Joining the dots: Pinochet’s legacy and the Chilean protests

Source: Flickr/ Pinochet-Moneda,

Everything is connected to everything else, and nothing is without consequence.” - David Huddle

Dylan Gaymer

September 11, 1973, is a day that has been indelibly etched into Chile’s history; a seismic shift in the country’s leadership that has reverberated throughout time and continues to affect its political landscape to this day.

Whilst ‘September 11’ has since been eclipsed in notoriety by the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001, Chileans across the political spectrum are acutely aware of this date with reference to 1973 and the upheaval that took place. Almost five decades ago, a then 57-year-old military general called Augusto Pinochet led his US-backed group of officers to depose democratically-elected President Salvador Allende and seize control of the Chilean government. As bombs shattered the walls of the Presidential Palace and bricks crumbled to the ground, so too did Allende’s tenure as President. With gunfire and explosions engulfing the building, Allende committed suicide that day in the very office he was elected to serve.

What later ensued was the 16-year-rule of President Pinochet, taking power as the military dictator of the Government Junta of Chile before the country moved back to a democracy in 1990. This period saw the dictator brutally crackdown against political opponents and Allende-sympathisers, with approximately 3,200 people being executed or disappearing and 28,000 arrests with cases of torture.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Pinochet’s reign was the creation of Chile’s “Constitution of Liberty” created from a 1980 plebiscite held in a climate of intense repression and voter fraud. With blank votes being counted as “yes” and more votes being counted than there were voters in remote areas, the 67 per cent majority that allowed for the creation of the constitution has since been charged with being artificially inflated.

The constitution, which is still in place today, had two key purposes for the Pinochet government: firstly, to enshrine an economic blueprint for a free-market and neoliberal society protected from democratic interference and, secondly, to codify th