News Release

Friday Marks Quarter-Century Anniversary of Coup in Chile

WASHINGTON — On Sept. 11, 1973, a military coup brought down Chile’s democratically elected government. Twenty-five years later, a prominent U.S. think tank is touting a former high official in the Chilean dictatorship as a visionary for privatization of Social Security in the United States.

At the Washington-based Cato Institute, Jose Pinera — who was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980 — now chairs the think tank’s Project on Social Security Privatization.

“Pinera was the Pinochet dictatorship’s labor minister at a time when the country’s trade union movement was enduring one of its worst periods of repression — and when workers were seeing the dismantling of their rights, including the ability to engage in collective bargaining, to strike, to join federations, or to have a reliable financial base,” said Larry Birns, a former public affairs officer for the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America in Santiago, Chile.

Birns added: “Pinera was a vital cog in the Pinochet dictatorship’s ability to implement a draconian labor code. It is simply scandalous for the Cato Institute to have him as co-chair of its Social Security privatization effort. This is an example of crime without punishment and reflects the conservative organization’s contempt for the suffering imposed on Chile’s population during the Pinochet era.”

After the 1973 coup, Chile privatized its pension system. In recent years, officials at the Cato Institute and other advocates of privatizing Social Security in the United States have cited Chile as a model.

Human rights groups documented numerous instances of political imprisonment, torture and murder during the Chilean dictatorship, which lasted through the end of the 1980s.

For more information, contact:

LARRY BIRNS
Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

CLAUDIO DURAN
A former political prisoner in Chile during the Pinochet regime and currently a Ph.D candidate at Stanford University.

TERESA GHILARDUCCI
Associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame who has studied the privatization of Chile’s pension system.

SAUL LANDAU
Scholar and documentary filmmaker who has written widely on Chile.

JOHN B. WILLIAMSON
Professor of sociology at Boston College who has done extensive research on Chile’s pension system.

SAM HUSSEINI
Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.