September 11th has been a relevant date in my life for a lot longer than 19 years… a sentiment you’ll hear from every Chilean.
Yesterday, you heard my 2001 version… and I was just a little kid, but here’s the 1973 version… events which have some relevance to today.
A bit of history…
In 1964, Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile. He was the head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), pretty comparable to today’s Canadian Liberals. He held power until the 1970 election, where it was expected that the CDP, who’d been running South America’s best economy, would be re-elected. Unfortunately for them… well, recall our provincial election of 1996 where Glen Clark and the NDP, with only 30-something percent of the popular vote, won the election — because the Reform Party managed to snag enough votes away from the Liberals to tilt things in that direction — the same thing happened in Chile, a split of the centrist/right-wing vote… except the beneficiary and winner of all that wasn’t a moderate/leftist NDP… it was a full-on Marxist socialist by the name of Salvador Allende.
Economically speaking, things for Chile did not go so well under Allende, and on 9/11, 1973, a CIA-backed coup, supported by the Chilean army, navy and police force… took over the country. Allende committed suicide in the midst of the presidential palace being bombed and overrun by the military. The constitution was suspended. The Republic of Chile, formerly a model democracy, was instantly transformed into a military dictatorship.
All of this was initially supported by the CDP, who expected once things settled down – perhaps a few months — there’d be a general election and things would get back to normal, right? Wrong.
One of military leaders, General Augusto Pinochet, decided he liked the view from the throne. Suddenly, he wasn’t General Pinochet… he was President Pinochet, and there he remained until 1990… and left only after he agreed to hold a plebiscite to let the people decide whether he should be allowed to stick around or not. They voted him out, but not before he embedded all sorts of immunity clauses into the new constitution to prevent new governments from coming after him for his numerous crimes, accumulated over his 17-year reign of terror. What’s the relevance here?
It’s a scenario that’s played out numerous times over history; a country is slipping backwards, the military steps in to restore order, ostensibly as a stop-gap measure until things settle down, and the country can go back to being what it’s supposed to be… except that fascist military dictatorships don’t just appear out of thin air. And, more importantly, they don't go away easily either.
Something for our neighbours to the south to consider, in the days ahead, and relating to what I wrote about yesterday… it’s far easier to break things than it is to fix them. It takes one day to break them. It takes decades to fix them. Given that Donald Trump contested an election he won, we can certainly expect, no matter what happens, that he won’t leave quietly. He’s already laying the groundwork for that.
Like Boris Yeltsin, standing on a tank… or George W. Bush, standing on a pile of rubble – the WTC remnants on 9/11 – at some point, Donald Trump will stand up… my guess would be on the newly-renovated White House Rose Garden… or maybe the hood of his Cadillac… and demand, “Who’s with me??”
And the correct answer should be…. <crickets>