Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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December 11, 2006

Pinochet And The Fairy Tale Miracle Of Chile

Augusto Pinochet, the CIA-installed army general and dictator of Chile who ended the Salvador Allende led period of democratic government in that country, recently died at age 91. Victims of Pinochet's human rights abuses are celebrating his passing.


PinochetMalBixo.jpg

Photo credit: Jonathan Franklin


"I think that the death of Pinochet permits us to let go of the past and now we can look forward at the future with much more optimism and the desire to reconcile," said Maria Angelica Prats, the daughter of a Carlos Prats, an army general who was murdered by Pinochet security forces in a car bomb attack.

But Pinochet's heritage is not only characterized by Human Rights violations. He also all but ruined the economy of Chile, listening to the crème de la crème of the US economic establishment. "The miracle of Chile" and similar phrases which described the experiments of economic liberalism are just so much propaganda. In reality, the economy of Chile took a hard hit and only recovered later, with a profound change of policy.

Greg Palast has the story and it makes for an interesting read.

- - -

Tinker Bell, Pinochet And The Fairy Tale Miracle Of Chile

by Greg Palast
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. (Signed copies available for the holidays at www.palastinvestigativefund.org)

Chile’s former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet has died at the age of 91 - a week after entering hospital in Santiago to receive treatment for a heart attack.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Tinker Bell and General Augusto Pinochet had much in common.

All three performed magical good deeds. In the case of Pinochet, he was universally credited with the Miracle of Chile, the wildly successful experiment in free markets, privatization, de-regulation and union-free economic expansion whose laissez-faire seeds spread from Valparaiso to Virginia.

But Cinderella’s pumpkin did not really turn into a coach. The Miracle of Chile, too, was just another fairy tale. The claim that General Pinochet begat an economic powerhouse was one of those utterances whose truth rested entirely on its repetition.

Chile could boast some economic success. But that was the work of Salvador Allende - who saved his nation, miraculously, a decade after his death.

In 1973, the year General Pinochet brutally seized the government, Chile’s unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernization, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

In 1970, 20% of Chile’s population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year “President” Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile’s economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman’s trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatized the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatized 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward … into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile’s industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpah, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan’s State Department issued a report concluding, “Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management.” Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, “The Miracle of Chile.” Friedman’s sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet’s Chile was, “a showcase of what supply-side economics can do.”

It certainly was. More exactly, Chile was a showcase of de-regulation gone berserk.

The Chicago Boys persuaded the junta that removing restrictions on the nation’s banks would free them to attract foreign capital to fund industrial expansion.

Pinochet sold off the state banks - at a 40% discount from book value - and they quickly fell into the hands of two conglomerate empires controlled by speculators Javier Vial and Manuel Cruzat. From their captive banks, Vial and Cruzat siphoned cash to buy up manufacturers - then leveraged these assets with loans from foreign investors panting to get their piece of the state giveaways.

The bank’s reserves filled with hollow securities from connected enterprises. Pinochet let the good times roll for the speculators. He was persuaded that Governments should not hinder the logic of the market.

By 1982, the pyramid finance game was up. The Vial and Cruzat “Grupos” defaulted. Industry shut down, private pensions were worthless, the currency swooned. Riots and strikes by a population too hungry and desperate to fear bullets forced Pinochet to reverse course. He booted his beloved Chicago experimentalists. Reluctantly, the General restored the minimum wage and unions’ collective bargaining rights. Pinochet, who had previously decimated government ranks, authorized a program to create 500,000 jobs. In other words, Chile was pulled from depression by dull old Keynesian remedies, all Franklin Roosevelt, zero Reagan/Thatcher. New Deal tactics rescued Chile from the Panic of 1983, but the nation’s long-term recovery and growth since then is the result of - cover the children’s ears - a large dose of socialism.

To save the nation’s pension system, Pinochet nationalized banks and industry on a scale unimagined by Communist Allende. The General expropriated at will, offering little or no compensation. While most of these businesses were eventually re-privatized, the state retained ownership of one industry: copper.

For nearly a century, copper has meant Chile and Chile copper. University of Montana metals expert Dr. Janet Finn notes, “Its absurd to describe a nation as a miracle of free enterprise when the engine of the economy remains in government hands.” Copper has provided 30% to 70% of the nation’s export earnings. This is the hard currency which has built today’s Chile, the proceeds from the mines seized from Anaconda and Kennecott in 1973 - Allende’s posthumous gift to his nation.

Agribusiness is the second locomotive of Chile’s economic growth. This also is a legacy of the Allende years. According to Professor Arturo Vasquez of Georgetown University, Washington DC, Allende’s land reform, the break-up of feudal estates (which Pinochet could not fully reverse), created a new class of productive tiller-owners, along with corporate and cooperative operators, who now bring in a stream of export earnings to rival copper. “In order to have an economic miracle,” says Dr. Vasquez, “maybe you need a socialist government first to commit agrarian reform.”

So there we have it. Keynes and Marx, not Friedman, saved Chile.

But the myth of the free-market Miracle persists because it serves a quasi-religious function. Within the faith of the Reaganauts and Thatcherites, Chile provides the necessary genesis fable, the ersatz Eden from which laissez-faire dogma sprang successful and shining.

In 1998, the international finance Gang of Four - the World Bank, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Bank for Settlements - offered a $41.5 billion line of credit to Brazil. But before the agencies handed the drowning nation a life preserver, they demanded Brazil commit to swallow the economic medicine that nearly killed Chile. You know the list: fire-sale privatizations, flexible labor markets (i.e. union demolition) and deficit reduction through savage cuts in government services and social security.

In Sao Paulo, the public was assured these cruel measures would ultimately benefit the average Brazilian. What looked like financial colonialism was sold as the cure-all tested in Chile with miraculous results.

But that miracle was in fact a hoax, a fraud, a fairy tale in which everyone did not live happily ever after.

******

Greg Palast

 


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday December 11 2006
updated on Monday March 3 2008

URL of this article:
http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/sepp/2006/12/11/pinochet_and_the_fairy_tale_miracle_of_chile.htm

 


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Readers' Comments


"Allende's land reform, the break-up of feudal estates (which Pinochet could not fully reverse), created a new class of productive tiller-owners"

Where is the evidence for that assertion? You'll need to square that statement with the economic history:

"Agriculture suffered an even greater decline in output than did manufacturing. In 1972, the fall was about 6.7 percent, and it is estimated that the further decline in 1973 was 16.8 percent. The falloff in output of specific crops was especially striking. For instance, the output of wheat fell almost 50 percent, that of barley by more than 25 percent, oats by 12.4 percent, and rice by almost 30 percent. Similar declines were to be noted in almost all of the other product areas Agricultural output undoubtedly declined because of diminution in the amount of land under cultivation. In the three years of the Allende regime, this total fell by about 22.4 percent. A 'secret' report of the Socialist party in 1972 admitted that almost half of the land the Allende government had taken over in the agrarian reform was not being cultivated." (Robert Alexander, The Tragedy of Chile, 1978, p. 179)

With numbers like that, ascribing agricultural growth to Allende's reforms seems a bit of a stretch to say the least.

Perhaps you mean to argue that this was a temporary setback and that the reallocation of land eventually succeeded, but without explicit evidence to support that, your assertion appears to rest on little more than an article of faith.

Posted by: John F. on December 14, 2006 08:38 AM

 


A friend in Chile comments (by email):

Sometimes there are things not fully understood by either side, even by the celebrated writers. It is well known (here in Chile) that terrorism and "market control" by people who made goods out of reach for the average person, almost destroyed Chile at the end of Allende's reign. Pinochet was put in by "CIA + the World Bank" to save it, but he refused to leave when the USA mafia said, "that's enough now so please give it back". He didn't and they never forgave him. (History repeating)

Chile is today one of the best economies in S.A. but terrorists are on the streets again, doing their usual thing to "celebrate" the death of the man who took them off the streets when Allende + a group of foreign merchants lost control temporarily. (Not unusual)

It could easily happen all over again. It isn't the left or the right. It's selfish multi-nationals who feel comfortable manipulating us all, and want every piece of the cake. They use anyone who will serve them, and eventually will destroy even themselves, through a lack of human respect for us all.

Posted by: Sepp on January 27, 2007 01:39 PM

 















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