Politics & Policy

Pinochet Is History

But how will it remember him?

  – Mario Loyola is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies .

Ion Mihai Pacepa

In my other life, as a Communist general, I lived under two tyrants who killed and jailed over one million people. Pinnochet saved Chile from becoming another Communist hell. God bless him for that, and may he be forgiven for his later aberrations. Not only in Chile does power corrupt.

– Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. His book Red Horizons has been republished in 27 countries.

Otto J. Reich

Augusto Pinochet was a tragic figure. Instead of being remembered for saving Chilean democracy from a communist takeover, and starting the country on the longest-lasting economic expansion in Latin America, which he did, he will be remembered mostly for carrying out a brutal campaign of human-rights abuses.

Contrary to revisionist history and mainstream media myths, Pinochet’s military coup against President Salvador Allende was supported by a majority of Chileans, two-thirds of whom had voted against Allende in the 1970 election. The three-way electoral tie had been decided by the Chilean Congress in favor of Allende. By 1973, however, Chileans were demonstrating in the streets against shortages, inflation and unemployment brought about by Allende’s failed socialist policies.

Facing widespread opposition to his rule, Allende secretly prepared a “self-coup,” with the help of Fidel Castro, who surreptitiously sent large quantities of weapons to arm Allende’s minority of supporters. Army Commander Pinochet beat Allende to the coup, which was justified by the Allende-Castro plans. What was not justified was the bloodbath which followed, when Allende supporters and innocents alike were summarily executed, imprisoned and tortured, including loyal military officers who disagreed with the coup.

Today, thanks to the KGB files smuggled out of Russia by Vasily Mitrokhin, we know that Allende was receiving payments from the KGB. There is no doubt that if he had succeeded in his plans, Chile today would be an impoverished Communist prison like Cuba, instead of a shining example of democracy and prosperity. With some compassion and self-discipline, Pinochet could have been remembered as a liberator and not a despot. He was both.

– Otto J. Reich served President Bush from 2001 to 2004, first as assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and later in the National Security Council. He now heads his own international government-relations firm in Washington.

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