21 October 2016 - 08:00 AM
5 Things Chileans Inherited from Pinochet's Dictatorship
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Besides the atrocities committed by Augusto Pinochet's regime—which claimed the lives of an estimated 3,200 people and led to the torture of 38,000—Chile's constitution and much of its policy framework still date to the military dictatorship. teleSUR examined some of these practices.

Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist from Sept. 11, 1973 until March 11, 1990.

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1. The First Private System of Pensions in Latin America

Launched in 1981 by Pinochet's "Chicago Boys"—a generation of economists who studied neoliberal economy in Chicago—Chile's pension fund administrators has been held up by pro-market politicians and pundits worldwide as a model of how to privatize a national pension system.

Critics say the Pinochet-era system has left the 10 million Chileans enrolled in it with extremely low retirement benefits—far short of the Pinochet regime's original promise of 70 percent of workers' last paychecks.

The average pension currently pays around US$400 a month, less than the minimum wage. The private administrators manage about US$170 billion. Any losses on investment are borne by the contributors.

Only three companies currently dominate Chile's market for retirement plans, providing coverage to 80 percent of workers with pensions.

The pension funds, which are invested in the market and vary according to conditions, have suffered a blow with the recent slowdown in the Chilean economy.

2. One of the Most Restrictive Abortion Bans in the World

In 1989, a few months before the end of the dictatorship, Pinochet imposed a full ban on abortion, including therapeutic abortion—when the mother's life is in danger, or when the fetus risks deformity—ending more than 60 years of the legal practice.

In Chile, a woman who chooses to abort—even if her own life is in danger, if her pregnancy is the result of a rape or if the fetus is considered non-viable—still risks up to five years in prison.

Only five other countries have the same ban: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, the Dominican Republic and Vatican City. An estimated 120,000 women have illegal abortions in Chile each year.

3. An Unequal and Expensive Higher Education System

Chile's current education system was entirely reorganized and privatized under the military dictatorship of Pinochet, making higher education increasingly expensive and unequal. In the 1990s the government struggled to cater to growing numbers of university students, which led to a student debt crisis, with students demanding increased government funding and more access to free university.

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Massive student protests erupted in 2011, eventually pushing President Michelle Bachelet to sign off on a plan for free university education in 2015. But the Federation of University Students of Chile says only 14 percent of tuition costs are covered.

4. A Huge Military Budget

According to Pinochet’s controversial constitution of 1980, still in effect, the armed forces receive 10 percent of the nation’s annual copper exports. The state-run Codelco is the biggest copper company in the world.

Pinochet believed the Chilean armed forces needed to be a pillar of what he termed “protected democracy,” so the governments that followed the dictatorship were forced to maintain and adjust the military budget in line with inflation.

The government of Bachelet vowed to modify the constitutional rule, after an embezzlement scandal broke in August 2015 involving high-profile military officers during the presidency of Sebastian Pinera and continued throughout her first term.

5. The Country's Constitution

The current constitution in Chile has been in place since 1981, pushed through by Pinochet and his allies.

The constitutional reform, set to put anti-corruption methods in place, was one of Bachelet's key pledges during her last presidential campaign.

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