Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Salvador Allende

I had an abridged version of this letter published in Macleans Magazne this week:

Naomi Klein continues to propagate the false mantra of the success of Chile’s leftist Allende Regime While it is true that Allende’s coalition of Socialists and Communists (Allende himself was a Marxist) obtained the most votes of any single party in the 1970 election (36.2%). However he received considerably less than the two conservative opponents that stood against him (62.7%).

Allende was only able to govern as he struck a guarantee deal with Radomiro Tomic of the Christian Democrat Party (the smaller of these two opponents). In an interview with the journalist Regis De Bray, Allende indicated that this was largely a tactical move and that he had no real intention of abiding by it. Allende’s radical economic reforms – the Vuskovic Plans - although promising in the short run were widely seen to be a failure by 1972. Inflation stood at 140%, the black market in rice, beans, sugar and flour was on the rise, and the Average GDP was shrinking.

He furthermore defaulted on loans from international creditors and was forced to freeze all prices whilst raising salaries. The country was beset by violence, strikes and shortages. One of his great supporters Eduardo Frei Montalva called it the ‘carnival of madness’. In fact the Supreme Court declared Allende outside the law as did the Chamber of Deputies. A resolution in August of 1973 virtually encouraged the Army to seize power to rescue the country from chaos, which it did on September 3rd with popular support.

The military regime that followed although brutal at times (it is believed that about 2300 people died during its tenure in power – a large figure but significantly smaller than the millions who perished under the Communist Khymer Rouge in Cambodia) actually decreased the infant mortality rate from 66 per 1000 births to 13 per 1000 births, increased the access to drinking water from 67% to 98% and doubled the standard of living.

For a more accurate portrayal of the Chilean Crisis I suggest Ms. Klein read the works of James Whelan a former professor at the University of Chile and a noted historian of the South American nation.

Gavin Kanowitz
Toronto, ON