Professor Robert J. Barro has his facts incomplete in "One Pinochet legacy that deserves to live" (Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 17). He mentions "legal amnesty" as proof of a consensus on human rights in our society. In fact, Chileans have never been consulted. Surely, Barro must not be aware that amnesty was adopted in the early years of military rule (1978) and by the military regime in power, no less. Otherwise, he would not allude to something Pinochet's own supporters dare not invoke with a straight face anymore.
In Chile, there has never been a law of punto final approved by the post-dictatorship-elected Congresses, as was the case in Uruguay, or of obediencia debida, as in Argentina. And we have had no plebiscite or constitutional amendment granting eternal forgetfulness of the crimes of Pinochet's rule, as they did in Spain in 1979 to bury 40 years of Franco once and for all.
Consensus? Neither of the two center-left administrations since 1990 has put forward any consistent policy about the military problem and those who disappeared. They have just hoped the problems would simply go away.
What has been taking place here until Pinochet was detained 15 months ago in London is a shameful game of shadows played by the civilians who run the government, the powers that be which are profoundly pro-Pinochet (the press, especially), and, of course, the military. Thanks to the Spanish and British trials, the unclosed and still festering wound is in the open now, no matter how many PhDs in economics any future President of Chile may have.
Reading Robert Barro's column, it seems that everything should be allowed in the name of the free market. It does not matter if thousands of people have been tortured or killed. Professor Barro overlooks that justice is the basis for any free society, the pillar of democracy.
It can also be interpreted as saying that Pinochet is only hated by "the world's leftists." I do not consider myself leftist. I hate dictatorships of any stripe: in Cuba, China, etc. The Helms-Burton Act enacted against Cuba is pathetic when, at the same time, business with China is growing exponentially.
Also, Barro worries me when he says that a "legal amnesty allowed the country to achieve sufficient consensus to consolidate democracy." Was it not obvious that the measure was taken under the supervision of Chile's army? Was it really a free decision, representing the people's will? When Barro writes about "an out-of-control Spanish judge," does he also mean that judges in democratic and free-market countries are, or should be, controlled by governments? What happened to the separation of powers?
Let's hope for the New Millennium that free-market capitalism is built on justice, human rights, and freedom, and not only on economic convenience.
Barro's defense of Pinochet's legacy is of the "Mussolini made the trains run on time" variety. On this evidence his question about the superiority of an economics degree from Duke or Chicago is easily answered: Either must be preferable to a Harvard one.