More than 1,000 Chileans lie down on Alameda Avenue in Santiago in remembrance of those assassinated, tortured, detained, and disappeared during and after General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 US-backed coup.
Because it’s something I’ve been researching for a while now in preparation for something I’m (eventually) writing, I’ll briefly bring up one of the many things about Thatcher we should all remember. She reversed the previous Labour government’s policy of accepting refugees and exiles from Chile after the horrific U.S. backed coup which put Pinochet in power on Sept. 11th, 1973. This was a regime which dropped pregnant women out of aeroplanes, which tortured girls by putting live rats in their vaginas, which once held a man at gunpoint and gave him the choice: sodomise your son or we kill you both. It was announced today that Pablo Neruda will be exhumed to investigate claims that his death a few days after the coup was in fact an assassination by poison rather than cancer; if it was the former he would only be one of thousands of others killed or simply dissapeared because of their leftist leanings. This was all well known at the time, but Thatcher still denied there were any human rights abuses or any need to accomodate those still fleeing Chile. They weren’t just political allies (it should be noted the only reason the UK even won the Falklands war was the amount of help from Chile), they were also good friends, and when he was finally put under house arrest in the UK, Thatcher was lobbying for his release. Pinchoet’s Chile was also the first real testing ground for the virulent form of neoliberalism which Thatcher and Reagan would then happily adopt and impose throughout the 80s, a project that the current coalition is now intent on completing. If you want to see what current cuts and policy trends will do to the UK, look into what they did to Chile. One example: every year after the privatisation of the Chilean NHS cases of typhoid practically doubled (they had until then been dropping), jumping from around 3,000 to over 10,000 in the space of a few years. Poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, depression and alcoholism, all shot through the roof as the national industries and banks were privatised, and multinationals were allowed to return and establish monopolies which funnelled vast amounts of wealth and national resources out of Chile. The gap between rich and poor became an unbreachable chasm.
Against those making bland moral objections about people “celebrating her death” I say: if she didn’t want her death to be celebrated she shouldn’t have spent her life doing and defending such irredeemably terrible things.
Soldados quemando libros durante la dictadura de Pinochet.
“[…] cuando la Junta de Pinochet quemó millares de libros en las calles de Santiago, estaba quemando mucho más que papel, mucho más que novelas y poemas; a su siniestra manera quemaba a los lectores de esos libros y a quienes los habían escrito
Julio Cortázar, en “Argentina. Veinte años de alambradas culturales”.
Today we all remember with sadness the tragic events that took place on the now infamous date September 11, 1973, when the democratically elected Chilean government of socialist president Salvador Allende was violently overthrown by the US-backed military junta of General Pinochet. It marks the beginning of one of the first radical neoliberal reforms that would later become commonplace around the world and are the reason why we can’t have nice things within the foreseeable future.