Sociologist Atilio Borón Analyizes Similarities Between the 1973 Coup in Chile and the Current Situation in Brazil

By María Julia Giménez on September 12, 2016

Atilio Borón

Atilio Borón

After 43 years after the coup d’etát in Chile, which overthrew Salvador Allende’s government, thinker Atilio Borón spoke with Brasil de Fato to analyze the connections between that moment in recent history and the current events that violate the democratic order in Latin America.

According to the Argentine sociologist, the constitutional changes made by the governments of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador created a new institutional order that allowed leaders to make the necessary reforms to improve the lives of their peoples.

However, the electoral triumph of Mauricio Macri in Argentina and the recent impeachment against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil signal the weaknesses of the processes in these two countries, which kept untouched the structure of the bourgeois state. These frailties were used by the US to their advantage in their effort to regain positions in the international scenario.

“I believe that Lula was a victim of his own technocratic stance. He sent the Brazilian people to their homes, to not get involved in politics, and when wolves came knocking on Dilma’s door she tried to reach out and nobody was there to defend her. He trusted and made alliances with groups of power that were clearly going to betray him. It was clear as day”, Borón said.

What lessons are to be learned from the 1973 coup in Chile? How does the Chilean experience help us to reflect about the current situation in Latin America? And how does the current context help us rethink our history as people of Latin American?

– Atilio Borón: I believe that the coup in Chile was a tragedy that in some way announced what was to come later in the majority of the countries in Latin America. Brazil had already suffered a coup in 1964, Argentina too, in 1966. But Chile’s case was different. It was a radical experiment in shock treatment that would later be applied throughout the rest of Latin America and also in some countries where capitalism was under development.

Chile’s case was very irregular in comparison with other regions. Salvador Allende’s government had kept the institutional structures of a bourgeois state. Meaning, there was no reform of the Constitution. There was merely a debate on the interpretation of some clauses of the Constitution that prevented Allende’s government from advancing nationalization policies, price controls and market interventions.

But Allende didn’t do what the Venezuelans, Bolivians and Ecuadorians did. They created a new Constitutional order, a new institutional system, and introduced the necessary changes to improve the quality of life of the population.

What can we learn? To begin with, a bourgeois state with a bourgeois constitution, with capitalist modes of production and where big corporations have a great amount of power, imposes very tight limits on what you can do. And when changes transcend those limits, the democratic process enters a dangerous zone and is quickly eliminated by the agents of social conservatism, that is, the dominant classes.

In very complex economic situations these processes inevitably emerge because the bourgeoisie constantly creates sabotage, or “bourgeois strikes”. They stop investing, flights of capital begin and the productive process is blocked at every level, causing great harm to the population. Eventually, the grassroots are prepared to carry out a fascist revolution.

That was Chile’s reaction in 1973. And I believe Chávez learned from that lesson, and after him, Evo and Correa did too. Because the first thing they did was to expand the institutional framework of the processes of transformation in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. This was very significant and very important. They introduced innovations that promoted a central role of the people, such as the revocable referendum, and the acknowledgement of forms of self-government for indigenous peoples.

Therefore, I believe that there is, in fact, a lesson learned. But it did not happen in every country. Argentina, Brazil and Colombia continued going down the paths of the neo liberal democratic institutional order. And that is the source of many problems.

So, at a regional level, is it possible to affirm that we’re now in a better position to resist this advance of the right, that began with the coup in Honduras and has now caused the impeachment of Dilma?

– A. B.: Look, what happened in Chile was unique, because at the time, Peronism was returning in Argentina, although it was short-lived and ended in a great catastrophe. There was a peak in Bolivia —in 1971, Bolivia inaugurated a brief process of radicalization of the masses under the command of Juan José Torres and the Bolivian Popular Assembly, but Torres was quickly deposed and murdered in Buenos Aires. Chilean General Carlos Prats González was also killed in Chile.

So, the context was very different from the current one.

The current political processes are emerging at the same time that the decadence and decline of the U.S. imperialism is deepening. In the second half of the 1990s some spoke of the beginning of a new North American century. But it was far from that, it was the beginning of a slow and persistent decadence of the US.

Some of us noticed that decadence but our opinion was brushed off due to ideological reasons. Nowadays, when you read specialized literature by the most important of the geo-strategists —the thinkers of the empire, like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, they both argue that the US is not as powerful anymore.

Economic projections lead us to conclude that by 2030 the North American economy will represent barely 18% of the world’s GDP and China’s will represent 28%. This decadence is also seen in the growing powerlessness of the US. This is evident, for example, in the fact that a little country in South America such as Ecuador can give diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange and furthermore expel the English troops from their embassy!

In the past, that would have prompted an invasion of marines in Ecuador, who would have detained and murdered President Rafael Correa, as they did in 1982 with Maurice Bishop, President of Granada.

Now, the weakening of the US is an undisputable fact. They have powerful enemies; Russia on one hand, and China on the other. So, what happens? Every time the US has problems worldwide, they back down to reaffirm their grip of domination on Latin America. That happened in the 70s and is happening right now.

The US wants to break the cycle of progressive governments and advance in the conformation of a new Latin America that is completely militarized, where not a single government challenges their hegemony. Meanwhile, the forecast from the Pentagon is announcing 20 or 30 more years of war. The rearguard is secured.

And that’s why they launched the campaign to undermine these governments, and create a new right in Latin America. In Argentina, this was very clear and in Brazil they have strengthened the links with the PSDB. In this process, Fernando Henrique Cardoso had a fundamental role.

What does Brazil mean in geopolitical terms? Why was the latest coup carried out in Brazil?

-A.B. : For several reasons. First of all, Brazil is the most important country in Latin American and the Caribbean and that means that wherever Brazil goes, Latin America goes too.

Secondly, Brazil was always a strategic ally of the US. Don’t forget that Brazil was handpicked by the US to develop metal industries after World War II, with loans they had approved.

And thirdly, Brazil is a paradise of natural resources. The US is very interested in controlling the Amazonia and the Guaraní aquifer —their power in Argentina also allows them to control the aquifer. And of course, oil. Do you know when the 4th Division of the US, which had been inactive for over 50 years, was mobilized for the first time? Right after Lula announced the discovery of the Pre-Salt oil field. Is that a coincidence? Of course not! It’s a reaction. These are the reasons why Brazil is very important to them.

Source: Brasil de Fato