Pinochet Should Be Tried For Human Rights Abuses
It apparently escaped Robert J. Barro's notice that the superiority of the free-market system rests on a democratic government ("One Pinochet legacy that deserves to live," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 17). Over time, dictators of all stripes have attempted to justify their authoritarian rule on the pursuit of some general good. Yet free people know otherwise. General Pinochet chose to use or allow the state apparatus and other far-right elements to terrorize and abuse his opponents. It is fair that he be held accountable before a court of law.
George J. Papaioannou
Professor Barro deserves an F in economics and political science for his criticism of Chile's decision to prosecute human-rights violations and to change its policy to reduce 11% unemployment.
Barro's understanding of the Chilean economy is questionable. Chile depends on exports of copper, wood, and other primary goods. Given the glut in those markets, Chile's economy is in trouble. The success of Pinochet's policies owed a great deal to favorable commodity markets. Neoliberal reforms of the 1970s and '80s also resulted in huge income inequality and hard times for the lower classes, flawed environmental policies, and too little public investment in education and human capital.
Unemployment is high, and times are tough in the major Latin American countries--particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador; privatization and dependence on fickle foreign capital, as a solution for these problems, are under attack elsewhere in South America.
Pinochet was a military oligarch who belongs in a courthouse being tried for human-rights abuses. His economic legacy should also be severely scrutinized.