the past year however have shaken the inertness of the Chilean political system. In a lengthy interview with a Miami television station, Pinochet insisted that the left owed him an apology for trying to get rid of him. This interview, in which he was evidently coherent the entire time, undermined his claim of suffering from dementia and led to the filing of new charges against him, this time for his role in Operation Condor.

It appears that Chile is at long last prepared to confront the crimes of the dictatorship as never before. Earlier this month an official commission backed by human rights organizations presented a report to President Lagos detailing the abuses and torture committed against prisoners from 1973 to 1990. Then just this past week the Supreme Court of Chile ruled that a clause in Pinochet’s constitution that exempted many members of his secret police from prosecution was invalid and superseded by international law.

Nation-wide municipal elections at the end of October have also given momentum to the progressive forces in Chile. The ruling centrist parties decisively defeated the right wing parties while a left coalition led by the Communist and Humanist parties garnered almost 10 percent of the vote, the most since the days of Allende.

To oppose the right wing parties in the presidential election, the ruling coalition appears to be giving the nod to one of its more progressive leaders, Michelle Bachelet, who served in Lagos’ cabinet. Her father, an Air Force General, was one of the few military officials who whole- heardetedly supported Salvador Allende, heading up the country’s food distribution system as the right wing tried to orchestrate a crisis by hoarding or reducing food supplies.

The left is also putting forth a dynamic candidate for president, Tomas Moulian. A radical sociologist who is rector of a university, Moulian is a talented speaker who will mince no words in going after the ruling parties as well as the right wing for their politics of complacency and the failure to deal with the workers and impoverished in Chile who are victims of globalization.

As the demonstrators greeting Bush showed, there is clearly a mass base for a new politics in Chile. Simultaneous with the APEC summit, 7,500 people attended workshops and seminars sponsored by the Chilean Social Forum. The main theme of the forum as well as the organizing slogan of the demonstration was “Another World is Possible.” The forum called on Chilean society to “carry on a debate of democratic ideas, related to unequal social relations, issues of gender, sustainable development, and alternatives to globalization.”

Bush spent much of his time in Santiago trying to bludgeon the other twenty heads of state into endorsing his war-mongering schemes for going after North Korea and Iran for their alleged weapons of mass destruction. There is indeed a Chilean alternative to Bush: it is to pursue former dictators and the real terrorists by using international law and building a global international criminal system that will be based on an egalitarian economic system that empowers people at the grass roots to build their own future.

ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the study of the Americans (CENSA) based in Berkeley, California. He is co- author with Jim Tarbell of “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire,” He released late last year “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.

Special thanks to Elias Padilla for his reporting assistance and to Paul Cantor for his editorial comments.

 

 

ROGER BURBACH is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Pinochet Affair.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail