Chile will go to the polls in April to define those who will draft a new constitution for the country, replacing the one that has been in force since 1981, promulgated by dictator Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006).
A Constituent Assembly composed only of elected members was the option Chileans voted strongly for in October. The proposal was accepted with 78.8% of the votes, against 21.1%.
“Space was made available to independent candidates, to society actors from different fields, so I thought I could contribute something,” says bestselling author of the historic broadcast Jorge Baradit, 51 .
Author of the three volumes of “Historia Secreta do Chile” and works of science fiction, he is part of a local literary movement known as “freak power”, which mixes the language of the street with pop culture. .
In 2018, he released his last non-fiction work, “La Dictadura”, in which he dealt with the Pinochet period, “the cycle of which we are now fortunate to close”. Baradit will run as an independent candidate in this election.
In your book on the dictatorship, you say that Pinochet’s departure in 1990 did not bring the relief desired and left a feeling, which continues today, that his presence still persists. Will the new Constitution end this cycle? We have the opportunity to do so. What we need to know now is whether it will be used by the Chileans. Pinochet is a metaphor for the history of Chile and much of Latin America. Our countries were born from the installation of the Iberian culture, a violent installation, of the Spanish monarchy, of the Portuguese. And this installation put an oligarchy in control of everything.
This, in essence, has not changed. And Pinochet represents the violence of this process, this imposition of a political system and the ratification of this oligarchy. That is why, when he left, Chile continued to be part of Pinochetism. Pinochet remained at the head of the armed forces, then became a senator for life and left a Constitution which ensured that the model would not change, that the military would not be persecuted for the crimes they had committed, that the interests of the oligarchy continued to be protected. Until today, we have, in the direction of several important companies in the country, people who had worked or collaborated with Pinochet. This situation was celebrated by society, as it was part of what was considered the key to Chile’s famous “political stability”.
Have the protests that started in 2019 deconstructed this idea? This is the beginning of the process, but I have no guarantee of this deconstruction, because the forces which have continued to control the country and which are oriented to continue with the Pinochet project are working with force, with violence. The plebiscite, for having imposed such a numerical defeat on the current Constitution, gives us the possibility of removing this stone of Sisyphus from our backs. But, as in the mythological story, we can waste things.
Why do you look pessimistic if, like I said, the victory was so overwhelming? Because the plebiscite score will not necessarily be repeated in April. In the plebiscite, the right was broken and part of the right voted “I approve” [pela nova Assembleia Constituinte]. Now they will go to the elections united again. Meanwhile, the center-left and the left have fragmented into several groupings. As in Chile, the electoral system is based on lists, that is to say favorable to the big blocs, there will be more chances that the majority is on the right. [não são os candidatos mais votados que entram, mas os integrantes de listas que receberem mais votos]. This can block some reforms and ensure that everything is negotiated on the terms of that majority, which tends not to be progressive, at least in the current situation.
What happened to the concert [coalizão de centro-esquerda que governou o Chile de 1990 até 2010] and with the broad forehead [criada depois das manifestações estudantis de 2011]? Consultation remains an important and national force, but today it is essentially made up of only two parties, the socialist and Christian democracy. The rest began to draw closer to the Communist Party. The Front Large seemed to fill this space and present itself as a left-wing social democracy, as if to say: we are not communists, nor the center-left which has made pacts with Pinochetism. [referindo-se à Concertação]. But it didn’t work, it failed to capitalize on support for the 2019 protests. People voted in 2020 with very strong rejection from existing parties, and that included the Frente Amplio, which felt and broke. The result of this process is that there must be over-representation of the right and under-representation of the left in the Constituent. In other words, we have been fortunate enough to take advantage of those 80% of the population who voted for change and we run the risk of not doing so because of political mistakes made by the progressive forces themselves. .
What is the main proposition of your application? The most important thing is to stand up for what the people who voted to “approve” want. This means making Chile, in fact, a state that guarantees the rights of citizens. We must dismantle this system in which the rights to education and health are not free. Because in such an unequal society there are people who cannot buy their own rights and die with a miserable retirement or who do not have a good education to give to their child, which feeds the system. This is the main change we want, a fundamental and civilizing change.
In your book on dictatorship, you talk about the disinformation campaign that existed during Pinochet’s time, through which many Chileans believed that the general had “freed Chile to become Cuba”. Was it similar to today’s disinformation, which says more or less the same thing about the Constitution? Yes of course. Because in both cases the fear of the people was played out. Before it was the fear of the regime, of not taking the wrong step, now it is the fear of losing what we have, of losing jobs, etc. And fear cancels out rationality. When one group is able to bring fear to another, the responses are irrational. This is why I fear that this disinformation propaganda will have an effect on the outcome of the election to the Constituent Assembly. We have the message of fear in our veins, because of our history.
Why has Pinochet’s image survived more than that of other Latin American dictators? Argentina’s dictatorship has killed more people, but its leaders are not as well known to the world. Pinochet, on the other hand, still has T-shirts with his image for sale on Amazon and is mentioned in pro-Trump protests, for example. Yes, in that sense he could have been painted by Andy Warhol, as he ended up becoming an icon. He is an obscure character who has some similarities with Hitler. Both were mediocre subjects at what they tried to do before, had a lot of self-esteem issues in their youth and, when they could, cruelly stepped on their victims.
In Pinochet’s case, his cruelty is not limited to the death toll of the Chilean dictatorship [cerca de 3.000], which is much smaller than that of the Argentine dictatorship [cerca de 30 mil]. The seriousness of the Pinochet phenomenon was that it succeeded in conveying the idea of a power which could only emanate from him, it centralized what in other countries was accomplished by military articulations or by a rotation of power. Moreover, his cruelty goes beyond the dead precisely because he designed this political and economic model that still exists in the country today. This is why it takes us so long to be released from it. When Pinochet left, we got rid of the political regime, not the model. We got rid of the dictator Pinochet, but not the economic Pinochet, which was written into the Constitution.
In comparison with Hitler, it has at least been deconstructed, whereas today there are politicians in Chile who openly call themselves “Pinochet”. Yes, imagine if in the German Parliament there will be a case for open claimants of Hitler’s supposed legacy. No, but here yes. But it also has to do with history. During World War II, the Allies insisted on erasing all symbols, picking up Hitler in the bunker. Not here. Pinochet was not defeated, he gave up power, so many people feel free to talk about his heritage, to defend it, to this day. In the transition, there was no loss to Pinochet. He remained protected by his office and passed away peacefully at his home. As there is no defeat, there is therefore room for it to be claimed.
Jorge Baradit, 51 years old
Born in Valparaíso, the writer graduated in graphic design and even had a punk band; his best-known work is the non-fiction trilogy “Historia Secreta de Chile”, which has sold over 200,000 copies, but is also the author of several novels