An Argument Against Mourning Pinochet, From the Right

John Londregan offers a right-wing argument against Pinochet, in The Weekly Standard.

Despite Pinochet’s initial declaration that he was the temporary leader of a temporary government, he managed to push aside the other heads of the armed forces, and to remain in power for the next 16 and a half years, longer than any other ruler, elected or otherwise, in the post-independence history of Chile. During the long years of military rule, Pinochet remorselessly sought control. He outlawed political parties and had opponents murdered. The butcher’s bill for his time in power included the lives of over 3,000 of his fellow citizens (in a country of 15 million), not counting the many thousands more who were tortured by the government, and the thousands driven into exile. Pinochet sought to transform Chilean society, and he incorporated a series of free-market economic reforms as a part of his recipe for success.

His embrace of economic reform seems unlikely to have sprung from a commitment to freedom, given the overarching contempt for liberty that characterized the rest of his government. Rather, in order to insulate himself from the consequences of his murderous seizure of power, Pinochet sought out political allies, and his free market reforms helped him to garner support domestically on the right, and also among members of the international community. One must be careful not to fall into Pinochet’s trap–accepting his brutal seizure of power and tyrannical rule as a natural accompaniment of free market reforms. Propagandists on the left lost no time in seeking to discredit economic freedom by associating it with Pinochet. To this day, we hear from Moscow that it takes a Pinochet to implement economic reforms successfully; Vladimir Putin seems all too willing to have Pinochet’s uniform taken in a few sizes so he can try it on.