Yesterday marked 36 years since the constitutional president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was the victim of a violent military coup. It was the culmination of a destabilization campaign derived from a Washington-sponsored policy, which, through subversion, brought down the democratic institution of that country – replacing it with a barbarous, murderous regime – revealing the aversion of the White House to popular, progressive governments, however legitimate they might be.
Along with consolidation of the dictatorship resulting from that coup, Chile became the first laboratory for neo-liberal economic policies, which, ultimately, were echoed by the conservative revolution of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Essentially, these policies were imposed on the entire continent by international financial organizations, in what came to be known as the Washington Consensus, with results now acknowledged in economic and social development circles to be disastrous.
And then, one September 11, 8 years later, the world was shocked in the wake of a brutal terrorist attack against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. In response, President George W. Bush first waged a bloody military incursion into Afghanistan, which led to the overthrow of the Taliban in the central Asian nation, but also killed thousands of innocent civilians and curtailed the liberties of his own citizens. Then, in March 2003, he began a criminal, unjustified war against Iraq, which to this day constitutes an enormous setback for Washington, on political, economic, diplomatic, military and moral grounds, and has left behind enormous human and material losses in the Arabic country.
This fact should be added to the casual coincidence in timing of these events: Both were flash points of change in the world order, ominous events that would affect the enjoyment of freedom and human rights - signifying, in short, grave setbacks to politics and civilization, with, unfortunately, threads that continue in the present.
Certainly, much has changed since the military siege on the Palace of the Moneda, and most Latin American nations can boast of having democratically-elected governments; moreover, most have decided to move away, to a greater or to lesser degree, from the undesirable economic mandates tested in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. Nevertheless, plots to destabilize regional oligarchies remain a latent risk, as can be seen today in Honduras, where, despite widespread condemnation by the international community, a militarily-imposed regime has been in place for two months - in large part, thanks to the tepid, ill-defined response of the government in Washington.
Moreover, despite the manifest failure of the warring crusade launched by Bush, almost eight years ago, and although global governments are presently forced to focus their attention on the economic front, the current United States president, Barack Obama, remains committed to preserving the military occupation of Afghanistan - in a move that threatens to become a trap for his own government. Perhaps this is a concession to the U.S. hawks and members of the military-industrial complex, an enormous de facto power, without whose approval, no one can assume the presidency of our neighboring nation. The unwillingness or inability of U.S. authorities to learn from past mistakes constitutes the undesirable risk that, in the future, the rancor, expressed in New York and Washington eight years ago, will find expression again.
In summary, September 11 is embedded in the calendar of world history as a date linked to tragedy, and its commemoration should force governments around the world - starting with the U.S. - to open space for reflection and correction of errors and inhumane inertia, both barbaric and undesirable.