Each September, as we remember that tragic Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, it is common for Americans to ask why some people would hate us so much. Perhaps a place to begin that discussion is with the "Other 9-11" which occurred in Chile on Tuesday, September 11, 1973.
One that date, the Chilean military, with U.S. government/corporate backing, brutally overthrew a constitutionally elected government that was seen to threaten U.S. corporate interests. This story is known to a lot of Americans: thousands were executed outright and thousands were "disappeared."
Tens of thousands more were detained and most were brutally tortured. Tortures included electroshock, beatings, mock executions, and threats to family if the detainee did not talk. Both men and women were sexually abused and raped, often in front of family members.
The military junta claimed it was going after "communists" but even more moderate Chileans, some of whom had originally supported the coup, came to oppose the methods used It came to pass that even those who moderately opposed the human rights violations became targets. In addition, hundreds of Chileans were driven into exile.
While many Americans know that part of the story, they often do not know the other half. After the country had been terrorized into a state of fear, the junta invited economic advisors trained by free market, neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago which had a long relationship with Chile's Catholic University, the country's most conservative institution.
The "Chicago Boys" proceeded to immediately cut government spending for social services and education. Many state services were sold to the lowest bidder — often supporters of the dictatorship. Unions were suppressed abs health care, social security, transport and other services were privatized.
This was done in a climate where feared the consequences of speaking out. Milton Friedman likes to talk about the "Chilean miracle" and it did make some Chileans really rich. In fact because of policies imposed under a US-backed dictatorship, Chile now has the biggest gap between rich and poor in South America.
For working class and poor Chileans, Friedman's "miracle" was a nightmare. Even General Pinochet, the military dictator, eventually realized that some social services had to be restored. Interestingly, he kept the copper mines which were nationalized in government hands but only as long as 10 percent of Chile's copper profits went to fund the military.
Some of the economic "reforms" that took place under military rule were in education. These reforms were enacted when faculty were in a state of fear, often for their jobs and lives. Right after the coup, educators who were deemed "leftist" or "subversive" lost the jobs or worse, a move that might actually please some writers to The Sun!
The policies were those advocated by many modern conservatives in this country. Before the coup, Chile had expensive private schools but public education, even at the university level, was free or very low cost. Under the dictatorship, university education became very expensive with students taking out costly student loans. Public money was given to private schools and for-profit "universities" that were actually little more than glorified trade schools. Richer neighborhoods had better public schools or because of the wealthier tax base.
Over the past years, high school and university students have taken to the streets, gone on strike, and shut down schools and campuses. In many instances, the professors and the parents were marching alongside! Finally, the Chilean government has announced that it is going to grant many of the students' demands.
Steve Volk, a professor of history Oberlin College "who was there" once told this writer that he strongly believes that Chile was the U.S.A.'s first experiment in neo-liberal, free-market economics, later called Reaganomics in this country. It is now part of the agenda of the GOP.
Naomi Klein, in her book Shock Doctrine, outlines the methodology of the Chicago economic model: create a crisis, real or imagined, put people in a state of fear, and then put in a massive program of privatization that favors profits. Sound familiar?
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, voter, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford).
- Category: Columns
- Hits: 161