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Why Pinochet?

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This is something I’ve wondered ever since, long, long ago, I was on the other side of the political fence. Why is it that Augusto Pinochet gets lefties into such a lather?

I mean this question in all seriousness, and I’m looking for serious answers. Pinochet has always struck me as a kind of middling dictator, not worthy of the hatred that the left holds for him. From what I understand, Chile under Pinochet was somewhat less bloody than the Philippines under Marcos and Argentina under its military junta. He certainly didn’t approach the level of brutality found in Guatemala, El Salvador, or the Dominican Republic under Trujillo. Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and the various leaders of China make him look like a rank amateur in the tyranny game. Yet, the invocation of Pinochet lets loose the rage. I don’t understand.

I suppose that Castro is a good comparison. Both Pinochet and Castro evoke particular emotions from the right and the left, emotions that seem to me all out of line with their actual crimes. Some lefties defend Castro for what he has done, which is create a passably decent social welfare system. Righties defend Pinochet in virtually the same way, excusing his brutality by referrring to Chile’s economy. Neither of these positions makes all that much sense to me, but whatever.

Anyway, I look forward to some responses.

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