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No 11

The Truth About the Chilean Revolution
by José Piñera

(updated march 15th, 2000)

(German version) (Spanish version)

It is true that Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile in 1970 by means of a democratic election (although with only 36.6% of the vote). Nevertheless, it is equally true that his government lost its democratic character by repeatedly violating the Constitution. The Economist said it clearly at the time: " The temporary death of democracy in Chile will be regrettable, but the blame lies clearly with Dr. Allende and those of his followers who persistently overrode the Constitution" (September 15, 1973).

 In effect, President Allende became a tyrant when he broke his solemn oath to respect the Constitution and the Chilean laws. There are numerous evidences to that effect (including a clear statement of the Supreme Court), but the most important one--and widely unknown outside of Chile--is the momentous Agreement of 23 August 1973 of the Chamber of Deputies (the Lower House of the Chilean Congress), which I have translated and posted as "The Declaration of Breakdown of Chilean Democracy". 

 In this Agreement, it is presented a list of the legal and constitutional violations of President Allende's government, and it is agreed to "make representations" of this "grave breach of the legal and constitutional order of the Republic" to, among other authorities, "the Armed Forces". At the same time it agrees to "make representations to them that, by virtue of their function, of their oath to remain faithful to the Constitution and the law, ... it is up to them to put immediate end to all the situations referred to above, which infringe the Constitution and the law".

 So, since no feasible mechanism existed in the Chilean Constitution to remove a President who had lost his democratic nature, the House of Deputies, in a two third vote that included all the representatives of the Christian Democratic Party (the party of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva), made "representations" to the Armed Forces that it was up to them to "put immediate end" to these constitutional violations. It must be agreed that this was, in fact, an unequivocal call to remove by force the President who had initiated the use of force with the purpose of imposing a communist dictatorship.

 The Armed Forces, led by the person who was then the Commander in Chief of the Army, General Augusto Pinochet, and claiming to be following theAgreement of the House of Deputies, removed Allende (who committed suicide) and took power eighteen days later, on 11 September 1973, vowing to restore democratic rule once the circumstances allowed it.

 Therefore, the origin of the Pinochet government is that of any revolutionary one, in which only the use of force was left in order to remove a tyrant. And, as Benjamin Franklin, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence of the United States, once said, "rebellion against a tyrant is obedience to God". 

When a President elected by a third of the population is removed, and especially if his government has fomented the creation of armed militias as Allende's indeed did (see P. Johnson and J. Wheelan), it is inevitable that a state of "civil war" should ensue. In some countries conflicts of this nature have produced hundreds of thousands of victims. For example, the Spanish civil war brought around one million deaths. Even the United States civil war, also the product of a Constitution which was not clear concerning whether the right for a state to opt out of the Union existed or not, resulted, more than a century ago now, in 650,000 deaths (more than the total of the fallen in all U.S. wars of the 20th century).

 Lamenting each one of the victims, Chileans and foreigners, who fell in Chile, and condemning each one of the abuses which both sides committed in the embryonic civil war which lasted for years, it is important to point out that the Chilean revolution produced a minimal number of deaths when compared to any historic standard. Even the Report of the Commission which President Aylwin's government, antagonistic to President Pinochet's, set up (the so-called "Rettig Report"), concluded that in the 17 year period around 2,000 people died.

 As in any revolutionary period, there were excessive restrictions on individual rights during President Pinochet's government and I denounced them at the time (see "What Jose Piñera said about democracy and human rights during the military government?"). For which reason, I can affirm with the same independence that the deaths out of combat were not a systematic policy of the state during those years, but violations of the law carried by the intelligence services in their fight against terrorism.

 The guilty should have the full rigor of the relevant laws applied to them, and that is exactly why, at this present time, the General who was head of the DINA (National Intelligence Service) when these violations were committed is in prison serving a seven year sentence.

 In addition to the historic economic transformation carried out by the free market economists, the achievement which meant avoiding a war with Argentina, and the voluntary transition to a democratic government, the truth demands recognition that former President Pinochet led a legitimate rebellion against tyranny and that the origin of Chile's civil war --and its victims-- lies with former President Allende and his marxist Socialist party.

  

José Piñera