What can Chile’s politicians learn from the coup in 1973?
Long before jihadists destroyed the World Trade Centre, another September 11th had entered history as a dark day, especially for Latin America. On that date in 1973 Chile’s armed forces overthrew Salvador Allende, an elected Socialist president, and his chaotic, divided government. The coup was a national trauma and a continental shock. Augusto Pinochet, its leader, went on to erect a brutal personal dictatorship that lasted 17 years. It murdered several thousand opponents. Tens of thousands were tortured. Pinochet’s aim was to eradicate not just Marxism but the democracy that he believed had allowed it to thrive. That his regime’s free-market policies laid the foundations for sustained economic growth in Chile cannot erase that infamous stain.
Now Chile is entering a stage in its history when the split between left and right again feels acute. Gabriel Boric, the millennial president who came to power on the back of a “social explosion” against inequality, has offered more fulsome praise of Allende than any of his predecessors, invoking him in his inauguration speech.