There is another, positive side to Pinochet's legacy
I do not deny that many of the points made in Marc Mullen s article are correct (Survivors still haunted by Pincohet s reign of terror, H&H December 14), but it is important that the other side of his activities is known. Since early 1974, just three mon
I do not deny that many of the points made in Marc Mullen's article are correct (Survivors still haunted by Pincohet's reign of terror, H&H December 14), but it is important that the other side of his activities is known.
Since early 1974, just three months after Pinochet became President, I have been a regular visitor to Chile on behalf of a British supplier which has been active there since the late 1800s.
On my first visit, the squalor and the poverty were incredible. The devaluation of the currency (escudo) was a disaster and one had to pay the hotel bill daily so they could sell at the exchange rate of the day. During the last months of Allende's presidency, strikes of lorry drivers and others were frequent and the shortage of food was appalling.
British friends in Vina del Mar at that time told me how anyone who wanted to buy bread had to join a queue three or four hours before the baker opened to buy a small loaf, and many times they were sold out before their turn arrived.
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Today Chile is the most prosperous and financially stable country in South America. This has occurred following the liberalisation of almost all the nationalised companies and banks following the recommendations of Milton Friedman and his team of financial advisers during the first years of Pinochet's reign.
One of his first changes was to introduce the peso to replace the escudo and this was controlled by the Central Bank, the other banks had been returned to their original owners.
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Protection of home manufacturers was abandoned and low rates of customs duties and freedom of imports were created. It is true that smaller companies charging high prices for poor quality products suffered and many closed. However, they were replaced by modern manufacturers and many of them are still owned by Chileans and financed by the original banks.
However, with the freedom of trade, foreign companies and banks have established themselves and have helped the great success of modern Chilean exports, particularly in wine, textiles and agricultural produce. One must not forget the enormous progress of the original mineral companies such as Antofagata, still under Chilean family direction. Besides industry, Pinochet encouraged the development of tourism, which is now flourishing from Arica in the north to Punta Arenas and the Parque Nacional de Torre de Paine 3500 miles away in the far south.
This progress has created much more employment throughout the country and although there is still some poverty, especially in the countryside, this has greatly reduced since 1973.
JOHN S LEWIS
(Name and address supplied)