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09/14/2023

Chile: Celebrations in half-light

Chile: Celebrations in half-light

I write this week from Chile where I attended an international seminar organized by the Municipality of Recoleta, the XXI Constituent Foundation and other organizations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fall in combat of President Allende and the enthronement of the fascist civil-military dictatorship that established itself in this country for the duration of 17 years.

A gloomy atmosphere hangs over a country that has not managed to overcome the division and confrontation imposed by the dictatorship. The anniversary date has had “ambivalent celebrations”: some have remembered Allende, his deed, his loyalty to the people and his heroic immolation in defense of democracy, while others have remembered with joy the violent irruption of the armed forces that “liberated Chile of the Marxist cancer.”

Meanwhile, the government stood at the sidelines, organizing an elitist commemoration devoid of mass participation that would have given the emphasis that the date and President Allende deserved. President Boric’s previous rhetoric, assuming a shameful neutrality, refers to the controversial theory of the “two demons” that holds Allende and the dictatorship equally responsible for the coup d’état.

It could not be otherwise given the fact that Chile has a weak, cowardly, timid, hesitant and pusillanimous president, of whom the most recalcitrant right takes advantage to go on the offensive and keep the people in a paralyzing immobility. This immobility began on November 15, 2019, when the power elites, Boric among them, signed a elitist governance agreement that paralyzed the social protest which had Piñera and his government “against the ropes” and on the brink of defenestration. It must be said that, unfortunately, the pandemic also played its part.

Boric benefited from this agreement that many in Chile consider a betrayal of the people and a decision in favor of businessmen and the right. As at the end of the 80s of the last century, the hidden powers of the country resorted to a mediatized solution that they could control and manage at will in order to avoid an alternative that had the people as the protagonist and driving force of the transformations and that would lead Chile to a true recovery of democracy, legally constrained today by a constitution fraudulently approved during the dictatorship.

The agreement of November 15, which subsequently brought Boric to the presidency, gave continuity to the neoliberal economic model and deepened the repressive democracy imposed by his predecessors. Boric’s loyalty to the United States is absolute. His surprising alignment with Washington regarding the conflict in Ukraine is an expression of a dog-like decision to follow the master’s orders. Even Pinochet exercised more autonomy in matters of foreign policy.

All this has caused the government to minimize the anniversary to turn it into a celebration behind closed doors in the Moneda palace, surrounded by hundreds of police officers and empty, silent streets, absent from the town that Allende defended until the last minute of his precious life.

The most important commemorations occurred in the municipality of Recoleta, where Mayor Daniel Jadue, his team and other popular and social organizations took charge of remembering Allende in his true dimension, generating a true cultural festival and a great debate of ideas to contribute to the process of political formation necessary for Chile to return to the path of a true democracy: real, participatory and with popular protagonism.

As for me, I was part of a panel held at the headquarters of the National Confederation of Municipal Health Officials (Confusam), a combative union of health workers, in which the public policies of the Popular Front were reviewed. It was my responsibility to give a presentation on the international policy of the popular government and the internationalist thought of President Allende.

Likewise, within the framework of the events organized in Recoleta, I had to present different levels of analysis of the conflict in Ukraine, to explain the international repercussions and the transformation that this fact is having in the international system and the transition from an Atlanticist model to one that has its axis in the great Eurasian space.

But the most emotional and beautiful event that I had to attend was a meeting at the Andrés Bello High School where I was studying when the coup d’état occurred in September 1973. There we remembered and unveiled a plaque with the names of six murdered and one disappeared classmate, who were students of that high school and became victims of the dictatorship. Walking through the hallways and courtyards of the school where I began my educational and political training as a revolutionary activist, I was able to evoke that fateful day 50 years ago.

While these commemorations are taking place, the country is struggling in the middle of a new right-wing trap that the president, his government and the parties that support it have observed as sheep of the power that manages the country. In a masterful move, the fascist right is drafting a new constitution so reactionary, so retrograde and so conservative that even sectors ranging from the slightly less cavernous right to the official left have called for it to be rejected, which – it is worth saying – does not allow being encouraging in the face of the size of the regression that would mean approving a medieval constitution in the 21st century.

Pinochet’s current constitution will end up being validated and legitimized, which gives continuity to a system of neoliberal economy, restricted democracy and justice “to the extent of the possible.”

More shadows than lights have been observed in these commemorations, although the last words of President Allende will always continue to be heard, which have never lost their validity: “…other men will overcome this gray and bitter moment where betrayal seeks to prevail. Continue knowing that sooner rather than later, the great avenues through which the free man can pass will open to build a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”

Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
A Venezuelan international relations expert, Gelfenstein was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. He has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant”, published in several Latin American countries. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701

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