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Commentary

A Political Kidnapping


     
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If you have investments in Latin America, you might want to lighten up, if you haven’t already done so. The reason isn’t a currency or debt crisis, but the attack by the international left on Chile’s democratic capitalism.

The successful policies of the “Chicago boys”—U.S.-trained economists who served as ministers during the government of Augusto Pinochet—made Chile the role model for Latin America. Chile’s market orientation and successful privatization efforts have inspired other Latin American governments to open their economies and dc-emphasize the role of govern-meat.

The international left has never forgiven Pinochet for de-socializing Chile. Unable to attack him on these grounds, the left has falsely branded Pinochet a “war criminal” for putting down a communist-led terrorist insurrection.

Baltasar Garson, a low-level Spanish magistrate operating independently of his government, seized on the allegations against Pinochet to make a name for himself. Garzon is making extra-territorial legal claims against Pinochet.

Cornell University Professor Jeremy Rabkin has shown that there is no international law giving Spain jurisdiction over Chile, which is an independent country, not a Spanish colony. But Garzon hopes to create such a law by asserting it.

If the British Labor government, which has detained Pinochet, hands him over to Garzon, the precedent will establish a law that is on no nation’s books.

For British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it’s purely a political calculation. Pinochet gives Blair an opportunity to throw a bone to the Labor Party’s defanged left wing.

The skin off Blair’s nose is ruptured relations with Chile, which is strongly protesting the political kidnapping of its former president.

The left is so determined to get Pinochet that Law Lord Leonard Hoffman exposed himself to a massive conflict of interest by casting the deciding vote to overturn Pinochet’s release by a lower British court. Lord Hoffman is a director, and his wife is a full-time employee, of one of the “human rights” groups screaming for Pinochet’s head.

Pinochet won’t be the first and last. The international left is also attempting to sweep up Pinochet’s ministers in the same net. The Institute For Public Accuracy put out a bulletin against Jose Pinera, branding him “a vital cog in the Pinochet dictatorship’s ability to implement a draconian labor code” and dismantle workers’ rights.

Pinera’s “crime”? He privatized Chile’s Social Security system. By giving Chileans a stake in capitalism, the success of Chile’s privatized Social Security system has spoiled the appetite for socialism.

Worse, Piers is spreading the word of Chile’s success throughout Latin America and Europe. In the U.S., he heads the Cato Institute’s Social Security privatization project.

The core of all welfare states is a retirement system based on intergene-rational transfer payments funded by a payroll tax. Socialists worship this system, because it destroys individual responsibility, prevents people from acquiring a stake in private means of production and rests on the principle of collectivism.

The left thought it had won this battle. But Chile’s successful privatization effort has reopened the issue as other countries follow Chile’s lead.

Now Pinera has to go- or at least be made too fearful of traveling abroad, lest he, too, be kidnapped like Pinochet. In its “news release,” the WA called on the Cato Institute to cut its ties with Pinera.

In the twisted mind of the political left it’s “repression” to make workers owners as Chile did. When workers become owners, they lose the revolutionary zeal to help left-wing intellectuals overthrow “bourgeois” society and seize the means of production in the name of the workers.

Overthrowing bourgeois society is what Salvador Allende was doing in Chile until the elected representative body, the Chamber of Deputies, denounced him for treason and called on the military to overthrow him and his paramilitary bands that were destabilizing Chile’s economic and political order.

Pinochet answered the call, restored the economy, set up a new constitution, gave amnesty to both sides, reconciled the nation and stepped down. His unlawful detention in Britain is aimed at shattering the national reconciliation that is the basis of Chile’s success.

If Chile can be thrown into turmoil again, the political left can start reclaiming lost ground in Latin America.


Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.






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