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DECEMBER 22, 1998   12:56 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020
 
Role of Former High Official in Pinochet Dictatorship Is Now Subject of Pointed Questions in United States
 
WASHINGTON - December 22 - While former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet continues to face the possibility of prosecution in Spain for human-rights abuses, a former high official in his regime is the subject of growing controversy in Washington.

An article published Tuesday (Dec. 22) in Investor's Business Daily condemns Jose Pinera's role in Chile and raises questions about his current relationship with the Cato Institute, a prominent Washington think tank.

"It strains credulity why top officials at that well-heeled organization have continued to embrace" Pinera, says the newspaper article, which was written by the directors of two U.S. organizations, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Pinera, currently co-chair of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization, was Chile's Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980.

Noting that today "Pinera is a Cato luminary," the article says that while he worked as a top official in the Chilean dictatorship, "Chile was under Pinochet's boot, with the legislature having been shuttered and laws made by decree."

Human-rights groups have documented that the Pinochet regime engaged in widespread political imprisonments, torture and murder. "The fact that Cato even hired Pinera is a puzzlement," the article comments, given that "at the heart of its ideological prattle are heated professions against intrusive government, the definition of which presumably doesn't include torture."

After the 1973 coup, which overthrew a democratically elected government, Chile privatized its pension system. In recent years, officials at the Cato Institute and other advocates of privatizing Social Security in the United States have cited Chile as a model.

For more information:

* Larry Birns, Director, Council on Hemispheric Affairs; coha@coha.org

* Norman Solomon, Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy; solomon@accuracy.org

___________________________________________________

Investor's Business Daily -- Tuesday, Dec. 22, 1998

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

REALITIES OF PINOCHET'S PAST

By Larry Birns & Norman Solomon

With the bitter market collapse in Southern Asia, all of us -- certainly investors -- must be mindful that a poor human rights record isn't necessarily a boon for business.

Meanwhile, internationally distinguished figures with solid democratic credentials have applauded the arrest and detention of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, a world-class human rights abuser.

But for some, privatization has become a philosopher's stone. From their perspective, those who advance it are miracle makers -- while those who challenge it by pointing to social justice shortfalls are scornfully dismissed as neo-Luddites.

When the "Chicago Boys" served in the Pinochet regime, writes Paul Craig Roberts in IBD (Viewpoint, Dec. 9), they "made Chile the role model for Latin America."

Formerly a fellow with the Cato Institute in Washington, Roberts dismisses Pinochet's brutalities as being a small enough piece of jade to pay to advance the free market and oust the Marxists.

But only those most bereft of an understanding of the Pinochet period, or bored by the democratic ethos, can blunt the grisly realities gripping Chile throughout the Pinochet era, beginning on Sept. 11, 1973. When it comes to that dictatorship, no grays were involved.

Not that Roberts hasn't attempted to manufacture them by claiming that the world's odium has been "falsely" directed at his hero because Pinochet had the temerity to put down "a communist-led terrorist insurrection." In fact, no such insurrection ever occurred.

In fact, Roberts' analysis has been repudiated by international mainstream news organizations. Consider the London Sunday Times, no bible of collectivism. The paper noted in October that 3,197 people "were murdered for political reasons" by Pinochet's dictatorship "and more than 1,000 are still unaccounted for. Tens of thousands were imprisoned or exiled, but often Pinochet's assassins would follow them."

One of the people they followed was a young Christian Scientist, Charles Horman (portrayed in the film "Missing"), who was detained and then murdered in Santiago, apparently for seeing too much.

Pinochet's contract killers also went to Washington. In '76, they blew up a car carrying the country's exiled former defense minister, Orlando Letelier, just a few blocks from the White House.

Roberts' spirited defense of Pinochet also extends to Jose Pinera -- who now co-chairs the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization. It strains credulity why top officials at that well-heeled organization have continued to embrace the Chilean technocrat.

Roberts praises Pinera, who served as Chile's labor minister from '78 to '80, during a period of unremitting oppression of workers in that country. Pinera is a Cato luminary, with its annual report stating that he "oversaw the privatization of Chile's pension system in the early 1980s." But the publication doesn't mention that during his service, Chile was under Pinochet's boot, with the legislature having been shuttered and laws made by decree.

The fact that Cato even hired Pinera is a puzzlement. At the heart of its ideological prattle are heated professions against intrusive government, the definition of which presumably doesn't include torture.

Roberts apparently has misidentified his readers' primary allegiance, which is not only to profits, but to their public role as citizens. Americans almost instinctively repudiate a brutal regime that bloodily ousts a democratically elected government.

Doesn't torture matter? Are imprisonments and political murders mere details to be denied in favor of brisk commerce?

Despite the inaccurate public relations Chile enjoys as "the hemisphere's most perfected democracy" and Latin America's "economic miracle," it is little better than a "guided democracy" under military surveillance. Awash with great wealth in the hands of a few, the country has one of the most concentrated financial patterns in all of Latin America, while one-third of all Chileans live at or below the poverty line.

The fact that only a handful of individuals have been jailed, despite the thousands of innocents slaughtered by the regime, is a testament to the magnitude of injustice spawned by Pinochet and the unlikeliness that if returned to Chile he would ever be tried. What Roberts has attempted is to conjure up a false history.

Larry Birns is director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, D.C. Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in San Francisco.

 
 

 

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