9/11, the Chilean version

Chilean military guarding prisoners at the National Stadium after the 1973 coup. Photo by Marcelo Montecino

Chilean military guarding prisoners at the National Stadium after the 1973 coup. Photo by Marcelo Montecino

It’s been 41 years, but this year’s anniversary of the military coup that ousted Salvador Allende is one of the most stressful in recent memory. A bomb exploded in a food court at a Santiago metro station a few days earlier, injuring 14 people and prompting President Michelle Bachelet to convene an emergency meeting with cabinet and security officials. The Economist’s Americas blog has this post: http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2014/09/bombing-chile

There have been small-scale bomb explosions in the past, but most have occurred late at night, when few people were around, and this is the first that seems to deliberately target the public. According to Chile’s interior minister, Bachelet’s mother was in the area when the bomb detonated (she was unhurt). Some background on earlier incidents from the BBC :http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-28850708

El Mostrador reports that 1,600 members of Chile’s paramilitary police force, the carabineros, have been mobilized and positioned in “the most vulnerable areas.” The electricity company Chilectra has also placed extra personnel on alert in case of power cuts. http://www.elmostrador.cl/pais/2014/09/10/once-bomba-falsos-avisos-de-explosivos-y-1600-carabineros-desplegados/

Several organizations of retired military officials published a paid insert in La Tercera newspaper, defending the 1973 coup, which it described as “a task of reconstruction…which continues to be recognized by Chileans who love order and security.” The statement said that while “delinquents, subversives, terrorists and killers of military and police officers are pardoned, given amnesty or protected, those who fought and created the conditions of security and order which permitted the nation’s progress have been condemned without due process,” a reference to continuing investigations into human rights violations during the Pinochet regime.

And the investigations keep coming. Last week a magistrate indicted three more retired officials in the killing of folksinger Victor Jara shortly after the coup: http://www.ilovechile.cl/2014/09/05/anniversary-vctor-jaras-murder-prosecuted/119005

And Foreign Affairs has this exchange by Peter Kornbluh and Jack Devine on the U.S. role in the coup: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141859/peter-kornbluh-jack-devine/showdown-in-santiago

Signs of a changing Chile

Sunrise in Santiago

Some recent news:

1)      Last month an army internal document was leaked to Chile’s Canal 13. The memo suggested the army exclude potential recruits with “physical, mental, socioeconomic problems” as well as “drug users, homosexuals, conscientious objectors and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”  Chilean civil rights campaigners were outraged, with some urging that the document’s author be removed from the armed forces.

But it’s not Pinochet’s army anymore. On October 23 the president of Movimiento de Liberacion Homosexual (MOVILH) met with Chilean army commander General Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba and other senior officers to discuss ways to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MOVILH’s president, Rolando Jimenez, called the meeting as “historic,” and that it showed the Chilean army’s interest in eradicating homophobia. “This reflects a profound and positive cultural transformation,” he said.

2)      A new report by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, “Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises,” lists Chile as the best place in Latin America for doing business.  The report examines legal procedures such as obtaining credit, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency as well as the cost and efficiency of such matters as starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property and paying taxes. Chile ranks 37th worldwide, ahead of Puerto Rico (41st place), Peru (43rd place), Colombia (45th place), Mexico (48th place) and Panama (61st place)

The full World Bank report is here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/GIAWB/Doing%20Business/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB13-full-report.pdf