Just a quick Sunday night note to salute my Chilean peeps, you know who you are, and share their joy at the election of President Michelle Bachelet, who the media likes to remind us is a “left wing single mother,” and perhaps more importantly, the daughter of one of Pinochet’s victims. (Her father, a former military officer, died in prison under the dictatorship.)
I do believe that Pinochet should face justice for his crimes (“Please remember Victor Jara,” as the Clash sang all those years ago, reminding us that the folk singer who had his hands broken by Pinochet’s thugs and was then told to play his guitar in the Santiago Stadium before being blown away by “Washington bullets”). But I also believe that the voters of Chile have once again delivered the ultimate punishment to the decrepit old despot: By once again repudiating the barbarism of Pinochet and affirming that it is the Socialist Party of the late Salvador Allende that represents democratic civilization in Chile.
The ultimate punishment for Pinochet is that the Chilean electorate has cast him and what he stands for in the trash can of history, leaving him to live out his days as a disgraced outcast hounded by prosecutors. (It’s a gentler fate than thousands of his victims had, to be sure.)
But Bachelet has more important matters on her plate than avenging the dead. The whole continent’s politics are being remade by new left-wing models of governance — the media will focus on the bogey men of the nationalist-demagogue Chavez/Evo Morales stripe, but ultimately it’s the more centrist, pragmatic model represented by Bachelet, Argentina’s Nestor Kirschner and Lula in Brazil that is carving out the more viable and durable alternatives for developing countries interacting with the world economy.
And there’s something emotionally satisfying — in the way that Hollwyood movies end — in the notion that when the people of Chile have been given the democratic right to choose their leaders, it is the children of Pinochet’s victims, rather than those of his acolytes, that they turn. As y’all used to say in the old days, Venceremos!