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Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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Pinochet: The Dictator's Shadow

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 2015 18:41:30 -0300

I just finished reading this book -

My impression of Pinochet, after reading it, is that he was a very
good... something.  Manager?  Politician?  No.  He was a very, very good
dictator.  If you're going to be a dictator, then it's hard to see how (from
your own point of view - as someone who needs to profit and survive) you could
do better.  He is, in that sense, impressive.

And that worries me.  Because it seems a tad suspicious that someone should be
so good at something.  Maybe there are other, unexplained reasons for his
success?  Maybe this book is incomplete?

But, with that worry in mind, it is a good book.  I would recommend it to
anyone curious about the history of Chile.  It is part a biography of
Pinochet, part history of the country, with the unifying thread being the
political process necessary to end his dictatorship.

That thread - of political pragmatism - does mean that some things are
missing.  This is very much a book from the centre ground by a consummate
political player (and perhaps that explains some of the grudging admiration
you pick up for Pinochet - because he played politics pretty well).

So it misses out on explaining both the extreme right and the extreme left.
This is the story of, in Chilean terms, La Concertacion (the political
cross-party coalition that "won" against Pinochet in the famous referendum of
1988 - the "no" vote).

Personally, I would have appreciated more information about the left - I know
people who were students at that time, actively involved in resistance (armed
or not), and their story doesn't really appear here.  When it does, it's
generally framed as a nuisance that could derail the political process (rather
than something that might be motivating it).

One strength, however, that comes from this "middle of the road" view is that
it's a good candidate for a "neutral" history of Chile at that time.  Of
course, many on the right would object - it's written by a Socialist - but my
impression is that it's about as unbiased as you can get.


Answering Some Hard Questions

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Wed, 2 Sep 2015 12:54:35 -0300

I guess, based on this book, I can answer some of the typical "hard questions"
that are related to Pinochet:

- Was Pinochet Necessary To Save Chile?

  Not really.  At the moment of the coup, Chile was certainly in a mess.  But
  it was a country with a functioning democratic process.  There was an
  upcoming plebiscite and, then, elections that would have paved the way to
  some kind of compromise.

- Was Pinochet Responsible For Chile's Economic Success?

  This actually assumes several incorrect points.  First, the famous "Chicago
  Boys" were pushed onto Pinochet by Admiral Merino.  Second, Pinochet
  presided over both a boom and a bust (for reasons that I guess made more
  sense back then, the "free market" Chicago Boys decided to peg the currency
  against the dollar and - predictably - fucked up).  Third, the growth during
  Pinochet's dictatorship was concentrated on the rich, and was lower than the
  growth achieved after the return to democracy.  Fourth, many advances during
  the dictatorship came from policies implemented before (eg. land reform).
  Fifth, the value of significant parts of Pinochet's legacy - like the
  pension scheme - are increasingly being questioned.

  So, from a purely economic point of view, what eventually "worked" for Chile
  was a selection of some policies from Pinochet's time, as part of the long
  term, ongoing modernization of Chile, modified and moderated by democracy.

- Who Was Responsible For Pinochet?

  The coup was actually pushed and masterminded by others, in the military and
  on the political right.  Pinochet was involved only at the last minute (this
  was absolutely typical - he would go with whatever looked to be a winner).

  Also, the Socialist Party should take some of the blame, for trying to go
  "all out communist" against the wishes of the elected president (Allende was
  a lot more moderate than the Socialists that were running around
  nationalizing whatever they could get their hands on - when the Socialist
  party leader called Allende, just before his death, holed up the
  presidential palace, under fire, asking what to do, Allende replied "As
  regards the Socialist Party, why does it care about my opinions now when it
  has not cared about my views for quite a while?".  Harsh.  And a large part
  of the book is dedicated to the process of "fixing" this.)

- Was The Coup Funded By The USA?

  Not the coup directly, no.  But they were active in destabilizing the
  country and in funding the right / military.  In Kissinger's words, the USA

- Was Pinochet A Good Person?

  Setting aside the torture and deaths, he screwed over his closest allies to
  save his own skin, and stole millions of dollars from the country he claimed
  to love.

  That's a "no".


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