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Sunday, December 10, 2006


Pinochet dies

I've heard four segments on different channels about the death of Augusto Pinochet. Of the four, exactly one mentioned that the coup in which Pinochet took power was "U.S.-supported" (a half-truth but at least half). On the other three, the word "U.S." didn't appear at all.

I thought the print media, with more space to elaborate, would be a little better. Wrong, at least in the case of The New York Times, which "informs" its readers:

General Pinochet seized power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody military coup that toppled the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. He then led the country into an era of robust economic growth. But during his rule, more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared, and scores of thousands more were detained and tortured or exiled.
How's that for a prioritization of Pinochet's "accomplishments"? Not until six paragraphs later to we get a brief mention of "the support of the United States government" for the coup. The Washington Post goes with "Pinochet assumed power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup supported by the United States that toppled the elected government of Salvador Allende." Much later, the Post provides some of the meat of that story:
As Chile's 1970 presidential election approached, U.S. officials became increasingly concerned about the prospects of Allende, a Socialist, of winning. President Richard M. Nixon directed the CIA to take steps to ensure that this did not happen. But when the ballots were counted, Allende had eked out a bare plurality of 36.3 percent of the vote against two other candidates.

In Nixon's memoirs, he said he quoted an informant who told him that Latin America could become "a red sandwich" with Cuba on one side and Chile on the other. He directed the CIA to "make the Chilean economy scream."

A key part of Allende's program was the nationalization of industry, including U.S.-owned copper companies, and the redistribution of land. By 1973, inflation was soaring and the economy was further crippled by CIA-supported strikes in the trucking industry.
Both the Times and the Post do remind their readers of Pinochet's role in another event:
He stood by as two subordinates were convicted of ordering the murder of Orlando Letelier, foreign minister in the Allende government. Mr. Letelier was killed by a car bomb in Washington in September 1976, along with an American colleague, Ronni Moffitt. The incident, considered the worst act of state-sponsored terrorism on American soil, strained relations between Chile and the United States for almost two decades.
Neither mention the role of Luis Posada Carriles, whom the U.S. refuses to classify as a terrorist, in that murder.

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