Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - A Mixed Legacy of Odd Bedfellows

Now that Margaret Thatcher has passed on, I wanted to take a brief look back at one of her more interesting moments, a meeting with Augusto Pinochet, the much vilified leader of Chile:

I apologize that most of the video is in Spanish, however, you will note that Prime Minister Thatcher's comments to him are in English.

Here is a key quote from her meeting:

"I'm also very much aware that it is you who brought democracy to Chile, you set up a constitution suitable for democracy, you put it into effect, elections were held, and then, in accordance with the result, you stepped down."

General Pinochet stepped down only after a great deal of pressure was placed on him to do so.

Baroness Thatcher had a long history with Chile's leader, as shown in the video, she visited General Pinochet in March of 1999 when he was under house arrest in the United Kingdom while he was attempting to avoid extradition to Spain for human rights abuses during his 1973 to 1990 tenure as Chile's dictator. She also had regular contact with Pinochet after he stepped down in 1990, inviting him for visits to her home in London annually.

Augusto Pinochet was swept to power in September 1973 after he overthrew Chile's democratically elected Socialist/Marxist Allende government with the helpful of the United States which was annoyed at the nationalization of Chile's copper mines.  During Pinochet's tenure, it was estimated that his regime was responsible for the deaths of between 1200 to 3200 Chileans and the imprisonment of between 150,000 and 300,000 men, women and children, many of whom were tortured.  According to the Report of the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture, nearly every woman that was imprisoned was raped as quoted here:

"The perpetration of this crime took many forms, from military men raping women themselves to the use of foreign objects on victims. Numerous women (and men) report spiders or live rats being implanted into their orifices. One woman wrote, “I was raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats. They forced me to have sex with my father and brother who were also detained. I also had to listen to my father and brother being tortured.” Her experiences were mirrored by those of many other women who told their stories to the commission. "

And that's democracy, Pinochet-style.

Here is the trailer for a documentary on Chile's prison system under General Pinochet:

While Pinochet's Chile did offer military intelligence that assisted Britain in its recapture of the Falklands in 1982, his legacy is far from positive and Prime Minister Thatcher's praise for his form of "democracy" was, to say the least, misguided.


  1. I have no love lost for Pinochet but Allende was basically a Banana Republic Dictator and a monster of a different breed:

    "By 1972, the Chilean escudo had an inflation rate of 140%. The average Real GDP contracted between 1971 and 1973 at an annual rate of 5.6% ("negative growth"); and the government's fiscal deficit soared while foreign reserves declined. The combination of inflation and government-mandated price-fixing, together with the "disappearance" of basic commodities from supermarket shelves, led to the rise of black markets in rice, beans, sugar, and flour.[39] The Chilean economy also suffered as a result of a US campaign against the Allende government. The Allende government announced it would default on debts owed to international creditors and foreign governments. Allende also froze all prices while raising salaries. His implementation of these policies was strongly opposed by landowners, employers, businessmen and transporters associations, and some civil servants and professional unions."

    "Allende raised wages on a number of occasions throughout 1970 and 1971, but these wage hikes were negated by the in-tandem inflation of Chile's fiat currency. Although price rises had also been high under Frei (27% a year between 1967 and 1970), a basic basket of consumer goods rose by 120% from 190 to 421 escudos in one month alone, August 1972. In the period 1970–72, while Allende was in government, exports fell 24% and imports rose 26%, with imports of food rising an estimated 149%."

    1. Kudos to the Anonymous author of the preceding comment. An amazing review of facts and dates that could only be prepared by an intelligent person. Yet sadly, not able to make the distinction between hardships caused by an oppressing power that has been overthrown and the hardships that the same oppressor inflicts while plotting to re-gain power.