Hope for the end of neoliberalism in Chile

Chile was where US imperialism had one of its darkest chapters, in a history of dark chapters, where in 1973 the Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger team first tried to destabilize the economy and then had the CIA instigate and support a military coup that violently overthrew that country’s democratically elected government and murder its president Salvador Allende because he was advocating socialist policies. The US installed the brutal dictator General Augusto Pinochet who then implemented the neoliberal agenda that the US seeks to impose via outright fascists, theocrats, and other authoritarians.

Chileans are celebrating the possible end of neoliberalism in that country that had been written into their constitution by the Pinochet regime.

In a development that was celebrated by champions of democracy around the world, Chilean voters this weekend elected a progressive slate of delegates to the constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the country’s right-wing constitution, which was imposed more than 40 years ago during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship and has continued to reproduce inequality for over three decades since the end of his rule.

Progressive International tweeted Monday that Chileans took a major step forward in the quest to “bury Pinochet’s constitution and write a new future for Chile”—one that includes guaranteed access to public goods such as water, education, healthcare, pensions, and other necessities.

“Chile will be the grave of neoliberalism!” the group added—a particularly meaningful designation given that the country is often referred to as the laboratory of neoliberalism, where the privatization of everything was first tested on an unwilling population.

There have been numerous attempts over the past 30 years to rein in market fundamentalism in Chile, but because neoliberalism was so deeply embedded in the country’s 1980 constitution, the reign of Pinochet’s politics outlived the military dictator.

During a historic referendum last October, which represented the culmination of a decadeslong revolt against the neoliberal model, Chileans voted in a four-to-one landslide to rewrite the dictatorship-era constitution. Notably, voters chose for the new constitution to be written by a popularly elected assembly of constituents rather than a mixed assembly of politicians and citizens.

Of the 155 citizens elected to the constituent assembly, only 38, which is less than a quarter, came from the right-wing coalition known as Vamos por Chile, El Ciudadano reported.

Greg Grandin, a world-renowned historian of Latin America, tweeted, “Allende is smiling.” Alluding to neoliberalism, Grandin added that “it started in Chile. It will end in Chile.”

The constituent assembly will have nine months to a year to draft a new constitution, the key provisions of which must be approved by a two-thirds majority, necessitating the formation of alliances among members. After that, the Chilean people will be asked next year in another national referendum whether or not they accept the new constitution.

Of course, the US government opposes any country providing “guaranteed access to public goods such as water, education, healthcare, pensions, and other necessities”, the things that Allende sought to provide. By overthrowing Allende, they delayed it by nearly five decades. Let’s see what they try this time.


  1. bmiller says

    Allende may be smiling, but his policies were not very successful (acknowledging your point about U.S. interference).

  2. says

    We should have just let him lose the next election if that was the case. But couldn’t have the example of a socialist stepping down from power.

  3. bmiller says

    robert: No disagreement. I just want us to avoid sanctifying failures. As with Peron in Argentina, a country that has arguably never recovered from his odd populist policies.

  4. Tired South American says


    As with Peron in Argentina, a country that has arguably never recovered from his odd populist policies.

    It hasn’t, and probably never will. His mainstream image has been thoroughly romanticized and made the official standard when teaching history, from elementary school up to college. If you point out to a follower something that contradicts the romantic picture, even by citing Perón’s own words, they react by either dismissing it or claiming that the words were taken out of context/don’t mean what you think they mean. Sound familiar? In fact, by now you can use Perón as a wild card to back pretty much any position you want, from left wing to fascist.

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