December 11, 2006 | National Review Online

Pinochet is History

A Spanish joke: a reporter traveled to Spain to learn what people think of Franco.  Upon arriving in a village, the reporter asked one man, but the man insisted they walk out into the country. Yet once there, he still hesitated. “Let's go by that lake,” he said. When they arrived at the lake, the reporter asked yet again, but the man insisted that they take a row-boat out of the middle of the lake. When they got there and the reporter asked again, the man finally leaned over and whispered, “I like him.”

Pinochet's coup d'etat and the murder of Salvador Allende along with 3,000 or more suspected opposition members, were perhaps the worst thing that has ever happened to Chile, just as the Cuban Revolution was the worst thing that ever happened to Cuba. 

But there is one vital difference between the two. Once he consolidated power, Pinochet worked hard to protect the bases of a modern progressive democracy. Castro, by contrast, made it his business to ruin those in his country — and now a new generation of Latin American leaders fondly dream of walking in his footsteps.

Pinochet did something else that few dictators ever do: Upon losing by a small margin in a plebiscite that pitted him against the entire spectrum of political opposition, he resigned. The crimes of Pinochet may be unpardonable. But at least he tried to redeem them.We shouldn't be surprised by the number of Chileans who are still thankful for that.

  — Mario Loyola is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies .

Read the full symposium.