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Asymptote – n., a line or curve that constantly approaches nil without ever reaching it.

Si la presidenta no te cuenta la pulenta, lo hago yo
Chile está en venta desde que la Concerta ganó el NO
Aylwin, Lagos y también Frei dieron paso a Bachelet
Donde el mercado se hace rey y el subcontrato se hace ley

Mi canto no es de mala fe, tengo evidencia suficiente
Pa’ condenar a muerte a veinte dirigentes malolientes
Solamente basta con mirar las calles desde el Transantiago
4 millones de detalles cotidianos

Me confirman que la ciudadanía está pintada
Elección tras elección, la votación no cambia nada

If President Bachelet won’t tell you  what’s up, I’ll have a go:
Chile’s been for sale ever since the Concertación won one for NO.
Aylwin, Lagos, and then Frei made way for Bachelet,
where the market is king and outsourcing’s the big thing.
I’m not singing in bad faith. I’ve got sufficient evidence
to condemn to death twenty foul-smelling leaders.
All you need to do is look through the windows of Santiago’s buses,
4 million pieces of evidence every day,
confirming that the people are are the ones taking the hits,
we’ve had vote after vote, and the elections don’t change shit.

Infórmate, Subverso

"Fewer Political Prisoners - More Politicians in Prison"

“Fewer Political Prisoners – More Politicians in Prison”

The Chile that was now racing past my window on the bus was not the same country it had been just two years prior (and if we go back a bit further, say, 120 years, I would not even have left Perú yet, but that is another story). For the past year, the country had been undergoing a long-overdue thaw after roughly two decades of hibernation. To understand the Chile I was now in, we must go back about thirty years.

The 1980s were a time of escalating mass-upheaval in Chile. The economic “reforms” implemented by the Pinochet dictatorship under the tutelage of a handful of Milton Friedman disciples from the University of Chicago known as the “Chicago Boys” – for which the dictatorship was and is roundly praised by the business press – had brought the country to the brink of collapse. The privatised pension funds went bankrupt (by sheer coincidence, the pension funds for the armed forces and national military police, who ran the country, had remained public, and thus, intact), the deregulated and privatised banks had fallen apart (bringing a cool billion to Sebastán Piñera Echenique, then under investigation for bank fraud and now president of Chile). Protectionist policies were abolished, and Chile’s fragile domestic industries either folded due to unrestricted competition with their heavily subsidised foreign (read: US and European) counterparts, or were taken over by them. Wages went into freefall, and unemployment skyrocketed. Meanwhile, the faux plebiscite by which the 1980 constitution (which remains in force to this day) was imposed, had provided the spark that ignited a more assertive movement in opposition to the Pinochet’s reign of terror.

Pinochet’s military junta had been able to keep the majority of the population in on the defensive since taking over the country in

"The Resistance to Pinochet's System is Rising Up: The Struggle for the People's Rights Continues"

“The Resistance to Pinochet’s System is Rising Up: The Struggle for the People’s Rights Continues”

1973 with a combination of extrajudicial executions (though Attorney General Holder informs me that these are in fact perfectly legitimate “targeted killings”), hellish torture (sorry, “harsh interrogation tactics” is what the New York Times would like me to call it), and “disappearances” (a practise recently codified in the US when Obama signed the NDAA), all in the name of national security and “protecting freedom” against “terrorists” and “extremists”. Any segment of the population deemed a threat to Pinochet’s rule – principally poor people and anyone who worked with them to improve their lives – systematically decimated in a vicious campaign of state terror (sorry, “counterinsurgency”). It was, as you can see, not exactly a propitious climate for independent political organisation.

By the 1980s, however, people were increasingly fed up. Over that decade, large segments of the population defied Pinochet’s goons to organise 22 national days of protest, as well as countless less visible forms of protest and resistance throughout the country. At one point, Pinochet was almost “targetedly killed” himself. The poblaciones (slums) of Santiago, full of people with generations of experience with brutal repression, became foci of militant resistance.

Even a number of prominent supporters of the coup and the régime that rode in on it jumped ship and joined the opposition for various reasons. Some, such as ex-president Eduardo Frei Montalva, whose speech against the 1980 constitution was one of the first public acts of protest, did so on principled grounds. Many coup supporters had assumed that this coup would be more or less like the other (rare) military coups in the country’s history, in which the military more or less immediately handed power over to the Congress and held new elections, only to be sorely disappointed when the junta shut down the Congress, effectively banned all political parties, dotted the land with concentration camps, and started making people “disappear”. This camp also included Tucapel Jiménez, the popular leader of ANEF, the public sector workers’ union, who had trusted the coup plotters when they promised a better deal for his membership, only to find public sector employees subjected to a massive attack by the dictatorship’s economic policies.

Both Frei and Jiménez met bad ends during the 1980s. Frei went to hospital for routine surgery before a planned trip to Europe, and died in a freak “therapeutic misadventure” later to discovered to have been something to do with weaponised botulism being injected into his body.

"Mapuche in Prison for Defending their Ancestral Lands"

“Mapuche in Prison for Defending their Ancestral Lands”

Jiménez, who had been forced out of his position as head of ANEF due to his opposition to the dictatorship and declined a substantial “severance” payment offered to him on the condition that he shill for the dictatorship’s private pension scheme (“I’m not going to deceive the workers.”), was murdered whilst driving the taxi with which he was left to try to make a living. The murder was staged by the CNI (secret police) to look like a robbery. The CNI actually went to the length of finding an alcoholic, unemployed construction worker by the name of Juan Alegría, filling him up with wine, and forcing him to write a suicide note confessing to the murder of Tucapel Jiménez. The whole thing probably would never have been uncovered had Alegría’s mother not remembered that he had repeatedly told her about people following him, and noticed that the wine bottle found with his body was white wine (Alegría only ever drank red wine).

Others, such as Patricio Aylwin, had no real quarrel with the coup or the policies of the dictatorship, and simply felt that Pinochet had outlived his usefulness. He had done everything they wanted him to do, and now stood in the way of new faces (i.e., themselves) moving in to manage the house that Pinochet built.Aylwin went on to become Chile’s first post-dictatorship president, and just recently, in early June 2012, gave an interview praising the Pinochet régime.

Eventually, the disaffected coup supporters joined forces with the members of the political class who had opposed the coup and the régime all along, the Socialist Party (founded by Allende), the Communist Party, the Radical Social-Democratic Party, and the newly formed PPD (Party for Democracy), to form the Concertación de partidos por el NO (Coalition of Parties for the NO Vote), which campaigned against keeping Pinochet in office during the 1988 plebiscite.

The NO vote ultimately won, but it was in many respects a Pyrrhic victory for average people. The Concertación agreed to what

"The People, United, Are Being Fucked by the Parties"

“The People, United, Are Being Fucked by the Parties”

eminent Chilean historian Gabriel Salazar describes as an “institutional transition”, which left the fundamental structures of the dictatorship intact. This meant that the 1980 constitution imposed by the dictatorship, which carved into stone the far-right social and economic policies of the régime, remained in force. The Senate was packed with “designated” senators, hand-picked by the executive branch, as well as “senators-for-life” (including Pinochet himself). A certain number of seats were set aside for unelected military officers, the backbone of the dictatorship. The national police force, Carabineros de Chile, itself part of Pinochet’s junta, had substantial autonomy from the courts and the elected government. The “binominal” electoral system crafted by the dictatorship made it next to impossible for any party to gain a majority in the Congress, whilst ensuring that the phenomenally unpopular right-wing parties would always have enough seats to control the legislative agenda no matter how the people voted.

Meanwhile, the years of dictatorship had caused the Socialist and Christian-Democratic Parties, once mass parties with a significant working-class base, to become élite organisations, alienated from the grass roots. Sharing power under the banner of the Concertación, they governed Chile for twenty years, from 1990 to 2010, and not only never once deviated from the dictatorship’s economic policies (which left working people utterly at the mercy of multinational corporations, with no meaningful social safety net) – they actually intensified these policies, handing control of crucial infrastructure – roads, public utilities, even the water – over to foreign corporations. For all their condemnations of Pinochet’s brutal repression, they proved quite enthusiastic users of the very institutional infrastructure of repression they had once (verbally) opposed. Protests by workers, students, and the indigenous Mapuche people were brutally repressed (the latter have seen quite a few activists killed by police with no credible pretext), and their organisations systematically crushed by the police and intelligence services. All this led, predictably, to that special blend of generalised discontentment and a sense of helplessness to do anything about it that his commonly known as “democracy”. People were so focussed on surviving in a hostile environment that they left politics to the small élite that owns the place.

The overall mood was nicely summed up by an acquaintance of mine on the twentieth anniversary of the “return to democracy”:

They say the NO vote won, but we have the YES constitution, the YES electoral system, the YES Labour Code, and the YES ban on therapeutic abortion. What the hell did we win?

"The Dictatorship Never Ended"

“The Dictatorship Never Ended”

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Se necesitan $2000 – $2500 a la brevedad possible para poder salvar el proyecto

Los donativos se pueden enviar por PayPal a elise.hendrick@gmail.com

Algunos habrán oído de mi proyecto actual y primer libro, Reunión – crónica de viaje. Para los que oyen de ello por primera vez (la gran mayoría), el proyecto se resume a continuación:

Reunión – Crónica de viaje es una crónica tanto instrospectiva como graciosa de un recorrido por Alemania, Austría, Polonia, la República Checa, Italia, España y Francia que durará aproximadamente un mes, y que se iniciará en el otoño del 2010.

Reunión se va a tratar tanto de los espacios intermedios – las estaciones z los trenos  – como de las ciudades que se van a visitar. Es que muz a menudo suceden las cosas más interesantes – una parade alucinante, un encuentro casual, un momento de una absurdidad sublime – en el camino y no el destino. En la crónica también se les echará un vistazo a los activistas, amigos viejos y nuevos, y conversaciones y entrevistas espontáneas que se producen mientras recorro el continente. Unas partes del prólogo se pueden leer navegando a https://reuniontravelogue.wordpress.com.

Según lo tenía planificado, el proyecto se iba a financiar en parte mediante los ingresos percibidos por mi actividad de traducción multilingüe, y en parte mediante los donativos recibidos por l@s amig@s de las buenas lecturas y l@s lector@s de mi blog Meldungen aus dem Exil (http://meldungen-aus-dem-exil.noblogs.org). De acuerdo al plan, la fecha de partida era el día 1 de octubre de 2010.

Cabe puntualizar que existen buenos motives para tener palabras distintas para lo planificado y lo efectivo. En un momento crítico para el financiamiento del proyecto llegaron dos meses en que no recibí más que unas traducciones pequeñas, y tampoco había muchos donativos (lo que es muy entendible – en estos tiempos el fomento de jovenes satiristas no constituirá una prioridad presupuestaria para la mayor parte de la gente). La idea era de juntar por lo menos US$2500, preferiblemente entre US$3000 y US$5000, para cubrir los diversos gastos de viaje (vuelos, Eurail Pass, etc.).

Al fin de cuentas recibí aproximadamente US$150 por el camino de los donativos.

Quisiera agradecerles a todos los que ya donaron. Desgraciadamente debido a la economía que tenemos, necesito $2000 – $2500 más, para poder lanzar el proyecto. Sé que eso es mucho, sobre todo al pensar que se trata de US$2000 más de lo que reciben los compañeros del metal rojo por sus 70 días de calvario, y por supuesto lo entiendo. Por otro lado, si 45 personas donan US$44 cada una (o 90 personas donan unos US$22 cada una), ya habré juntado la cantidad mínima. Y si se encuentran tant@s lector@s generos@s hasta el fin del 14 de octubre, podré empezar a viajar – cosa esencial para el proyecto, dado que se trata de una crónica de viaje – ya el 15 de octubre.

 

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En diciembre de 1996 me encontré en la sala principal de la Hauptbahnhof (estación central) de Munich. Apenas había regresado del poblachón de Fieberbrunn, en el centro de la porción austríaca de los Alpes, donde había pasado la Navidad con unos amigos.

Fue una visita bastante informativa. Además de participar en un buen curso práctico en materia de parrandas, aprendí que aún había gente que decoraba sus árboles de Navidad con velas de verdad, y – como me lo recordaba sin cesar el dolor de mi pierna izquierda – que el significado de “trineo” varía según quien lo dice.

Este descubrimiento concreto lo hice un día en las primeras horas de la tarde, cuando mi amigo Paul en cuya casa pasaba la Navidad, anunció que la nieve era tan bonita que deberíamos aprovechar la oportunidad para “ir en trineo”.

Como la mayor parte de la gente del Medio Oeste de los EE.UU., “ir en trineo” para mí significaba subir un cerro levemente inclinado y bajar a toda velocidad en un artilugio que por su aspecto, parecía ser propulsado a chorro, o por lo menos tener un asiento proyectable.  Con esta imagen en la mente salí con Paul, mi otro amigo Rudi y uno de los amigos de los dos. Llevaba puesta ropa para la nieve que me había prestado Paul, que constaba de algo que parecía un traje de nieve descomunal de color naranja carcelero y un par de botas que su hermano guardaba de su año en el Ejército. Resulta que su hermano tenía pies pero que muy pequeños.

Así que paseamos por el pueblo rumbo a las montañas. En retrospectiva puede decirse que éste es el momento en que debía habérseme occurrido que Paul y los otros tenían una idea bien diferente de lo que es “ir en trineo”. Pero me fijaba demasiado en el dolor de mis pies comprimidos como para pensar mucho en eso.

El cerro que escogimos no era cerro, sino montaña, ni era “levemente”, sino más bien brutalmente inclinado. Subíamos trabajosamente durante por lo menos una hora; yo tuve que descansarme unas cinco veces para evitar un colapso cardíaco, cosa que a mis compañeros les dio harta risa.

Ya estaba agobiada cuando llegamos a una altitud que estimaron satisfactoria. Sólo ahora se me ocurrieron varios detalles bastante importantes: Primero, que estábamos tan arriba, y el sendero tan serpenteante que no alcanzaba a ver nuestro punto de partida. Segundo, que el sendero sólo medía un metro y medio de ancho. Tercero, que los trineos tenían el aspecto más bien de algo que se vería en un cuadro folklórico que algo que utilizaría una persona que aún guardaba un poco de cordura residual.  Finalmente me di cuenta de que el sendero tenía por un lado un muro de piedra empinado y por otro, una caída de unos diez metros.

– ¡Echámonos una carrera!, propuso Rudi, dándole un buen pulido a la experiencia.

–¡Dos en cada trineo!

Esta idea le pareció estupenda a todo el mundo.

Paul y su amigo se montaron en uno de los trineos, mientras yo me encontraba agarrada al otro, que compartía con Rudi, con toda la fuerza que me quedaba. Al partir, Rudi decidió pronunciar la frase menos tranquilizadora de toda la histora humana:

–No te preocupís, tenme confianza nomás.

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