[News] Chile's Ghosts Are Not Being Rescued

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 15 10:53:33 EDT 2010

Chile's Ghosts Are Not Being Rescued

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/johnpilger>John Pilger

Friday, October 15, 2010

The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an 
extraordinary drama filled with pathos and 
heroism. It is also a media windfall for the 
Chilean government, whose every beneficence is 
recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail 
to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a façade.

The accident that trapped the miners is not 
unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence 
of a ruthless economic system that has barely 
changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto 
Pinochet. Copper is Chile’s gold, and the 
frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with 
prices and profits. There are, on average, 39 
fatal accidents every year in Chile’s privatised 
mines. The San Jose mine, where the men work, 
became so unsafe in 2007 it had to be closed – 
but not for long. On 30 July last, a labour 
department report warned again of “serious safety 
deficiencies ”, but the minister took no action. 
Six days later, the men were entombed.

For all the media circus at the rescue site, 
contemporary Chile is a country of the unspoken. 
At the Villa Grimaldi, in the suburbs of the 
capital Santiago, a sign says: “The forgotten 
past is full of memory.” This was the torture 
centre where hundreds of people were murdered and 
disappeared for opposing the fascism that General 
Augusto Pinochet and his business allies brought 
to Chile. Its ghostly presence is overseen by the 
beauty of the Andes, and the man who unlocks the 
gate used to live nearby and remembers the screams.

I was taken there one wintry morning in 2006 by 
Sara De Witt, who was imprisoned as a student 
activist and now lives in London. She was 
electrocuted and beaten, yet survived. Later, we 
drove to the home of Salvador Allende, the great 
democrat and reformer who perished when Pinochet 
seized power on 11 September 1973 – Latin 
America’s own 9/11. His house is a silent white 
building without a sign or a plaque.

Everywhere, it seems, Allende’s name has been 
eliminated. Only in the lone memorial in the 
cemetery are the words engraved “Presidente de la 
Republica” as part of a remembrance of the 
“ejecutados Politicos”: those “executed for 
political reasons”. Allende died by his own hand 
as Pinochet bombed the presidential palace with 
British planes as the American ambassador watched.

Today, Chile is a democracy, though many would 
dispute that, notably those in the barrios forced 
to scavenge for food and steal electricity. In 
1990, Pinochet bequeathed a constitutionally 
compromised system as a condition of his 
retirement and the military’s withdrawal to the 
political shadows. This ensures that the broadly 
reformist parties, known as Concertacion, are 
permanently divided or drawn into legitimising 
the economic designs of the heirs of the 
dictator. At the last election, the right-wing 
Coalition for Change, the creation of Pinochet’s 
ideologue Jaime Guzman, took power under 
president Sebastian Piñera. The bloody extinction 
of true democracy that began with the death of 
Allende was, by stealth, complete.

Piñera is a billionaire who controls a slice of 
the mining, energy and retail industries. He made 
his fortune in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup 
and during the free-market “experiments” of the 
zealots from the University of Chicago, known as 
the Chicago Boys. His brother and former business 
partner, Jose Piñera, a labour minister under 
Pinochet, privatised mining and state pensions 
and all but destroyed the trade unions. This was 
applauded in Washington as an “economic miracle”, 
a model of the new cult of neo-liberalism that 
would sweep the continent and ensure control from the north.

Today Chile is critical to President Barack 
Obama’s rollback of the independent democracies 
in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Piñera’s 
closest ally is Washington’s main man, Juan 
Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, 
home to seven US bases and an infamous human 
rights record familiar to Chileans who suffered under Pinochet’s terror.

Post-Pinochet Chile has kept its own enduring 
abuses in shadow. The families still attempting 
to recover from the torture or disappearance of a 
loved bear the prejudice of the state and 
employers. Those not silent are the Mapuche 
people, the only indigenous nation the Spanish 
conquistadors could not defeat. In the late 19th 
century, the European settlers of an independent 
Chile waged their racist War of Extermination 
against the Mapuche who were left as impoverished 
outsiders.  During Allende’s thousand days in 
power this began to change. Some Mapuche lands 
were returned and a debt of justice was recognised.

Since then, a vicious, largely unreported war has 
been waged against the Mapuche. Forestry 
corporations have been allowed to take their 
land, and their resistance has been met with 
murders, disappearances and arbitrary 
prosecutions under “anti terrorism” laws enacted 
by the dictatorship. In their campaigns of civil 
disobedience, none of the Mapuche has harmed 
anyone. The mere accusation of a landowner or 
businessman that the Mapuche “might” trespass on 
their own ancestral lands is often enough for the 
police to charge them with offences that lead to 
Kafkaesque trials with faceless witnesses and 
prison sentences of up to 20 years. They are, in effect, political prisoners.

While the world rejoices at the spectacle of the 
miners’ rescue, 38 Mapuche hunger strikers have 
not been news. They are demanding an end to the 
Pinochet laws used against them, such as 
“terrorist arson”, and the justice of a real 
democracy. On 9 October, all but one of the 
hunger strikers ended their protest after 90 days 
without food. A young Mapuche, Luis Marileo, says 
he will go on. On 18 October, President Piñera is 
due to give a lecture on “current events” at the 
London School of Economics. He should be reminded of their ordeal and why.


Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20101015/1fc4c6ad/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list