"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


You saved your beloved Chile from Allende, who vowed to make it a Communist state like his friend Castro's Cuba. Unlike the third-world backwater that Cuba has become under Communism, you made of Chile an economic powerhouse that even the Washington Post has to admire. Unlike the permanent dictatorship of Castro, you stepped down peacefully after after only a dozen or so years, allowing democratic elections, and remained out of politics: having saved Chile, you returned to private life.


Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent posting!

*Standing and applauding*

Gideon's Guardians said...

I guess if you're makin' omlettes, ya gotta disappear some eggs...

Your hagiography may have some slight inaccuracies, though:
But if "stepped down peacefully" means "without another military coup", that's OK
and if "only a dozen or so years" means "seventeen, or 25 if you count maintaining control of the military, which he used to take power in the first place" that's OK.
and if "allowing democratic elections" means "there was only one person on the ballot and no provision in the law for what to do if Pinochet lost" that's OK,
and if "remaining out of politics" means "remaining in power of the military which you used to take power in the first place, and then, after eight more years, having yourself appointed Senator for life (and the immunity from prosecution that gave)" then OK.
And I missed the section that mentioned the political assassinations, torture, murder, financial nest-lining, etc.

Saved Chile? Certainly something reasonable minds could debate. I'd have to say yes. Given the geopolitical realities of the era, Chile is better off than it would have been, now that it has recovered from both Allende and Pinochet.

But what chills me is the tortured history in the last sentence. That last sentence is dark satire, like I’d expect on fafblog, but I'm sure you're serious, Tom. The use of fantasy history to whitewash Pinochet into a saint opens a window into your soul, and what's revealed isn’t pretty.
“The ends justify any means necessary - no matter what you do to achieve your aim is not only OK, but correct and even more, commendable, whether it be fighting communism or fighting crime or fighting terrorism. If you want to fight crime, you've got to be willing to put some innocent people in prison, and that's OK. If you want to fight terrorism, you have to disappear a few people, and that's OK.”
No, it's not OK. It wasn’t OK in Chile and it sure as hell isn’t OK in America. 200+ years ago, there were a bunch of smart old white guys who really didn’t like the way Parliament used whatever means it wanted to reach its ends. So they made a Constitution and they made laws that told the government the means (laws) it had to use to reach its ends. The Rule of Law is the triumph of means over ends.
To hear a prosecutor talk about ends justifying means, and doing so not merely uncritically but willfully inaccurately, and then celebrating a life lived that way scares the crap out of me.

Tom McKenna said...

Gideon, you needn't worry: this is not Chile, this is America. Some of the methods Pinochet used to save Chile from falling to Communism would not and should not be countenanced... here. But in Chile, with the nation hanging in the balance, and a dedicated core of revolutionary Marxists trying to destroy Chile, what Pinochet did was necessary.

You may fuss about how long it took him to cede control, but the fact remains: conservative "strongmen" like Pinochet almost always turned over power peacefully. I think 20 years of Pinochet gradually devolving power while making Chile the economic envy of South America is certainly preferable to the alternative: an Allende-led Communist Chile which would stifle all opposition forever and destroy the prosperity of the nation, to boot.

That Pinochet surrendered power when he did not have to is credit to his love for country over power, and gives the lie to the slander that he was "just a dictator."

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Yes, what a great man for torturing tens of thousands of people and murdering or "disappearing" thousands of others. And musn't forget using the military to forcefully overthrow a democratically elected leader. What a hero.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Oh, and let's not forget to thank him for committing a heinous act of terrorism right here in the United States of America--the car bombing murder of a Chilean exile and his American co-worker. Yeah, great guy.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"And musn't forget using the military to forcefully overthrow a democratically elected leader."

Who had rapidly led Chile to chaos and who was doing his level best to transform Chile into a Marxist dictatorship. Here is a Declaration of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile on August 23, 1973.

"The Resolution


1. That for the Rule of Law to exist, public authorities must carry out their activities and discharge their duties within the framework of the Constitution and the laws of the land, respecting fully the principle of reciprocal independence to which they are bound, and that all inhabitants of the country must be allowed to enjoy the guarantees and fundamental rights assured them by the Constitution;

2. That the legitimacy of the Chilean State lies with the people who, over the years, have invested in this legitimacy with the underlying consensus of their coexistence, and that an assault on this legitimacy not only destroys the cultural and political heritage of our Nation, but also denies, in practice, all possibility of democratic life;

3. That the values and principles expressed in the Constitution, according to article 2, indicate that sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation, and that authorities may not exercise more powers than those delegated to them by the Nation; and, in article 3, it is deduced that any government that arrogates to itself rights not delegated to it by the people commits sedition;

4. That the current President of the Republic was elected by the full Congress, in accordance with a statute of democratic guarantees incorporated in the Constitution for the very purpose of assuring that the actions of his administration would be subject to the principles and norms of the Rule of Law that he solemnly agreed to respect;

5. That it is a fact that the current government of the Republic, from the beginning, has sought to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the state and, in this manner, fulfilling the goal of establishing a totalitarian system: the absolute opposite of the representative democracy established by the Constitution;

6. That to achieve this end, the administration has committed not isolated violations of the Constitution and the laws of the land, rather it has made such violations a permanent system of conduct, to such an extreme that it systematically ignores and breaches the proper role of the other branches of government, habitually violating the Constitutional guarantees of all citizens of the Republic, and allowing and supporting the creation of illegitimate parallel powers that constitute an extremely grave danger to the Nation, by all of which it has destroyed essential elements of institutional legitimacy and the Rule of Law;

7. That the administration has committed the following assaults on the proper role of the National Congress, seat of legislative power:

a) It has usurped Congress’s principle role of legislation through the adoption of various measures of great importance to the country’s social and economic life that are unquestionably matters of legislation through special decrees enacted in an abuse of power, or through simple "administrative resolutions" using legal loopholes. It is noteworthy that all of this has been done with the deliberate and confessed purpose of substituting the country’s institutional structures, as conceived by current legislation, with absolute executive authority and the total elimination of legislative authority;

b) It has consistently mocked the National Congress’s oversight role by effectively removing its power to formally accuse Ministers of State who violate the Constitution or laws of the land, or who commit other offenses specified by the Constitution, and;

c) Lastly, what is most extraordinarily grave, it has utterly swept aside the exalted role of Congress as a duly constituted power by refusing to enact the Constitutional reform of three areas of the economy that were approved in strict compliance with the norms established by the Constitution.

8. That it has committed the following assaults on the judicial branch:

a) With the goal of undermining the authority of the courts and compromising their independence, it has led an infamous campaign of libel and slander against the Supreme Court, and it has sanctioned very serious attacks against judges and their authority;

b) It has made a mockery of justice in cases of delinquents belonging to political parties or groups affiliated with or close to the administration, either through the abusive use of pardons or deliberate noncompliance with detention orders;

c) It has violated express laws and utterly disregarded the principle of separation of powers by not carrying out sentences and judicial resolutions that contravene its objectives and, when so accused by the Supreme Court, the President of the Republic has gone to the unheard of extreme of arrogating to himself a right to judge the merit of judicial sentences and to determine when they are to be complied with;

9. That, as concerns the General Comptroller’s Office—an independent institution essential to administrative legitimacy—the administration has systematically violated decrees and activities that point to the illegality of the actions of the Executive Branch or of entities dependent on it;

10. That among the administration’s constant assaults on the guarantees and fundamental rights established in the Constitution, the following stand out:

a) It has violated the principle of equality before the law through sectarian and hateful discrimination in the protection authorities are required to give to the life, rights, and property of all inhabitants, through activities related to food and subsistence, as well as numerous other instances. It is to note that the President of the Republic himself has made these discriminations part of the normal course of his government by proclaiming from the beginning that he does not consider himself the president of all Chileans;

b) It has grievously attacked freedom of speech, applying all manner of economic pressure against those media organizations that are not unconditional supporters of the government, illegally closing newspapers and radio networks; imposing illegal shackles on the latter; unconstitutionally jailing opposition journalists; resorting to cunning maneuvers to acquire a monopoly on newsprint; and openly violating the legal mandates to which the National Television Network is subject by handing over the post of executive director to a public official not named by the Senate, as is required by law, and by turning the network into an instrument for partisan propaganda and defamation of political adversaries;

c) It has violated the principle of university autonomy and the constitutionally recognized right of universities to establish and maintain television networks, by encouraging the takeover of the University of Chile’s Channel 9, by assaulting that university’s new Channel 6 through violence and illegal detentions, and by obstructing the expansion to the provinces of the channel owned by Catholic University of Chile;

d) It has obstructed, impeded, and sometimes violently suppressed citizens who do not favor the regime in the exercise of their right to freedom of association. Meanwhile, it has constantly allowed groups—frequently armed—to gather and take over streets and highways, in disregard of pertinent regulation, in order to intimidate the populace;

e) It has attacked educational freedom by illegally and surreptitiously implementing the so-called Decree of the Democratization of Learning, an educational plan whose goal is Marxist indoctrination;

f) It has systematically violated the constitutional guarantee of property rights by allowing and supporting more than 1,500 illegal "takings" of farms, and by encouraging the "taking" of hundreds of industrial and commercial establishments in order to later seize them or illegally place them in receivership and thereby, through looting, establish state control over the economy; this has been one of the determining causes of the unprecedented decline in production, the scarcity of goods, the black market and suffocating rise in the cost of living, the bankruptcy of the national treasury, and generally of the economic crisis that is sweeping the country and threatening basic household welfare, and very seriously compromising national security;

g) It has made frequent politically motivated and illegal arrests, in addition to those already mentioned of journalists, and it has tolerated the whipping and torture of the victims;

h) It has ignored the rights of workers and their unions, subjecting them, as in the cases of El Teniente [one of the largest copper mines] and the transportation union, to illegal means of repression;

i) It has broken its commitment to make amends to workers who have been unjustly persecuted, such as those from Sumar, Helvetia, Banco Central, El Teniente and Chuquicamata; it has followed an arbitrary policy in the turning over of state-owned farms to peasants, expressly contravening the Agrarian Reform Law; it has denied workers meaningful participation, as guaranteed them by the Constitution; it has given rise to the end to union freedom by setting up parallel political organizations of workers.

j) It has gravely breached the constitutional guarantee to freely leave the country, establishing requirements to do so not covered by any law.

11. That it powerfully contributes to the breakdown of the Rule of Law by providing government protection and encouragement of the creation and maintenance of a number of organizations which are subversive [to the constitutional order] in the exercise of authority granted to them by neither the Constitution nor the laws of the land, in open violation of article 10, number 16 of the Constitution. These include community commandos, peasant councils, vigilance committees, the JAP, etc.; all designed to create a so-called "popular authority" with the goal of replacing legitimately elected authority and establishing the foundation of a totalitarian dictatorship. These facts have been publicly acknowledged by the President of the Republic in his last State of the Nation address and by all government media and strategists;

12. That especially serious is the breakdown of the Rule of Law by means of the creation and development of government-protected armed groups which, in addition to threatening citizens’ security and rights as well as domestic peace, are headed towards a confrontation with the Armed Forces. Just as serious is that the police are prevented from carrying out their most important responsibilities when dealing with criminal riots perpetrated by violent groups devoted to the government. Given the extreme gravity, one cannot be silent before the public and notorious attempts to use the Armed and Police Forces for partisan ends, destroy their institutional hierarchy, and politically infiltrate their ranks;

13. That the creation of a new ministry, with the participation of high-level officials of the Armed and Police Forces, was characterized by the President of the Republic to be "of national security" and its mandate "the establishment of political order" and "the establishment of economic order," and that such a mandate can only be conceived within the context of full restoration and validation of the legal and constitutional norms that make up the institutional framework of the Republic;

14. That the Armed and Police Forces are and must be, by their very nature, a guarantee for all Chileans and not just for one sector of the Nation or for a political coalition. Consequently, the government cannot use their backing to cover up a specific minority partisan policy. Rather their presence must be directed toward the full restoration of constitutional rule and of the rule of the laws of democratic coexistence, which is indispensable to guaranteeing Chile’s institutional stability, civil peace, security, and development;

15. Lastly, exercising the role attributed to it by Article 39 of the Constitution,

The Chamber of Deputies agrees:

First: To present the President of the Republic, Ministers of State, and members of the Armed and Police Forces with the grave breakdown of the legal and constitutional order of the Republic, the facts and circumstances of which are detailed in sections 5 to 12 above;

Second: To likewise point out that by virtue of their responsibilities, their pledge of allegiance to the Constitution and to the laws they have served, and in the case of the ministers, by virtue of the nature of the institutions of which they are high-ranking officials and of Him whose name they invoked upon taking office, it is their duty to put an immediate end to all situations herein referred to that breach the Constitution and the laws of the land with the goal of redirecting government activity toward the path of Law and ensuring the constitutional order of our Nation and the essential underpinnings of democratic coexistence among Chileans;

Third: To declare that if so done, the presence of those ministers in the government would render a valuable service to the Republic. To the contrary, they would gravely compromise the national and professional character of the Armed and Police Forces, openly infringing article 22 of the Constitution and seriously damaging the prestige of their institutions; and

Fourth: To communicate this agreement to His Excellency the President of the Republic, and to the Ministers of Economy, National Defense, Public Works and Transportation, and Land and Colonization."

Tom McKenna said...

Sounds a lot like the list of grievances in another document that led to a bloody overthrow of the duly constituted political order and years of political chaos-- the Declaration of Independence.

athanasius said...

I think people sometime confuse democracy and the preservation of rights. Democracy is useful only insofar as it preserves rights. Heck, governments in general are only useful insofar as they preserve rights. Viewed in that light, Pinochet was a huge success, and Allende was a massive failure.

Perhaps we should ask the German Jews would they have prefered a military coup by the German General Staff in 1934? Would the 20 million murdered Ukrainians and Russians have prefered a military coup against Stalin?

Again, facts tend to be sticky things. Chile is a success. Cuba is not. Venezuela is not. Bolivia is about to tumble into the abyss. If they had to make the choice now, Chileans would certainly choose Pinochet over Allende. As, hopefully, we all would.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Tom.

Gideon, you needn't worry: this is not Chile, this is America. Some of the methods Pinochet used to save Chile from falling to Communism would not and should not be countenanced... here.

The superiority complex, the raw authoritarian streak, and the moral relativism on display here is truly astounding.

And publishing this under the name "Seeking Justice." Just, wow.

David said...

Thanks for being honest and revealing your fascist tendencies so openly.

What's truly stunning to me is the way you equate "preserving rights" with the actions of a man who had thousands of people killed purely for their political beliefs. I guess their rights don't matter as they are just "necessary collateral damage" in your view.

What's even scarier is the way you say, in a comment that, "this is America and that was Chile" (as if it could never happen here) and then leave yourself an out by stating that "some" of Pinochet's methods shouldn't be used here.

Who decides which methods get used here? Let's hope to God it's not you or that lockstep applauding Catholic boy above, who undoubtedly wonders "Who would Jesus assassinate?"

The fact that you have the power of the State behind you in your role and that you openly spout beliefs as chilling as these speaks volumes about where we are as a nation today. So much for the land of the free.

When Pinochet came to power Nixon said to Kissinger (whom McCain endorsed today) "does our hand show in this?" he was undoubtedly worried about how the American people would react to their nation participating in the assassination of an elected leader. Today, however, as Chile is led by a progressive female with socialist tendencies, the Right in America claims credit for the country's success, saying, like you do, that the ends justified the means and claiming that the new President's successes are attributable to a war criminal who stepped down decades ago.

Gotta admire your cajones, though. You're not afraid to endorse war criminals and not afraid to announce that the deaths and torture of thousands is the price of "freedom."

God help us though when prosecutors feel this way, feel okay to talk openly about it, and have the power to act on their beliefs!

If what Pinochet did was no big deal, what are people like this willing to tolerate in this country? I'm not sure I want to know.

Tom McKenna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom McKenna said...

David and Gideon need to take a deep breath and maybe some valium. The fact that I admire Pinochet for deflecting the communist takeover of Chile does not mean that I believe a military dictatorship is necessary or desirable here. The name-calling, "fascist!" is simply a dodge of the issues and an attempt to smear one's opponent. I doubt the person throwing such terms around could even define what a "fascist" is, much less demonstrate that I embrace the concept.

I suppose in some alternate universe, if this country were on the brink of the abyss and about to lose every freedom we cherish because a Communist (or Jihadist, to update the example) was about to assume power with the stated goal of abolishing our republican institutions and imposing communist rule on the Cuban model, why, yes, at that point, all bets are off and they'd have to pry my gun from my cold dead fingers, etc.

I have more faith in my country than to see that as even a remotely realistic prospect. I wonder why David and Gideon worry so much that we might fight back if the left attempts to subjugate us? Sounds like a pre-emptive attempt to disarm the opponents of such a revolution: the left can rape you, but you must comply and not fight back.

As an aside, Pinochet did not execute people for their "political beliefs;" he executed people whose political beliefs were consummated by attempts to bring them to fruition, which would have made Chile a marxist satellite state. Now killing such revolutionaries, while not pleasant, is necessary and just if the alternative is the destruction of the country.

That's why we in the U.S. still have a treason statute, and why it is punishable by death. Yes, even we believe that some "political ideas" in the right circumstances could constitute such a threat to the state that the offender should be executed.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Continuing our trip down memory lane in regard to Allende's Chile.

"Thus, on May 26, 1973, in protesting at the administration’s refusal to comply with a judicial decision, the Supreme Court addressed the President in a unanimous decision: "This Supreme Court is obliged to express to Your Excellency, once again, the illicit attitude of the administrative authority in its illegal interference in judicial matters, such as putting obstacles in the way of police compliance with court orders in criminal cases; orders which, under the existing law of the country, should be carried out by the police without obstacles of any kind. All of this implies an open and willful disregard for judicial verdicts, with complete ignorance of the confusion produced in the legal order by such attitudes and omissions; as the court expressed to Your Excellency in a previous dispatch, these attitudes also imply not just a crisis in the rule of law, but also the imminent rupture of legality in the Nation."

Allende, in a public speech a few days later, responded in this way: "In a time of revolution, political power has the right to decide, at the end of the day, whether or not judicial decisions correspond with the higher goals and historical necessities of social transformation, which should take absolute precedence over any other consideration; consequently, the Executive has the right to decide whether or not to carry out the verdicts of the Judicial Branch."

David said...

Tom “admire[s]” Pinochet, thanks him publicly, stating, “that Pinochet surrendered power when he did not have to is credit to his love for country over power, and gives the lie to the slander that he was "just a dictator, "” And then he spouts this “tortured” logic:

“Pinochet did not execute people for their "political beliefs;" he executed people whose political beliefs were consummated by attempts to bring them to fruition, which would have made Chile a marxist satellite state.”

Let me get this straight:
- 3000 die, 30,000 are tortured,
-Pinochet’s own daughter, Lucia, states that the use of torture during his regime was "barbaric and without justification",
- Republican Senator Norm Coleman Senator states, just 2 years ago that his investigations revealed a “sad, sordid tale of money laundering involving Pinochet accounts at multiple financial institutions” and calls Pinochet a “well-known human rights violator and violent dictator.”

But to Tom, this supposed “seeker” of justice, alleged “confounder” of the wicked, ” and self-proclaimed Christian who walks “humbly with God” and who “love[s] mercy,” it’s “slander” to claim that such a man was “just a dictator.”

Are you for real or did I stumble on a parody site?

Assuming you’re for real, that you don’t see the inherent contradictions of claiming to be a Christian and simultaneously thanking international war criminals who utilized torture on thousands of their political opponents, what is most stunning about your response is this statement:

“That's why we in the U.S. still have a treason statute, and why it is punishable by death. Yes, even we believe that some "political ideas" in the right circumstances could constitute such a threat to the state that the offender should be executed.”

Um, I don’t know which version of the Constitution they gave you when you took your oath as prosecutor, but the Treason Clause specifically defines the term as “consist[ing] only in levying War” or in “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” This clause also states that “no Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act.”

In short, your view that “political ideas in the right circumstances” constitute treason, triggering execution, is plainly contrary to the Constitution. Ideas, by their nature, aren’t “acts,” so you might want to reconsider your definition of the term, especially since you are a prosecutor sworn to “seek justice, not merely to convict.”
In summary, your view that Pinochet is admirable is alarming.

The fact that you do so beneath a banner proclaiming “seeking justice” and claiming adherence to bible verses about “mercy” is jaw dropping.

That you claim admiration for right wing dictators who murdered thousands and then refer to people who respond to this hypocrisy by “wonder[ing] why [we] worry so much that we might fight back if the left attempts to subjugate us” and referring to our exercise of our free speech rights as “pre-emptive attempt[s] to disarm the opponents” as supposed “left wing attempts” to “subjugate” you is really mind-boggling.

I’m not sure what to make of your hints about political ideas becoming treason and triggering execution in the middle of an online discussion about politics. (You’re a lot closer to him than I am, but I’m pretty sure the Prez didn’t suspend the First Amendment when he went around the Fourth)

I’m not sure what you had in mind when you described treason in such broad terms, (especially when you reminding me, immediately afterwards, that execution was an available punishment?) but bringing this up doesn’t do much for your assertion that I “cannot demonstrate that [you] embrace the concept” of fascism.

Actually, I don’t even need to demonstrate this: you do the job yourself when you “thank” and “admire” dictators who torture and then accuse people who call you on this as trying to “subjugate” or “rape” you. I like Gideon’s word: “Wow.”

Speaking of fascism, you really make Sinclair Lewis’ point that "when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." I’ll leave it to any readers to decide if you “demonstrate that [you] embrace the concept” of fascism. I think the evidence is pretty clear, whether the accused believes it or not.

Or is this one of those “political ideas” that makes me a “revolutionary[y]” the killing of which, “while not pleasant,” is “necessary and just if the alternative is the destruction of the country.” That’s a pretty bold, and vague, assertion for an American prosecutor to be making after claiming admiration for an international war criminal, don’t you think?

I will say that I like the fact that you, at least in name, attempt to “confound the wicked.” In claiming admiration for Pinochet, however, you comfort them! People who point out this hypocrisy out aren’t “preemptively” trying to “disarm” you against a supposed “revolution.” We’re Americans, exercising our free speech rights, pointing out that you sound like paranoid fascists when you admire admitted torturers while spouting bible verses.

Do you really not see the hypocrisy in this? You’re the expert, so can you tell me what Jesus’ position is on murder/torture? Think Jesus is “admiring” Pinochet right now or do the torturers of thousands get sent to a different place?

Donald R. McClarey said...

More on Allende's Chile from Time in an article dated August 20, 1973.

"Chile, unstable for months, is now threatened by civil war. Marxist President Salvador Allende Gossens has been so shaken by a wave of strikes that last week he reorganized his entire Cabinet and installed a new one containing the chiefs of the army, navy, air force and the paramilitary carabineros. The immediate crisis was sparked by a nationwide truck owners' strike that began on July 26 and has partially isolated Santiago's 3,000,000 residents. Terrorist bands have blown up gasoline pipe lines and dynamited highways. Armed troops now guard gas stations, while Santiagoans in queues several blocks long wait for dwindling supplies of everything from matches to meat. Militant workers have taken over 30 factories in Santiago's "industrial belt," which produces most of Chile's goods. TIME Contributing Editor James Randall recently toured Santiago and visited one of the captive factories with Reporter Paul Potter. Randall's report:

Huge hand-painted signs on plants lining the highway that winds out of Santiago parallel to the Andes foothills proclaim the new order: workers, not management, will run Chile's industry. The takeovers were initiated by Allende during last June's abortive coup (TIME, July 7). At the time, Allende saw such actions as the first step in mobilizing the workers to save his government against the possibility that the army would prove disloyal. It did not. But now, to Allende's consternation, the workers refuse to give up the occupied factories. Their refusal has dealt a staggering blow to Chile's already battered economy.

We decided to visit the Lucchetti plant, a worker-expropriated factory that produces half of Chile's noodles. At the gate we were stopped by a burly "people's guard," who watched us closely as a companion vanished into a nearby building. A few minutes later, a stocky man with a rumpled sports coat met us, and after listening to our request, ushered us into a small, spartan office. "We have taken over the factory," said Union Spokesman Guillermo Bonilla, "because the bosses never gave workers human respect or consulted with them about changes in their jobs. They were bastards."

Now that the bosses are out, said Bonilla, the workers will run the factory themselves and do a better job of it. "Malcontents will be weeded out faster, and production will increase [actually, it has dropped slightly since the takeover]. We will do away with inflation by working harder, taking better care of machinery and by not asking for excessive pay raises."

Given Chile's hopelessly snarled economic problems, Bonilla's solution sounded a bit too simple. The fact is that Chilean workers who now earn around $30 a month, will need substantial pay boosts in order to offset inflation, which, at 300% a year, is the highest rate in the world. If they are granted such huge wage increases, the inflationary trend will continue soaring, wiping out their gains. They are ensnared in an economic Catch-22.

Bonilla vowed that the Lucchetti workers would continue occupying the factory until the government did something to improve their lot. Just what the government could do, he did not detail. But he warned that if any attempt is made to evict the workers forcibly, they will fight back. "And if this means civil war, then so be it!"

The last sentence was quite prophetic wasn't it?