A Week in the Life of Gustavo

"Seems to think that if he fails to write, la migra will find him."--OC Weekly More merriment available at ronmaydon@yahoo.com

sábado, setembro 13, 2003

I'm Explaining a Few Things...

Yesterday, of course, was 9/11 and the 30th year anniversary of the overthrow of Chile's democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende by the hijo de puta Augusto Pinochet.

Some remembrances from around the world.

Who knew Granma published in English?

Even Chile's left doesn't know how to celebrate Allende's legacy--meanwhile the right is incensed.

Concert to celebrate Allende's legacy which featured Julieta Venegas--who knew she was still political?

The entire Left is mourning this week not because of our 9/11 but because of the death of Allende. Don't listen to KPFK, but apparently they had non-stop reviews of Allende's death and the aftermath.

I've had this debate with the Pinochet Apologist over and over and we'll probably engage in it until the day we pass away. He argues that Allende was spelling doom for Chile, that Pinochet brought stability to the country, and that Chile owes its relative stability to the efforts of Pinochet.

My argument against that rarely strays from "the end does not justify the means" rhetoric. I believe that with all of my heart. I'm also disgusted that anyone would overthrow a democratically elected official for non-corruption reasons--that's why I'm voting no on the California recall even though Governor Davis is a weasel.

When I was about 12, I bought a stack of old Life magazines. One of them dated from 1973 and had the final moments of Allende's life. A particularly chilling set of shots involved a soldier pointing at the camera, telling the cameraman to stop filming lest he be shot. The cameraman was killed.

Incidents like these make a large impact on a inquisitive mind. The utter horror of death that Life captured instilled in me a distrust of terror. Pinochet represents that. I don't give a damn if Allende would have run Chile into the ground--this is what the much-heralded Chilean democracy wanted. Pinochet was not democratic--when he finally faced an election, the general was soundly defeated.

I dislike the brute so much, here's his Daily Rotten bio. I know I provided the link earlier, but here's the body of the text just so Uds. will read it. And if you do read the entirety, there's a Neruda poem at the end!

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet was a Chilean general who in 1973 staged a coup d'etat with the help of the CIA. His flair for fashion made him South America's answer to Muammar Qaddafi. But ultimately it was his thirst for reform which produced his most enduring legacy.
After the people of Chile inadvertently elected a communist for president, General Pinochet did what he had to. Which was assassinate President Salvador Allende. Upon gaining power, Pinochet reformed many of Allende's disastrous policies.


One of Allende's failed initiatives involved not sending death squads to kidnap, torture, and murder his political enemies. This was Pinochet's first policy reversal.

Pinochet handed a list of names to one of his generals and gave orders to have them killed. The general assembled a death squad, jumped into a helicopter, and visited a few towns. He checked off the victims as they were eliminated, 71 people in all. This mission would later become known as the "Caravan of Death."

Thousands of leftists, unionists, and various other troublemakers were rounded up and held in concentration camps for up to three years. Many were interrogated, tortured, and killed. Whereas the Allende government had for all practical purposes given up applying electrical voltage to genitalia, Pinochet brought the country back to its core ideals.

These tried-and-true methods were only required because of the serious nature of the enemy Pinochet was facing. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recognized this. When they met in Santiago on June 8, 1976, Kissinger told Pinochet: "My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government that was going Communist."

Another failure of past administrations was their complete lack of immunity against prosecution for any crimes committed while in power. This defect was finally redressed with the passage of the 1978 State Immunity Act. It was a stunning legislative triumph.

But some people are never content to abide by the rule of law. Which is why, in 1998, Pinochet was "arrested" in London under orders from Spain. It took 16 months for a court to determine that the elderly ex-president was too sick to stand trial. They sent him home to Chile to live out his final weeks.

Upon landing in Santiago, a miracle happened. In England, Pinochet had been too sick to stand unaided. But immediately upon his return, the 84-year-old servant of the people sprang from his wheelchair and walked around, fully healed. The man who had been too senile to remember his own family's names and faces could suddenly remember all of his former subordinates who had come to greet him at the airport.

Justice was finally served.

As promised, here's the Neruda poem. It was written in response to the Spanish Civil War, although it could easily apply to Chile. A personal post tomorrow--hell, this is a personal post. The title of the poem is the title of the post.

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!