Archive for category: Chile
Chile is Reborn by a (Political) Earthquake that Emerged from the Streets
Fri, 05/21/2021 – 10:06
Daniel Jadue is the mayor of Recoleta, a commune that is part of the expanding city of Santiago, Chile. His office is on the sixth floor of a municipal building in whose lower reaches one can find a pharmacy, an optical shop, and a bookstore run by the municipality that are dedicated to providing fairly priced goods. On the walls of his office are emblems of his commitment to the Palestinian people, including flags and an iconic cartoon of Handala created by Naji al-Ali, a Palestinian cartoonist who was assassinated in 1987. ‘I am Palestinian’, Jadue tells me with pride. ‘I was born on 28 June 1967, just days after the Israelis took Jerusalem’. The struggle of the Palestinians, which has haunted much of his political life, he says, is ‘not so different from the struggle of the Chilean people.
The post Neoliberalism Was Born In Chile; Neoliberalism Will Die In Chile appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
Among the panoply of bizarre memes that far-right extremists flash at Trump rallies and share obsessively online, one of the more disturbing for its frightening historical reference is that of the “Hoppean Snake.” The image typically consists of a coiled serpent sporting the officer’s cap of notorious Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet. In the background fly childlike depictions of helicopters from which stick figures are jettisoned to their death, crying “Aaaahhh” in a barely legible scrawl. In one of its many variants, the snake-as-Pinochet proclaims with a sardonic smirk, “I’m evil for throwing people out of helicopters? False. Commies aren’t people.” It’s unclear why Pinochet is depicted as a snake, though it may be inspired by the recalcitrant snake on the Gadsden flag that warns “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Far from being a joking homage to Pinochet — putschist, tyrant, torturer, mass murderer, puppet of the CIA, and hater of all things socialist, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 — the fetishized totem of the Hoppean Snake has dire significance for U.S. paramilitaries. When Boogaloo Bois, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, armed Trumpists, and the like wear T-shirts that offer “free helicopter rides,” they are referencing a program of extermination.
Following Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’état, which ended the short-lived and turbulent administration of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende, an avowed Marxist, thousands of Allende’s supporters were killed, tens of thousands of perceived enemies of the putschist regime were tortured, and thousands of others were disappeared, often after being flown in a military helicopter and toppled from the sky. Sometimes this free helicopter ride included splitting open the guts of kidnapped victims while they were still alive so that their bodies wouldn’t float when dumped in the sea.
U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet, right, photographed in Santiago, Chile, in 1986, wearing the military cap that is now being seen in an alt-right meme called the “Hoppean Snake.”
Photo: Alexis Duclos/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
“The Hoppean Snake is utilizing Cold War-era anti-communist imagery of a once-hidden history of right-wing brutality and terror that utilized U.S. military hardware,” said Portland-based investigative photojournalist Jeff Schwilk, who has documented the iconography of the alt-right since 2016. “Pinochet specifically hearkens to the heyday of U.S.-backed death squads in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, from the Phoenix Program in Vietnam to Suharto in Indonesia to the Contras in Nicaragua. It is a direct threat of the intention of deadly mass violence and future death squads targeting the left in the United States and anyone else deemed an enemy. It reveals the true nature of this ideology.”
On January 27, the Department of Homeland Security issued a terrorism advisory bulletin warning of the ongoing threat from far-right domestic extremists. The January 6 assault on the Capitol was said to be mere prologue, with “DVEs” — domestic violent extremists — now “emboldened … to target elected officials and government facilities.” The Homeland Security bulletin further warned of threats “against critical infrastructure, including the electric, telecommunications and healthcare sectors.”
In the wake of Allende’s election in 1970, right-wing elements in Chile formed a paramilitary group called Patria y Libertad, or Fatherland and Liberty. Patria y Libertad was not too different in spirit from the militias now common on the right in the U.S., though it had foreign funding and training, courtesy of the CIA. The group engaged in arsons, assassinations, and disruptions of infrastructure — exactly what the Department of Homeland Security warns we should expect from violent domestic extremists today.
I first came across the image of the Hoppean Snake while editing Schwilk’s 2020 book of essays and photography, “Unflattering Photos of Fascists: Authoritarianism in Trump’s America.” Schwilk’s intention was to find a modicum of humor in the costumed display and ostentation of the alt-right, and in the Hoppean Snake, there is something at first glance that’s comedic: the smiling crayon-colored reptile and the plunging stick figures, the deluded implication of a communist threat in U.S. politics (Who are these commies? I ask myself. The corporate capitalist dollar-drenched Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer?), all of it suggestive of ignorant, harmless folk propaganda. But this imagery, and the history it evokes, is far from harmless.
The origin of the name, when Schwilk first related it, seemed to strain belief. Prior to his entrance into the limelight of the epic realm of far-right struggle, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a German-born immigrant to the United States, was a mostly forgotten libertarian economist who served out his days in the dungeons of academia at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Hoppe’s claim to fame in the small world of libertarian economics was as second-stringer and all-around gopher to his hero and intimate friend, Ludwig von Mises, who was considered, alongside Friedrich August von Hayek, one of the leading lights of the so-called Austrian school of economics. The Austrian school posited that there was no such thing as society except as a concatenation of individual choices in the marketplace. The individual was all; society was a mere afterthought of the many atomized creatures in it, and any attempt to aggregate the interests of the clashing atoms — say, in the form of democratic decision-making via universal suffrage — was a form of oppressive statist intervention. Hoppe’s contribution to the Austrian school was his 2001 book, “Democracy: The God That Failed,” whose title basically was the message.
“The Hoppean Snake is utilizing Cold War-era anti-communist imagery of a once-hidden history of right-wing brutality and terror that utilized U.S. military hardware.”
That the snake is “Hoppean” begins to make a kind of conspiratorial sense when you consider the career of Mises’s intellectual brother, Hayek, who died in 1992. Hayek was a big fan of Pinochet, visiting Chile in 1975 to meet with the dictator to celebrate and advise on the dismantling of the country’s programs of social welfare, the massive privatization of public goods, and the deregulation of corporate interests. Along with Milton Friedman, Hayek was among the ambassadors of neoliberalism in fascist Chile described by Naomi Klein in “The Shock Doctrine.” As historian Greg Grandin writes, “Hayek glimpsed in Pinochet the avatar of true freedom, who would rule as a dictator only for a ‘transitional period,’ only so long as needed to reverse decades of state regulation.” The concern of the libertarians — Hayek, Friedman, and their ilk — was the liberty of business to make more money but not at all the humans who were being murdered and tortured to further the great project of corporate freedom.
A meme depicts a snake wearing Pinochet’s military cap and reading the book “Democracy: The God That Failed” by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
What garnered Hoppe the far right’s honor of associating him with Pinochet’s homicidal regime, however, was not the introduction of neoliberalism in Chile but specifically his musings about the democratic god that failed. Hoppe contends that the “physical removal” of undesirable citizens will be required in a putative libertarian “compact.” “There can be no tolerance,” he writes, “toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They — the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”
When I wrote Hoppe to ask, as I put it in an email, about his name “being associated with a meme that celebrates mass murder,” he replied, “Your question — and insinuation — indicates that you are completely ignorant regarding my person and intellectual work. Even by the low intellectual standards of most contemporary journalists and journalism, then, [it] strikes me as scandalous and impudent. As even a cursory study of my website would reveal, for more than 40 years I have been an intellectual champion of private property right, free markets, freedom of contract and association, and peace.”
When I pressed him about the tying of his ideas to the snake meme, he wrote back, “What do I know? There are lots of crazy people out there!” Perhaps he should communicate this to the extremists who have adopted him as an avatar for a doctrine of terror.
The post What the Far-Right Fascination With Pinochet’s Death Squads Should Tell Us appeared first on The Intercept.
Can you recognize this country?
In a momentous election, a narcissistic president—who has never won the popular vote—unleashes the full force of his executive powers in order to avoid defeat. At frenzied rallies, he accuses his democratic opponents of being puppets of dark foreign interests, captives of radical revolutionaries bent on spreading chaos and violence, a threat to Christian and Western civilization. He warns his turbulent partisans that if he does not carry the day, hordes of poor people will invade their neighborhoods and their women will not be safe. He derides those who protest against him and does nothing to stop well-equipped right-wing thugs from attacking them. He signals that if the vote goes against him, he will refuse to concede, that he will invoke his awesome authority as commander in chief to continue in office.
I am not describing the current U.S. election, but a plebiscite in Chile 32 years ago, which would determine whether General Augusto Pinochet, the country’s dictator since the coup of September 1973, would remain in power for another eight years. A “no” vote against Pinochet and his junta would initiate a transition to democratic elections. This was a chance to end the brutal repression and draconian censorship of his regime, which had closed both houses of Congress, executed thousands of opponents, and opened concentration camps across the land.
Pinochet’s attempts to triumph in that 1988 referendum, which he saw as a way to legitimize his rule, eerily presaged Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and measures as he confronts the likelihood, if the polls are right, of losing to Joe Biden in November. That distant referendum in Chile offers the U.S. an example of how ordinary people can, through peaceful mobilization and decisive action, save their republic from an authoritarian figure.
Pinochet’s dictatorship had forced me into exile, but I watched from afar as a movement of trade unions, shantytown dwellers, and feminist collectives, as well as civic, student, and professional organizations, let go of their differences and came together against Pinochet. The men and women of Chile knew that the vote was their best opportunity to stop the country from continuing its long night of darkness. They accelerated and enhanced what had already been a large mobilization effort, and I and others helped gather outside recognition and celebrity support. The victory had to be unequivocal, of such magnitude that Pinochet and his allies could not dispute the results.
Many had predicted, at the time, that such an exploit was impossible, given the fanaticism of his followers, who believed that Pinochet had ushered in a strong economy; the fear the dictator’s regime had instilled in his subjects; and the real danger people faced for voting against him. But I was among those who believed that a day of reckoning awaited him. Whenever anyone asked me how Chile could achieve such a seemingly fantastical feat, my jocular answer was that the rabbits would do it. I was referring to La Rebelión de los Conejos Mágicos, a children’s story I had written while in exile, in which a megalomaniac wolf king is dethroned by a peaceful army of nibbling rabbits, the very creatures His Wolfiness had contended did not exist. I was convinced that the Chilean people, like the mischievous protagonists of my fable, would emerge from the shadows and humiliate the autocrat who believed himself invincible.
My wife and I returned to Chile and on October 5, 1988, joined an astonishing 90 percent of the electorate to cast a ballot in the plebiscite. The results were clear—56 percent of Chileans voted to oust Pinochet. Though the tyrant, cowering in the presidential palace, wanted to declare martial law and disregard the final tally, he found himself isolated when the air force, the national police, and prominent conservatives recognized the opposition’s obvious success.
The Chilean plebiscite was a formidable example of why voting matters: Just one tiny mark on a ballot, and then one more, and then yet another can forge a better, luminous collective future. If we had thought that one vote was inconsequential, or that showing up wasn’t worthwhile, because Pinochet would ignore his defeat, the outcome would have been very different.
Trump is a less fearsome figure than Pinochet and therefore should be easier to vanquish. No matter how much the current American president admires strongmen and totalitarians abroad, he has been constrained from imitating their worst tactics, unable to jail and torture dissidents, disappear and exile opponents, or silence the media, as the Chilean dictator did.
Yet Trump has still done great harm to the country and the Constitution. Despite his criminal and arrogant mishandling of COVID-19—a disease he now has—despite his vandalization of the environment, his war against science and decency, and his divisive white-supremacist jargon, he enjoys a degree of popularity similar to the 44 percent that Pinochet received in the referendum. That support might be enough to tempt Trump, if the results on Election Night are tardy or muddled, to declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act, and call on his well-armed followers to impose “law and order.”
To avoid such a terrifying scenario, Americans who believe in democracy must recognize, as so many of us did in Chile, that the election must be decided in an irrefutable landslide, an immediate and conclusive display of the popular will reflected in the vote margins and the Electoral College. Millions of voters should be ready to defend the verdict, with their bodies in the streets, if the election is in danger of being stolen.
Even though some may accuse me of excessive optimism, I am confident of the future. Witnessing the deployment of so many inspired Americans in favor of environmental advocacy, racial justice, and women’s and immigrants’ rights over the past several years, I believe that, like the rabbits battling the despot who denied their existence, like the fearless men and women of Chile who more than three decades ago confronted a dictator, a significant majority of the citizens of the United States will show the world that the most powerful man on earth must bow to the more powerful voice of a peaceful and mobilized people.
This essay first appeared in The Atlantic.