Dec 212021

The Social Democrat Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile in 1970, and again in 1973. His re-election in 1973, in spite of the United States’ destabilization activities (which effectively paralysed Chile) was the last straw for the U.S. and the Chilean upper class. The role played by the United States in the bloody 9/11 coup and the dismantling of Chilean Social Democracy is well documented not least by declassified documents from the US National Security Archive.

The blood-curdling bestiality of the subsequent dictatorship has also been painstakingly researched, not least by some of the victims’ next of kin (e.g. the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet). Incidentally, allow me to recommend the six episodes of the Netflix documentary, “Colonia Dignidad” established shortly after WWII and later used as one of the dictatorship’s myriad torture and detention centres.

The next opportunity for Chilean voters to make their wishes known came on 5 October 1988. To prove to his Western friends, not least Margaret Thatcher, how much his people loved him, and thus to justify continued dictatorship, Pinochet had allowed the “YES or NO plebiscite”. It didn’t occur to him that people would vote NO (i.e. NO more Pinochet!)

Again I recommend a film, “NO”, by Pablo Larrain. The fictional protagonists playfully use the enemy’s Neoliberal marketing tricks to win voters.

Equally important, I think, is another lesson learnt: David can beat Goliath. Pinochet held absolute power over all media, which trumpeted, day in and day out, Chile’s impressive GNP, its wealth and strength. All known leftist activists were either dead, abroad or in jail. Pinochet was handsome, elegantly courteous to the ladies, a “real man” for the men and devout (i.e. “a good man”). He was indeed beloved by many. His detractors were portrayed as dangerous communists, determined to strip you of all your property.

Still, Pinochet’s opponents won!

His “Chicago boys” had been hand-picked by Milton Friedman to reform the economy of the country, which became a testing ground for market fundamentalism, commonly referred to as “Neoliberalism”. After Pinochet stepped down, market fundamentalism was still enshrined in “his” Constitution, which was promulgated in 1980. For decades now, the world has considered Chile an economic miracle.

Was it?

The day 18 October 2019 saw the start of the “Estallido” (explosion). Just a few days earlier, President Piñera had boasted that Chile is the “oasis of Latin America”, failing to mention who owned the “oasis”. “Not us, to be sure,” said most people. “To be eligible for retirement benefits, we have to pay private pension funds that only repay a fraction of what we paid. We have to pay for private health insurance and for the education of our children. We are hopelessly indebted; we work from dawn till midnight; we hardly even know our children!”

When “our children” were castigated for refusing to pay the Metro fare to get to school because of a small price hike, parents stood by them. What started as a juvenile prank (the kids simply jumped over turnstiles) ended up as a major riot with tanks and a president who declared the country at war.

“War?” spat the infuriated hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets. “You are going to war against your own people?” Indeed, President Piñera was castigated by his own allies when Chile made international headlines due to the authorities’ brutality against peaceful demonstrators.

The uprising lasted for weeks and only ended after President Piñera had promised a new plebiscite. On October 25 the people of Chile were allowed to answer two questions: 1) Should the existing constitution be replaced? 2) In the event, should a new constitution be drafted by a democratically elected constitutional committee?

The voters responded with a resounding “YES” to both questions.

Alas, the subsequent backlash included the usual lies about what would become of Chile in the hands of idealistic fools manipulated by Russia, Cuba and China. I shall refrain from giving you the full text with which, I’m sure, you are already familiar. You know as well as I do that the Neoliberal set adroitly tailor the “information” they provide to fit their customers’ educational level, religion and culture. Above all, they make sure to filter “information” and spice it with titbits of fiction. “Truth” is not in the Neoliberal dictionary.

Many Chileans will literally have wept when a Fascist won the first round of this year’s presidential election. Referring to politicians you dislike as “fascists” is not comme il faut, but Jose Antonio Kast really is just that, a Fascist. A soft-spoken, handsome religious conservative like his hero Pinochet, he has the political outlook of an iron fist. Just as in Brazil, voters had tired of moderate conservatives and the only right wing person who could rally support was one who promised the moon. Electoral participation in the first round was, however, no more than 47%.

Voter turnout in the second round, on 19 December 2021, was 56%, even though most buses mysteriously stopped running that day, and people had to stand in line for hours in the scorching heat. Moreover, many Chileans living abroad were also prevented from voting when they discovered that Pinochet’s constitution requires them to register with their embassies almost half a year in advance of elections.

Chile is a deeply polarised country. That’s what dictatorships do to countries: They cleave them, and the wounds last for generations. Take Spain, for instance. Franco died in 1975, but the country has not healed, it is merely hushed. Silence is not always golden.

But in Chile, a young and fresh generation has taken charge, a generation that appears determined to dismantle Neoliberalism. To quote President-elect Gabriel Boric: “if Chile was the birthplace of Neoliberalism, Chile will also be its grave.”

Let us hope.

Oct 302020

There is absolutely nothing I can do about the shoot-out between Trump and Biden, other than to commiserate with US citizens in both camps who have had to watch their American dream go down the drain.

Had I been a US citizen, I would have voted, sure, but as I am not, I do not intend to sit up all night, every night of this last week, waiting for the election results, so please have me excused. Nor do I intend to incur headaches, hypertension, muscular pains, insomnia, or psychosis by following the news byte by byte. It is nearly all about Trump and Covid, even in my country. You could almost envy the people in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, who have issues that take their mind off Covid-Trump.

However, there are actually enjoyable pieces of news out there, would you believe it? True, my country’s national broadcasting company did not see fit to inform us about the outcome of the 25 October plebiscite in Chile, but we still have internet. (By the way, did you know that in Kashmir they don’t, thanks to “Democratic” India’s rabid PM Narendra Modi’s having slapped a one-year-long internet blackout on Kashmir.) So I watched a Chilean TV channel for – yes, for a whole night.

General Pinochet, whose US-assisted dictatorship had engaged in a particularly sadistic effort to exterminate the regime’s political opponents, stepped down in 1990 following a plebiscite he had allowed, believing that it would grant his dictatorship legitimacy. To everybody’s surprise, it didn’t. See the film No! directed by Pablo Larrain (trailer).

However, Chile was not rid of Pinochet. He left his mark in a Constitution (adopted back in 1980, when people were too terrified to oppose it), a constitution that seemed a hymn to Milton Friedman’s market fundamentalism.

Subsequent legislative efforts to protect the population from the effects of that constitution have been a seemingly hopeless uphill battle.

Milton Friedman often proudly referred to “the miracle of Chile”. Moreover, the father of Neoliberalism (albeit Neoliberal economists indignantly declare there is no such thing as Neoliberalism) Friedrich Hayek, visited Pinochet. If you are an economist, and if you still adhere to the “classical” economic precepts of Hayek, I suggest you take a look at Wikiquotes and search “Chile”.

Chile’s economy has been a model of stability, the darling of the IMF, with steady and uninterrupted growth in terms of GNP. But let me declare loudly, let me stand on a chair, let me shout, let me scream, as the Chilean protesters have been screaming: GNP does not reflect the welfare of the vast majority of a country’s inhabitants.

True, the number of people defined as living in extreme poverty has declined markedly from year to year. However, how do you define poverty? I put to you, that the majority of Chile’s population is living in what I consider poverty. I am sure you would agree if you were put to the test.

I quote from the think tank

Fifty percent of the economically active population earns less than 550 dollars per month, with the minimum wage equivalent to 414 dollars. Overwhelmed by the narrow strip that separates it from poverty, an important part of the population lives in fear of seeing their income fall. In Chile, downward social mobility is greater than upward social mobility, and downward mobility is more highly correlated to political protest than poverty itself.

The biggest factor that exacerbates inequality is probably the nation’s pension system, in force since 1982. Designed during the military government, the pension mechanism has not met Chileans’ expectations. According to the group No + AFP (No More Pension Fund Managers), which in 2016 organized a march of 600,000 people, these are “undercover banks of the richest entrepreneurs in our country who use the pension funds to expand their investments and further concentrate capital in a few hands”. The average pension for retirees is $286 per month, and 80% receive pensions below the minimum wage. The amount of pensions is on average close to 40% of people’s income at the time of retirement.

Education is the second major source of inequality. In 2006 and 2011, students organized massive demonstrations calling for profound reforms in the education system. Chilean education is characterized by the huge gap between public and private education. The withdrawal of the State from its functions as generator, regulator and supervisor of the education sector led to the gap as part of neoliberal reforms beginning in the 1980s.

The above quote is far too polite, in my mind. (The NY Times does a better job of it.) Then again, I suspect that working and living conditions for more than half the population in the USA is not very much better than for the majority of the population in Chile.

Now back to the night when the votes were being counted. The below link will take you to the infamous Stadium in Santiago during the last minutes before voting ends. Then you will see how counting starts at various polling stations, how amazed silence follows the first signs of what seems to be happening,

If you go on watching, you will see that dazed spectators surrounding the polling stations (las mesas) start to understand that they may actually have won. Eventually, they will find themselves in the streets, deliriously celebrating, and although there is a curfew, neither the police nor the army intervenes.

What emerges when all the votes have been counted is that only 5 of the 346 electoral districts were opposed to the trashing of Pinochet’s constitution. Two of them are so small they are statistically insignificant. Three of them, however, constitute the part of Santiago that houses the top of the social pyramid, the epicentre of political and economic power: Vitacura, las Condes and Lo Barnochea. In an interesting article, BBC explains that Santiago consists of two distinct universes. What is clear is that from the top of a pyramid, you don’t see the ants swarming down below.

President Piñera deserves praise for at least not having declared a civil war on the night when it became clear that 78.2 % of the population of Chile, had declared the country’s constitution worthless.

Look to Chile, my friends. Change is indeed possible.

Dec 012019

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.

Sep 172019

Do you remember when you started having opinions of a political nature? I do. I was about 15 when I started taking an interest in international affairs. Let me admit that I was going to a very good international school. We were even trained to debate positions that we did not necessarily hold. We had to read up on them, naturally.

My own personal opinions mirrored those of my father, whom I considered eminently respectable. He took pride in not being “biased” so he would present his views in the following manner: On the one hand, you have… and on the other hand, there is… .

This seemed an admirable approach, so I tried to be “unbiased” too, until I discovered that he was a loyal supporter of a political party and that the views I had developed on the basis of his approach were not unbiased at all. By then, I was 16-17, and we had some pretty hefty arguments.

I am writing this much about myself because I think that for most of us, political outlook is initially based on that of our parents, then on whatever analytical training we get at school, and then…

… well, then things start to get a little fuzzy. For most of us, the guiding light will be the media, and our opinions will basically echo those voiced by the media we are attracted to, including social media. Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be. But it goes without saying that most of us will hold “mainstream” opinions, i.e. the opinions voiced by mainstream media.

Now what are mainstream media? In Norway, the main news outlets, apart from the National Broadcasting Company, are owned by the Schibsted Group. Among the newspapers it owns are the most “respectable” one (Aftenposten) and the far less respectable but bestselling VG. Both are obviously available online. So the majority of people in Norway will hold views that tend to be voiced by these two very different news outlets.

It is true that if you read either of them, you will find a range of opinions, but I would be able to list, without hesitation, a few of my own that you would only rarely find. If you ask the editorial boards of the papers in question why they do not more frequently print articles advocating that we leave NATO, they will reply: Only 10 % of the population votes for a party that wants us to leave NATO.

Now, let me remind you of the chicken and egg causality dilemma:

  • Why do people vote for parties that do or do not want the nation to be part of NATO? How are they informed?
  • Who stands to gain from our continuing to be a NATO member? How do they make sure voters continue to endorse membership?
  • Why would anybody bother to invest in a newspaper? (If I were rich, I would lay my eggs in another basket.)

Above I wrote: “Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be.” I did just that. I made friends from other sides and I travelled to other sides. One of the other sides I travelled to was Chile. I was advised that El Mercurio was THE respectable paper. I ask you to please listen to the story told on this link:

Feb 272019

Not so very long ago, there was a country where most of the people were very poor, and some were very well off. By dint of solidarity, self-sacrifice and organisation, the people who were very poor were able to elect a president who was actually willing do to his very best for them, even to die for them. During his presidency, things changed for the better for the vast majority of the country’s population.

You will no doubt have heard of the country, its people and their president, as it was was a democratic country which was killed, as it were, together with its democratically elected president, by a barbarous, US-supported coup d’etat on 11 September 1973.

We tend to think of ugly dictatorships in terms of ugly presidents wearing sunglasses. Pinochet was no doubt ugly and he did indeed wear sunglasses, but I do not believe that he killed Chile. It takes more than a man or two to kill a democracy, and Pinochet was anything but charismatic, far less brilliant.

I would like to recommend an interesting documentary about the run-up to the coup. It tells us a great deal about the mechanisms behind the political scene in a country split between the wealthy few and the innumerable poor. As at today, the film can be found on Youtube. It is called The Battle of Chile Part I (IMDb gives it 8.3)

I believe that Chile never really recovered from the trauma of dictatorship. I fear that the lesson they learnt there was that democracy only applies if it favours those who already have more than enough. For Chileans, what has been happening in Venezuela is sadly deja vue.

Sep 112013

Nok en deilig sommerkveld. (Sommer? Det er 11. september!) En fet og vakker måne henger over tretoppene foran meg, og det er 9/11, 12 år etter angrepet på tvillingtårnene mm., som forårsaket 2997 dødsfall.

Nok en deilig sommerkveld i fredelige Norge, dagen etter et stortingsvalg som ikke ga overraskende resultater, og det er på dagen 40 år etter at et brutalt USA-støttet militærkupp gjorde slutt på Chiles fredelige overgang til sosialdemokrati, slutt på muligheten til å ta høyere utdanning for folk som ikke kom fra overklassen og for øvrig kostet ca. 3000 menneskeliv; omtrent det samme som angrepet på tvillingtårnene.

Ja, det var 40 år siden, og diktaturet er slutt. Chile er et rikt land, men likevel meget primitivt i forhold til i 1973. Året 2013 har for eksempel vært preget av at skoleungdommer, lærere og foreldre og mange andre bankes opp av politiet i periodevis daglige demonstrasjoner. De unge krever at utdanning ikke lenger skal forbeholdes en økonomisk elite.

Chile er langt fra noe utviklingsland! Det er et vestlig demokrati som går så det suser, om vi skal tro det vi hører i media. Men akk, det drypper ikke mye på klokkeren.

I tillegg til de ca. 3000 drepte kostet diktaturet unevnelige lidelser for tusenvis av mennesker som ble internert og torturert etter alle kunstens regler av torturister som ble forberedt til oppgavene i treningsleire i Panama i USAnsk regi. Rundt 28.000 ofre fikk i 2004 symbolsk oppreisning for overgrepene de ble utsatt for i løpet av diktaturet (the Guardian). Antallet har visstnok steget siden da til nærmere 40.000. Det at de fikk oppreisning, om enn aldri så symbolsk, er prisverdig! (Torturofrene fra Franco-regimet i EU-landet Spania har for eksempel ikke en gang fått en beklagelse.) Men ingenting kan hviske ut fysiske og psykiske arr fra mange års terror.

Dette var et eksempel på USAnsk utenrikspolitikk. Vi har i dag, 9/11, med nød og neppe sluppet å bli vitne til nok en USAnsk utenrikspolitisk løsning. Takket være russisk inngripen har USA besluttet å gi Syria en frist. USA vil altså likevel ikke “straffe” Syria fordi landets president skal ha brutt folkeretten ved å bruke nervegassen sarin, et masseødeleggelsesvåpen.

Jeg vil parentetisk nevne at sarin ble brukt i Chile under det USA-støttede diktaturet, der det ble produsert av biokjemikeren Berríos og CIA-agenten Townley. Det lyktes aldri å stille Berríos for retten etter diktaturet fordi han ble drept antakelig av sine egne for at han ikke skulle avsløre dem  (Wikipedia). Det hører nemlig med til historien at selv om overlevende torturofre i Chile fikk en symbolsk oppreisning så går mange av de ansvarlige enda fri, og Pinochet selv ble som kjent aldri stilt til ansvar for sine handlinger. Townley lever under dekning i USA hvor han er gjenstand for “vitnebeskyttelse”. Det skulle tatt seg ut om tyskerne beskyttet sine nazistiske torturister, ikke sant?

Det er ikke lett å vite hva som er sant og hva som er usant når stormaktene er ute og går. Syria er et tragisk eksempel på dette. Reaksjonene på at Obama likevel ikke vil angripe Syria går mye ut på hvorvidt han viser “svakhet”. I Norge hører vi ikke mye om at det kanskje ikke var Assad som beordret bruk av sarin. På nyhetene fra den islandske statlige kanalen RUV i går hørte jeg at Gerhard Schindler, lederen for den tyske etterretningstjenesten Bundesnachrichtendienst, skal ha opplyst at avlyttet kommunikasjon har vist Bashad al Assad ikke har tillat bruk av kjemiske masseødeleggelsesvåpen. Island er et lite land, og ingen bryr seg om nyhetene derfra, så derfor kan RUV av og til fortelle ting man ikke hører på NRK.

Samtidig er en belgisk lærer og en italiensk journalist nettopp sluppet fri etter fem måneders fangenskap i Syria. De dro til Syria fordi de sympatiserte med opprørerne og ville dokumentere frigjøringshærens tapre kamp, men de ble tatt til fange av en liten gjeng “forvirrede unge menn som lot som om de glødet for frigjøringskampen, men som i virkeligheten bare var opptatt av å berike seg”, som belgeren forteller. I et intervju på belgisk TV forteller han videre at han han har overhørt samtaler som tyder på at det ikke var regjeringshæren men opprørerne som brukte nervegassen. Han sier det gjør ham meget vondt å si dette, da han siden mai 2012 har hatt en brennende sympati med opprørernes kamp (belgisk TV)

Er han blitt kjøpt og betalt av regjeringsstyrkene? Vanskelig å vite, ikke sant. Sikkert er det imidlertid at pelshvaler ikke gir mye for “opplysningene” fra offisielt hold i USA eller for den del fra Storbritania. Det er tross alt ikke lenge siden angrepet på Irak med nesten identisk begrunnelse.

En annen sak er at uansett hvor mye vi enn gråter for Syria nå — og det gjør vi —  så kan ikke et væpnet angrep fra vestlig hold befri landet fra den grusomme borgerkrigens irrasjonelle grep.

Noe som karakteriserer en pelshval er at den har god luktesans. Den kjenner lukten av råtnende løgner på tvers av verdenshavene. Men den kan lite gjøre for å fjerne kilden til den vonde lukten. På vegne av de få gjenlevende pelshvalene, beklager jeg dette inderlig.