News Release

Pinochet Arrest Raises New Questions in Washington


WASHINGTON — The arrest of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet has focused new attention on the record of his regime, which remained in power for 17 years after the 1973 coup that toppled Chile’s democratically elected government. Some pointed questions are being raised about the Washington-based Cato Institute’s current embrace of Jose Pinera, who was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980 and is now co-chair of the prominent 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 suffering one of its worst periods of repression,” said Larry Birns, a former senior public affairs officer for the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America in Santiago, Chile. Birns recalled that “workers were seeing the dismantling of their rights.”

Birns added: “Pinera was a vital cog in the Pinochet dictatorship’s ability to implement a draconian labor code. It is simply outrageous 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.”

The London Sunday Times yesterday cited documentation that 3,197 people “were murdered for political reasons” by Pinochet’s regime “and more than 1,000 are still unaccounted for. Tens of thousands were imprisoned or exiled, but often Pinochet’s assassins would follow them.”

For further background on Pinera and his role in the Pinochet dictatorship, please contact:

Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs based in Washington, D.C.
More Information

Co-Chair of the Project on Social Security Privatization, the Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.

For perspectives on Pinochet’s regime and human rights in Chile, please contact:

A longtime researcher on politics and human rights in Chile, where she lived from 1989 to 1995.

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

A Chilean living in the U.S. who worked for the Organization of American States for 18 years.

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167