Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thousands Celebrate Death of Chilean Dictator

Spontaneous celebrations sprung up all over the South American country of Chile at the news of the death of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet, a former General who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, lead the United States-backed overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende. He died from health complications on the afternoon of December 10th. Shortly following the reports that the ailing dictator had died, thousands of people erupted in spontaneous celebration all over the country.

Pinochet headed the US-backed and organized overthrow of the Allende government as a response to the nationalization of the Chilean copper industry. American mining firms were expropriated in order to fund the expansion of social programs for Chilean workers.
The following 17 years of military rule saw the systematic torture of over 35,000 people, the assassination of over 5,000 and the exodus of 10% of the population who sought refugee status in mainly North American and European countries. Thousands remain missing.

Under Pinochet, Chile became the World’s testing ground for neoliberal economic policies, which use privatization and removal of laws meant to protect workers, the environment and secure tax cuts for large companies and the wealthy.

Canadian companies also benifited from Pinochet’s repressive rule. Canadian mining firms invested heavily in Pinochet’s pro-corporate economy. In 1996, Peter Munk, Chairman of Barrick Gold corporation, dismissed concern about Pinochet’s human rights record, saying “they can put people in jail, I have no comment on that... I think [the end justifies the means] because it brought wealth to an enormous number of people.”

Pinochet had been trying to evade being brought up on charges of human rights violations for the thousands killed under his command, as well as charges over tax evasion, falsifying passports and $27M stashed in bank accounts outside Chile.