Sunday, January 20, 2008

Letter to the Editor submitted to The Globe And Mail (Those Stumblimg Strongmen - Jan.19)

Pinochet's Chile

I occassionally disagree with what is printed in The Globe And Mail, but I am very rarely offended by it. To give any sort of credit to Pinochet's brutal dictatorship in the 70s,80s, however, struck a nerve. Your article on democracy and dictatorship (Those Stumbling Strongmen - Jan.19) claimed that "Chile's Augusto Pinochet pushed through a successful program of free-market economic reform". Lets have a quick look at what the policies and results of this "successful program of free-market economic reform" consisted of. State spending was cut 20 to 25 %, capital markets deregulated, over four hundred state industries were privatized and sold off in an astonishing transfer of wealth to the private sector, multinationals were given the right to repatriate 100 % of their profits, and the public pension fund and healthcare were privatized. As a result of these policies GNP plunged 13 %, purchasing power broke down to 40 % of its 1970 level, GDP fell 15 %, the private debt rose from $2 billion in 1978 to over $14 billion in 1982, and the Central Bank lost 45 % of its reserves. Bankruptcies tripled all around the country, and thousands of government workers were layed off as skyrocketing unemployment soared to 30 % spreading accross the board among chile's poor and working class. That quite simply amounts to a program of economic reform that just cannot be defined as successful. In fact, so brutal were Pinochet's policies, that only the killings and disappearances of tens of thousands made possible the forceful implementation of Friedman's economic injustice. But even if we cast aside the killings, torture, hunger, and political repression that characterized the years of the dictatorship, Pinochet's reforms, nonetheless, led to the economic ruin that devastated Chile in 1982. So next time before making such a distasteful, careless, and unenlightened statement on such a delicate issue, perhaps the information presented should be more thoroughly examined.

Julien Lalonde, Toronto

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