Echoes of Pinochet: New anti-communist witch-hunt sweeps Chile
A man wearing a Communist Party flag attends a march organized by the Unitary Confederation of Workers (CUT), in Santiago, Chile. A new witch-hunt is sweeping Chile after the right wing baselessly accused the Communist Party of murdering an exiled Venezuelan military officer. | Esteban Felix / AP

In recent weeks, Chile has seen a worrying increase of virulent media attacks on the integrity of the Communist Party, which prompted President Gabriel Boric to publicly defend it. The situation was addressed on Monday by an editorial in El Siglo (The Century), newspaper of the Communist Party of Chile.

One would naturally expect confrontation and debate with the left, and the Communist Party in particular, from sectors politically opposed to its policies and world outlook.

It is, however, unacceptable when it takes the form of lies, distortion, character assassination, and plain hatred, all of which will harm any healthy and serious development of democracy.

Our country has barely begun to recover from not-so-distant dramatic Pinochet-era episodes originating from ideas such as “eradicating the Marxist cancer” and a paranoid and aggressive anti-communism, which led to 20 Communist leaders and militants being murdered and disappeared in just two months of 1983 and, a couple of years later, to three communists having their throats slit.

It should not be forgotten that the right-wing and conservative sectors instigated the illegalization of the Communist Party of Chile (CP) and persecution of its militants, which led to hundreds of them being assassinated and/or disappeared, and thousands being tortured, imprisoned, or forced into exile.

Many spokespeople of today’s right wing in Chile supported, at the time of the Pinochet dictatorship, these brutal actions of oppression.

In recent days, coordinated media statements by representatives of Chile Vamos, the Republican Party, and ultra-conservative thinkers in the country and abroad, supported by articles and editorials in the media, appeared aimed explicitly at discrediting the Communist Party.

It has been insinuated—citing some fabricated “political motivation”—that the communists might have links to some hypothetical plot to abduct and assassinate a former Venezuelan military officer who has been granted asylum in Chile (in 2017) and was kidnapped last Wednesday.

A demand was made that communists in public sector jobs should resign because of the right’s “mistrust.” There was talk of the party allegedly “propagating violence” and an inference that it “is a danger to Chile.” Furthermore, it was suggested that the spread of anti-communism in Chilean society was to be welcomed as a “good thing.”

The Communist Party stands accused of promoting violence and not supporting the repressive legislative measures advocated by the right-wing parliamentary opposition. Finally, the party is condemned for promoting such anti-democratic measures as social mobilizations.

The media (predominantly right-wing) roped in all manner of foreign commentators lacking any credibility to construct hypotheses about events occurring in the country. As a consequence, these individuals allowed themselves to doubt the integrity of Chilean police and judicial investigations, voicing demands that would alter normal and legal procedures in the face of serious criminal acts.

The whole exercise was aimed at the well-tested idea that “a headline generates a perception,” that “a speculation generates opinion,” that a repeated lie becomes the truth—a method used extensively and with much success by Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Police and forensic investigators work in the area where the body of former Venezuelan military officer Roland Ojeda was found in Santiago, Chile. Right-wing media has spuriously blamed communists for the killing.

The main actors participating in and instigating these events belong to organizations that unconditionally supported the Pinochet dictatorship and have since remained silent about its abuses: the execution and disappearance of more than 4,000 of their compatriots or indeed the fate of over 20,000 children kidnapped and given out in illegal adoptions.

More to the point is perhaps the fact that the Communist Party—according to data from the Electoral Service—has the largest number of members of any political party in the country (46,023), who tirelessly work to promote and popularize countless laws directly benefiting workers, women, pensioners, young people, fisherfolk, indigenous people, sportsmen and women, as well as responding to other demands and registering their feedback.

We denounce the violation of human rights during the citizen revolt of 2019, insist on the continued search for the thousands who disappeared, seek an investigation into the cases of 20,000 children kidnapped and illegally adopted, and we refuse to allow social protest to be criminalized. We are a danger, indeed—to all who act against the best interest of the majority of Chileans.

All of this will cause anger on the right, where such causes are repudiated. However, this should not lead to intemperate behavior and irresponsible attitudes aimed at generating hatred towards political opponents who act in accordance with the laws of the country.

Moreover, the communists, like any other national political force, have the right to define their international policy, and it is utterly absurd to equate such autonomy with links to governments of other countries. To insinuate nefarious intentions is simply a fabricated deception.

We’ll do well, however, to remind ourselves, of the well-documented episode in which high-ranking members of Renovación Nacional [a conservative party affiliated to the right-wing Vamos Chile] received requests from Colombia’s intelligence and army to prosecute, imprison, and even extradite Chileans. This and many more such cases the right would prefer to be forgotten.

The situation met with an immediate response from President Gabriel Boric, who publicly reaffirmed his total faith in the integrity of the Communist Party and pointed out that we are dealing with “visceral anti-communism.”

It is worth remembering that the communists, unlike the right-wing parties and their representatives, have never supported a coup d’etat, never defended policies of state terrorism nor violated democratic frameworks.

It must be reiterated that the armed actions of the Communist Party [Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodriguez] during the dictatorship were against repressive bodies and the military regime and took place within the framework of the right to rebel against tyranny and citizen resistance against fascism enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

The issue is that when the accepted framework for the discussion of ideas, of genuine confrontation of positions, of maintaining the intellectual quality of the polemic, is broken with lies and distortion, it generates hatred and violence.

When it is falsely claimed that a section of the population [the communists] represent a danger to the country, it can lead to despicable and tragic consequences for those who propagate legitimate ideas with honesty and commitment—the repercussions of such narratives also represent a danger to the country as a whole.

It is those guided by hatred, obscurantism, mediocrity, and irrationality that represent a real danger to Chile’s democratic processes.

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El Siglo
El Siglo

El Siglo (The Century) is the newspaper of the Communist Party of Chile. El Siglo es el periódico del Partido Comunista de Chile.