Monday 20 December 2021

Venceremos in Chile



"If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its graveyard" Gabriel Boric


Chilean leftist, Gabriel Boric, won the country's presidential election on Sunday 19 December.

On 11 September 1973 the Chilean military imposed a junta led by General Augusto Pinochet. During the air raids and ground attacks that preceded the coup, the left-wing Popular Unity President, Salvador Allende, gave his final speech, refusing offers of safe passage into exile. I remember the photos of him in helmet, looking up from a balcony at the presidential palace as the US supplied Lockheed F-80s and British Hawker Hunters attacked after completing their destruction of radio transmission antennas and of the presidential residence at Las Condes. Witnesses claim that Allende committed suicide.

The military suspended all political activity in Chile and repressed left-wing movements. The Nixon administration promptly recognised the junta, having helped create the conditions for the coup This task had been given to Henry Kissinger who had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pinochet's soldiers rounded up supporters of Allende's Popular Unity party. Many were imprisoned in the Chile Stadium. The popular singer/guitarist Victor Jara had his fingers broken and the guards then taunted him to play. He managed to sing Venceremos before being riddled with bullets. If you have Netflix you can watch “Massacre at the Stadium” His last words - “How hard it is to sing when I must sing of horror / horror which I am living / horror which I am dying.”

Before the coup, Chile had been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability when much of South America was in the grip of their militaries. It was now to become the beacon for the playing out of the economic neo-liberal ideas of Friedrich Hayeck, Milton Friedman and James M Buchanan and supported by the policy makers, Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher and Alan Greenspan.

They advocated the resurgance of 19th-century free-market capitalism, now referred to as neo-liberalism. This included privatisation, deregulation, globalisation, austerity and reductions in government spending to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.

The 1973 coup was a bullet to the head for those struggling for a more equitable economic and social order, while it was a tonic to the rapid advance of the 1%.

48 years later Lucrecia Cornejo, 72, a seamstress joined the many thoudands celebrating on the streets of the capital, Santiago, and spoke not just for Chile, but for us all. "I want equality, for us not to be as they call us, the 'broken ones’ - more fairness in education, health and salaries. I want real change."