It was nearly 50 years ago on September 11, 1973 that America’s man in Chile Augusto Pincochet overthrew the democratically elected Socialist Salvador Allende (pictured above voting) ushering in a 17 year regime of oppression and terror.
Next month the Chilean people will select a new President to serve a four year term. One of the candidates José Antonio Kast, an admirer of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and especially of Pinochet— could be elected.
It is a disconcerting prospect for all who remember the promise of the Allende presidency and the terror which followed his overthrow and death.
Excerpted from The Nation – Ariel Dorfman 11.22.2021
It is hard to believe that half a century has passed since Para Leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck), a book I wrote with the Belgian sociologist, Armand Mattelart, was published in Chile in November 1971.
We never anticipated that our essay would become an international best seller, translated into dozens of languages. It had been born, quite modestly, as a way of participating in the unique Chilean experiment of building socialism, for the first time in history, through electoral and nonviolent methods, without eliminating our adversaries. This meant that the government of Salvador Allende, which had captured the presidency in September 1970, would have to win the battle for public opinion in a situation of considerable inequality, since most of the media was in the hands of the enemies of the revolution.
The tract—conceived in 10 feverish days—caused furor and fury when it appeared. A second massive printing was soon published the next year, and a third one was ready to go on sale when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in September 1973, and all those copies were cast into the bay of Valparaíso. First water, then fire. Forty years after the Nazis had incinerated so many “degenerate” volumes, it was Chile’s turn. Days after the coup, in a safe house where I was hiding, I saw, on television, no less, a group of soldiers throwing hundreds of subversive texts into a bonfire. Among them was Para Leer al Pato Donald.
Exactly 50 years after of our book appeared, the first round of the presidential elections has just been held.
Of the seven contenders who were in the race, the one who garnered the most votes ( 27.89 percent) is José Antonio Kast, an admirer of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and especially of Pinochet—an ultra-conservative who personifies the traditional ideas about work, family, sex, competition and fear of change which we criticized in our book. I don’t know if Kast, who was seven years old during the 1973 coup, saw the burning of our helpless duck on television. It is probable that his father, a Nazi officer who sought refuge in Chile after the fall of the Third Reich, celebrated those inquisitorial pyres that reminded him of Hitler’s good times.
On the other hand Gabriel Boric, the second candidate in the runoff, with 25.83 percent of the vote, represents a Chile that seeks to free itself from the past and create a different future of justice for all, embodying the vast contingents of protestors who— brazenly indeed—took to the streets of Chile over the last two years with such ardor and audaciousness that they imposed the need to write a new, fully democratic Constitution.
There is a chance, of course, that the cryptofascist Kast will manage to sow so much fear that he will become President. But Boric has a better chance, I think, to appeal to a wider coalition of dignity and courage, and lead the country to a rebirth on December 19th. If that is the case, I can only hope that How to Read Donald Duck—drowned and burned, seized and left for dead a thousand times—will itself be reborn as well in the streets of the prophetic cities of the Chile where it first saw the light five decades ago.