Chile on fire

When Pinochet came to power, he gave the so-called Chicago Boys (economists inspired by Milton Friedman) a free rein in remodelling Chile’s economy. Also, he enacted a new and obviously controversial constitution.

When Pinochet stepped down, the dictatorship ended, but the Pinochet constitution, enacted in 1981, is still in force. Moreover, the Chicago Boys’ neo-liberal market fundamentalism has reigned undisputed: The country is rich, but most of its people work their butts off for next to nothing. Proper education and health care are beyond their means.

To illustrate how dire the situation is for Chileans, consider the findings of a study published in the Lancet: “Inequalities in life expectancy in six large Latin American cities“. In case you find the wording of the article a bit dry, I quote the Spanish daily El Pais which drew my attention to it:

A woman who lives in one of Santiago’s most disadvantaged areas will have a life that is 18 years shorter than that of a woman living in the same city, but in a more wealthy district. …” We assumed that in Panama and Santiago there would be considerable differences, because there is much inequality in these two countries,” admits Usama Bilal, “in the case of Chile the magnitude of the problem surprised us.”

What is being indicted in Chile is not so much the president as neo-liberalism. If you can read Spanish, I also warmly recommend the entire above-quoted article in El País.

I fear for Chile. Soldiers target protesters eyes, hoping to frighten them. When protests continue although so many people have been blinded or killed… who knows what will happen? Will the wealthiest 10% once again launch a dictatorship to prevent the slightest redistribution of wealth and income? The protesters must be extremely brave and/or extremely desperate, because they know what they’re up against.

Unlike Spain, Chile has not attempted to forget the dictatorship. Chileans have mourned its victims, paid some compensation to its survivors, built museums documenting its abuses, etc. What’s more, they have Patricio Guzman. His haunting documentaries are not only about Chile, but about mankind. If you cannot buy, borrow, rent or steal them, you will find some of them on Youtube.