FANATICISM CAN BLIND ECONOMISTS, TOO
The July 17 Economic Viewpoint by Paul Craig Roberts, "How Chile may lose all the ground it has gained," is utterly dishonest in its discussion of the issues and historical background involved in the current constitutional crisis in Chile.
Roberts maintains that the present efforts in Chile to enforce a criminal verdict affirmed on appeal by that country's Supreme Court amount to an attempt by "leftists...to take revenge" on the former military government.
The verdict in question is against the two generals who have been tried and convicted of plotting a 1976 political assassination carried out in Washington. Roberts breezily refers to the victim as "Chilean leftist Orlando Letelier" without mentioning that Letelier was a former Foreign Minister of his country. He omits entirely the fact that an American citizen died in the same explosion.
Four successive U.S. Administrations have demanded that the Chilean government try the accused generals at home or permit their extradition to face American courts. Chile has done the former--but the workings of its judicial processes have now been blocked by the military, which is refusing to allow imposition of the sentences handed down.
The sentences against Generals Manuel Contreras and Pedro Espinoza are lawfully imposed punishments for a heinous crime that are backed by the entire constitutional apparatus of the Chilean government. It is clear that the principle at stake here is not--as Roberts claims with utter disingenuousness--left vs. right or free-market vs. statist economics but whether Chile is a country of law in which the military is subject to civilian authority.
Roberts claims that "the left always prefers the rule of ideology to the rule of law." By this definition, Roberts' essay is an exercise in leftism of the most fanatical kind.
I was the sole survivor of the 1976 (not 1978, Professor) car bombing in Washington that killed Orlando Letelier, a distinguished ambassador and Cabinet member of the Allende government, and my first wife, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. For 19 long years, scores of U.S. attorneys, judges, and State Dept. officials of both political parties reviewed the evidence in the case and traced the trail to the Pinochet dictatorship in Santiago. They leaned on Chile to prosecute Generals Contreras and Espinoza for one simple reason: What kind of world would we live in if would-be democracies set convicted terrorists free because they were afraid of a few dissident army officers? Now, a few right-wing sycophants in Chile and here want to keep Contreras and Espinoza out of jail. If the Frei government caves in to pressure, democracy in Chile is not rooted very deeply.