Feb 19, 2007 11:20 am


My opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun (also available at arguing that Salvador Allende's ingenious efforts to subvert Chilean democracy in the 1970s are serving, with appropriate improvements, as the model for Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and other Latin American dictatorial hopefuls has attracted criticism couched in familiar terms of denial.

Thus writes a blog subtitled 'Notes from the Bolivarian Revolution' (the same conceit used by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to justify his illiberal abridgement of democracy) which some like-minded bloggers (like Latin America News Review) have reposted without comment:

In comparing Hugo Chavez to Salvador Allende, Daniel Mandel trots out a number of chestnuts about the life and times of the Chilean president that have been long since debunked by our own government as cold-war-era CIA propaganda. Readers will remember that when military leaders assassinated Allende, they promptly installed the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Ah, the good old days.

Very droll, but not much in the way of argument: in particular, no refutation of the many devices I outlined that were used by the Allende government to outwit the Chilean laws and constitution:

1. Allende's recourse 32 times in respect of 93 measures to an emergency power permitting him to override congress and the courts (the emergency power in question, a decree of insistence, had previously been used by Chilean presidents with due reluctance and caution: Allende predecessor Jorge Alessandri used it just once).

2. The acquisition of all but one Chilean bank through share-buyouts, using misappropriated revenues;

3. The requisitioning of factories through misuse of administrative decrees; and

4. The expropriation of farms, often at gunpoint, thanks to a forgotten decree from 1932 that remained by oversight on the statute books.

To these I could have added that the Chilean Comptroller-General Hector Humeres and the Chilean courts declared illegal virtually all of Allende's acts of presidential fiat. But for 'Bolivarian revolutionaries', such judicial complexities matter not one whit - all critical capacity collapses as soon as the magic term"Allende's democratically elected government" is uttered. Do they really need reminding that other figures, including Hitler, attained office through democratic processes and that what they did once in office, rather than how they came to it, is the subject of discussion?

I invite readers to read, among other things, this article and this report, and then decide if Chavez looks more like Allende on his lawful off-days or the dictator he laboured to become.

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