Wednesday, September 09, 2009

One More Pinochet-Era Legacy, Gone

In some minor-yet-interesting news this week, Chilean president Michele Bachelet is seeking to repeal a copper-mining law. The move is gaining major support from private multinational copper companies, and is a major shift in how Chile has regulated its copper production for over 30 years. But it has nothing to do with privatizing Chile's state-owned copper producer, Codelco; nor does it have anything to do with an opening of the markets; nor is it establishing more liberal controls on production mechanisms.

Bachelet hopes to repeal the law that gives 10% of all of Codelco's profits to the Chilean armed forces.

First established under Pinochet, the law has allowed Chile's army to remain relatively militarized and advanced technologically when compared to some of its South American neighbors. Additionally, there was much fear and criticism that the profits from Codelco in the 1970s and 1980s were either going to fund torture and repression, and/or paying the salaries of torturers and high-ranking officials in the Pinochet regime. After Pinochet's fall in 1990, the law remained on the books, as the military was reluctant to part with its cash cow and as Pinochet remained a "senator-for-life" with enough support to prevent any serious repeal.

Fortunately, Pinochet is dead now, and the military has changed its stance in his absence, and is on board with the repeal. Should the repeal go through (and it appears it will), it will be one more minor-yet-refreshing way in which Chile is shaking off the legacy of the Pinochet years.

[And I submit "copper" as another of the "we didn't already have a tag for that?" Come on, Erik - where's the environmental blogging on copper production been?]