Feb 07

2023 was the 50th anniversary of the military coup in Chile led by General Pinochet against the democratically elected government presided over by Salvador Allende, which had an enormous negative impact on the health and well-being of the majority of the Chilean population.  The objective of that coup was to replace the Chilean National Health Services and the reforms of that government to expand universal access to healthcare to the whole population (benefiting primarily the majority of the population. i.e., the popular classes) with a private for-profit and market-oriented system as existed in the United States whose government, led by President Nixon, supported the coup, because they were afraid that the Allende reforms could spread to other Latin American countries.  The consequences of that event were extremely negative not only for the Chilean population but also for many other countries in the Americas, including the United States.

The anniversary of those events passed without notice in the U.S. Not so in many other countries. One of the largest medical journals on both sides of the North Atlantic, the Lancet, based in Great Britain, invited me, who had the privilege at the time of those events of advising President Allende and had written extensively about the health policies carried out by his government, to write a brief paper on the major issues that should be remembered from that event. One thing that needs to be clarified is that the major forces behind the coup were the Chilean national and international corporate business interests and the privileged classes that opposed the redistributive policies of the Allende government in favor of the interests of the popular classes.  Another important clarification is that it was not the United States but rather the U.S. government, specifically the Nixon administration, who actively supported that military coup. The United States was not then and is not now, a country of 300 million imperialists. The majority of the popular classes in the United States were very displeased with the model that Pinochet and Nixon wanted to apply in Chile.  They have firsthand experience with the polls showing a high percentage of people dissatisfied with private, for-profit, market-oriented health services. And there was considerable sympathy among US public health experts towards many of the health reforms Allende implemented, including the public health measures that had been subject to special repression by the dictatorship.  The American Public Health Association denounced the brutal repression that the public health community was subject to by the dictatorship with some impact on obtaining the release of well-known Chilean public health professionals detained in concentration camps and prisons. All these things have been forgotten in the major media in the U.S., including the medical media.

You can follow this  link to the article in the Lancet in case you are interested.

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