Chile: Forbidden to Forget…

Over a million people protest in Santiago, Chile, Plaza Italia, October, 2019

I was first introduced to the world of Chileans in exile, in the late 1970s, as adults and children fleeing political repression, torture, kidnapping, political rape and murder, arrived in Canada. In fact, Chile had not been know for mass migration until the political banishment of left and progressive sectors under the Generals.

Chile’s self-image, shaped by the Spanish conquistadores and their later allies and competitors, the British government, presented a  whitewashing  of the country’s Catholic brutality and latifundista stucture, in which many toiled but hardly any profited. 

The great influence of disaffected Europeans (Germans, Irish, British, Spaniards and Italians— who came to Chile to seek their fortune, was combined with successive waves of Eastern European and Middle Eastern migration; Turks, Syrians, and after 1948, Palestinians. Also, Chile has been home to over a million indigenous citizens (Mapuche and Quechua) whose numbers have steadily been reduced through the imposition of genocidal colonial rule and policy. This last demographic has increasingly gained allies among the non-indigenous left, fighting for a just future for indigenous communities while supporting the creation of fair and safe employment for the working class and a move to deprivatize  and respect natural resources. 

Mapuche Flag, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

The recent events in Chile are a signal of the failure of a policy put in place over 46 years ago, a policy derived from the interests of Washington (more specifically, the Chicago School of Economics and its kleptocratic allies throughout Latin America. With the assassination of a democratically elected President, Salvador Allende and the imposition of a military dictatorship (September 11, 1973) whose accomplishment was to keep the people in line for maximum profit and sell off every bit of Chile’s natural world possible, it has definitely been a successful foray into super-exploitation— to a point.

The tactics of mass disappearances, military massacres of civilians and leftist and progressive sectors, and the redefining of everything left of centre as a “threat” to capitalist order and good government characterized new neo-fascist regimes in Latin America, starting with the U.S. intervention in removing Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in the 1950s and reaching to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, El Salvador and Colombia in glaring relief. Refugee production from these countries spiralled and the international settlement of exiles aided in publicizing the plight of some of the regions’ peoples. But simultaneously, active multi-pronged campaigns were in place by the army of the business class– the CIA. Campaigns spread misinformation such as rumours of Allende’s suicide and abandonment of his people, used to destabilize the resistance to General Pinochet, cultural figures such as Victor Jara and Noel Laureate Pablo Neruda are assassinated– these now commonplace strategies to deter opposition to neo-liberal military regimes have strong roots here.

Schoolgirls protesting fare hikes, starting off anti-austerity protests, October, 2019

As in many places in the capitalist world, the acquisitive power of the majority of people is very low. This means the cost of goods and services are not keeping up with the starvation wages received by the majority of the population. Education, health, wages, housing, pensions — all indices point to unaffordability. It has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world with privatized water— and that should tell us everything!

Up High the Sun Burns Down, Violeta Parra, Chile

When I went to the pampa
I brought my contented heart
like a hummingbird.
But there, it died on me.
First, it last its feather
and then, its voice
And up high the sun burns down.

When I saw the miners
Inside their homes
I said to myself, the snail
lives better in its shell,
or in the shadaw of the law–
the refined thief.
And up high the sun burns down.

The lines of shacks
Side by side, yes sir, 
the lines of women
waiting for the only tap
With their buckets
and faces of affliction.
And up high the sun burns down…

(Translation, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019)

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/sep/15/chile-santiago-water-supply-drought-climate-change-privatisation-neoliberalism-human-right

The rule of General Pinochet begun on that cursed day, September 11, 1973, ushered in an era of constitutional dictatorship that suspended  democratic and labour rights, social, political, and cultural rights, denied women’s right to choice,  and shaped the consciousness of both the left and right in Chile. When I visited Chile, 22 years after the Dictatorship had begun, the cost of Valium was cheaper than the cost of bread. I was made aware of the very human and psycho-social costs of fascism– heightened anxiety and insecurity, increased control of women and a general air of entitlement by the blonde, blue-eyed rulers of the country, while the majority of people languished in fear, frustration, and disillusionment.

Protests, Chile, Santiago, October, 2019

During the progressive years of Allende’s government(1970-’73), Victor Jara became known as one of the most popular progressive and committed artists of the Unidad Popular movement. His fame and integrity were such that the murderous Generals had him killed in the National Stadium in Chile. I’ve included a few versions of The Right to Live in Peace, the “anthem” of the people’s movement. I’ve provided an English translation below.

The Right To Live In Peace

The right to live

poet Ho Chi Minh,

who struck a blow from Vietnam

for all of humanity.

No cannon will wipe out

the furrow of your rice paddy.

The right to live in peace.

Indochina is the place

beyond the wide sea,

where they ruin the flower

with genocide and napalm.

The moon is an explosion

that blows out all the clamor.

The right to live in peace.

Uncle Ho, our song

is fire of pure love,

it’s a dovecote dove,

olive from an olive grove.

It is the universal song

linking us, that will triumph,

the right to live in peace.

El Derecho de Vivir en Paz, Toque de Queda, Santiago, October 2019

And finally, no article on the progressive movements in Chile would be complete without a reference to the popular slogan, ” The People United Will Never Defeated!” which comes from a song of the same name by new song /Cancion Nueva group, Quilapayun and performed by Inti-Illimani.

Alfredo Rostgaard, Cuba
Susana Hidalgo, Mapuche Flag, Plaza Italia, Santiago, October, 2019

https://folkways.si.edu/la-nueva-cancion-new-song-movement-south-america/latin-world-struggle-protest/music/article/smithsonian

Inspired by the original! Thievery Co.’s take on a protest classic
Ana Tijoux, a protest song, released in October 2019

The cacerolazo (clashing of pots) was a protest tactic popularized by women of the right wing against Allende. It involved the clashing of pots and pans as a way for “house-wives” to protest. The tactic has been used numerous times since then, by sectors of the left as well. Most recently, Chileans in the streets against the corporatocracy that reigns in their country, have employed the cacerolazo as a sound of protest!

I’ve included a link to a 1982 Movie by Greek Director, Costa Gavras, Missing, starring Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek based on the original coup of 1973.

And I am ending with the names of those people who have fallen victim to the neo-liberal government of Sebastian Pinera.

A list of those who have been killed by the Pinera Administration to date,
Forbidden to Forget
Photo: Rodrigo Larrea, Santiago, Chile, October, 2019

http://chng.it/ZrB6FbQYy6

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-20/two-communist-lawmakers-are-suddenly-setting-the-agenda-in-chile?fbclid=IwAR2gGz10jc6_ixXibKHtkWqb_fYmRIkOS4-7GhDeLvx-ocdLjfuRE9e0IYc

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