Chile: The United States Didn’t Just Help Topple Allende—We Trained the Economists, Too

Source: The Nation

A new documentary, Chicago Boys, looks at the Chilean economists who brought neoliberalism from the halls of Chicago to the policies of Latin America.

“I didn’t know absolutely nothing.” That double negative is from Sergio de Castro, talking about the killing, disappearances, and torture that took place when he served as Chile’s economic and finance minister during the Pinochet regime’s most brutal period. It’s from a great documentary that premiered this week in Chile, Chicago Boys, made by Carola Fuentes, a journalist, and Rafael Valdeavellano, a filmmaker.

Sergio de Castro is among the vilest of the “Chicago Boys,” Chilean economists who studied at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger and who, after the September 11, 1973, coup, helped impose on their fellow citizens a punishing program of extreme economic austerity. In the film, de Castro recalls climbing a hill in Santiago so he could watch the Air Force bomb La Moneda, the presidential palace where Salvador Allende was soon to die. As flames poured out of the palace’s windows, he felt, he says, an “infinite happiness.” De Castro says he “didn’t know anyone who had been killed” by his government, even though representatives from the World Bank, the IMF, and the US State Department kept complaining about the repression. Asked by Carola Fuentes if he ever brought up those complaints with Pinochet, he said no. De Castro says he feels great “pain,” not just for the “tortured but the torturers” but that, knowing what he knows now–that thousands were killed or disappeared and tens of thousands tortured during his tenure–he still would have served Pinochet. “There aren’t any corrective measures that are painless,” de Castro says.

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