When you think of generalissimos rising to power in South America, a few key figures likely come to mind. Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Juan Peron of Argentina, and Augusto Pinochet of Chile are likely the three that first come to mind. Anti-communist, sunglass-wearing, cigar chompers that rose to power and held it, keeping the Soviets at bay and their people (in the view of the left) oppressed.
Just how real is that image? Were these men brutal dictators, guardians against the ravages of Marxism, or somewhere in between, in that unsatisfying grey area that encompasses much of life and history?
Well, the first two are ones I don’t know enough about to label, although I can say that BAP praises Stroessner in The Bronze Age Mindset. However, after reading Augusto Pinochet: The Life and Legacy of Chile’s Controversial Dictator by the Charles River Editors, I would consider myself a bit more informed about Augusto Pinochet. If you want to learn about him too, it’s a great start.
Summary of Augusto Pinochet: The Life and Legacy of Chile’s Controversial Dictator
In the book Augusto Pinochet: The Life and Legacy of Chile’s Controversial Dictator, the Charles River Editors provide a concise depiction of Pinochet’s life. They begin, as could be expected, with his youth, then turn to how he rose to power, how he held power and ruled Chile, and how the world finally turned on him in his twilight years.
Pinochet began his career as a lowly officer in the Chilean Army, rising in the ranks as his superiors noted both his competence and his apolitical nature. As should be expected of a professional, he kept his (quite conservative) political views out of his job, following the orders of his civilian leaders as best he was able. Because of that, he eventually rose to the peak of the Chilean Army, becoming Commander-in-Chief for President Salvadore Allende in 1973.
It was then that he changed. Allende was moving farther and farther to the left, pulling the country with him and causing massive problems. That was unacceptable to Pinochet, who remarked:
“The freedoms which had been so hard won from colonial domination were being crushed by Soviet-inspired and funded military and political forces. Their clear intention was to deprive the people of their democratic freedoms. As history shows, this is what had happened in the Soviet Union and in Cuba, and continues to be the case in other parts of the world.”
As a result, he, along with two other top military figures, launched a coup, saying:
“The armed forces have acted today solely from the patriotic inspiration of saving the country from the tremendous chaos into which it was being plunged by the Marxist government of Salvador Allende…”
He and his fellows claimed that Marxists had attempted to take over the country and the military had responded to save the country, convincing many people to support his rule and accept his view of democracy, which was that it left too large of a door open for enemy infiltration.
So, rather than revert to democracy and risk another Marxist rising to the upper echelons of government, Pinochet remained in power.
But, unlike the communist dictators, his rule was without gulags or concentration camps (although he did kill numerous political enemies, mainly leftists) and economic liberalization, implemented by a group of Milton Friedman (author of Capitalism and Freedom and professor at the U. of Chicago) disciples called the “Chicago Boys.” They put Friedman’s ideas into action by lowering taxes, ending the nationalization of industry, selling off state-owned enterprises, and implementing whatever other free-market reforms they thought would encourage foreign investment. The resulting boom was called the Miracle of Chile, which proved both that Friedman’s ideas work and that economic freedom and political freedom need not necessarily go hand in hand.
Despite those successes, Pinochet eventually allowed elections and was deposed, which placed him at the mercy of his enemies and globalist entities; the man who once bragged that he had a library filled with UN condemnations was, in his final years, persecuted by similar international bodies for supposed crimes.
Thus his life ended and Chile moved to the left.
My Take on Augusto Pinochet: The Life and Legacy of Chile’s Controversial Dictator
This book is a very short one. It took me about an hour to read, and I wasn’t skimming it. So, for those of you that might want to know every little detail about Pinochet, it’s probably not the right book for you.
However, for what it is, it’s reasonably good. It’ll teach you about Pinochet’s life, why he was able to take power, and what he did with power once he seized it. Again, every minor detail won’t be covered, but the authors do a reasonably good job of describing everything in broad strokes that gives a good historical overview without going too deep into the weeds.
Even better, the authors manage to keep themselves mostly impartial, presenting both sides clearly and without overly favoring either one. For example, after elaborating on the charges Pinochet faced, they also point out this:
“although Pinochet inflicted some necessary personal damage, “many of those who died or suffered were preparing to inflict a far greater number of deaths and a vastly larger scale of suffering on their fellow citizens” in a hostile leftist takeover.”
Additionally, they contextualize his rule by saying:
“For much of the 20th century, South American governments in large part lived under a system of military junta governments. The mixture of indigenous peoples, foreign settlers and European colonial superpowers produced cultural and social imbalances into which military forces intervened as a stabilizing influence.”
So, although I would have liked to learn more about Pinochet when reading the book and wished it was longer, it was a reasonably good summary and presented as impartial a view as could be hoped for given the controversial subject.
Conclusion: Should You Read It?
So, for the question that always wraps up these reviews- is it a book worth reading?
If you’re already knowledgeable about Pinochet’s rule, then probably not. As I’ve said, it’s quite short and isn’t overly detailed.
However, it’s certainly the right book for someone that doesn’t know much about the era or the man and wants to learn more, it’s a great start. If that’s you, then I’d highly recommend it.
By: Gen Z Conservative