My old AEI colleague Mark Falcoff, whom I used to talk with frequently since his office was just two doors down from mine, is one of the preeminent Latin American experts of recent decades and author of Modern Chile, 1970-1989: A Critical History. He writes in with two propositions prompted by my item yesterday about Chile’s vote against a radical constitution:
First, Chileans, in spite of the Allende experience (or perhaps even because of it) are quite conservative. The other, that for mysterious reasons no one has ever explained, Chile has often served as a theater in miniature for people in more central societies to try out their ideological fantasies at a safe distance.
Both of these propositions were amply demonstrated last Sunday when an overwhelming majority of the country rejected a pie-in-the-sky constitution which affirmed “”rights” that exist only in the fevered imagination of progressives in Western Europe, the U.S., and agencies of the United Nations.
In the runup to the vote itself reporting in the Western media was remarkably obtuse or just plain misinformed.
One would never guess from these prints that the so-called Pinochet constitution of 1980 has been modified repeatedly since the country returned to democracy in 1989 and bears scant resemblance to its previous authoritarian template. (I know, I know, it’s hard for The New York Times to let go of the 1973 coup, as if nothing at all has happened in the country in the last forty years, but still…)
One would never guess, either, that former President Ricardo Lagos, himself a socialist, along with many other impeccably democratic political personalities, opposed this new constitution. As Mr. Lagos said, “we need a new constitution, but not this constitution.” Indeed, it was precisely the opposition of such people that assured rejection of the new charter.
Chile is still a country with many serious social problems that require attention–in housing, health, and education. It is far from a free market utopia, but neither is it the same country that existed on the morning of General Pinochet’s accession. It is high time that the Western media got over it.