Plight of the Chilean Poor

There is an often spoken adage about capitalism that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. With the return of capitalism to Chile, this adage is being reconfirmed.

One of the first economic measures instituted by the junta was an extraordinary increase in prices (for example, 250 per cent for bread, 600 per cent for cooking oil, 500 per cent for sugar and 800 per cent for chicken). In defense of this policy junta leader General Augusto Pinochet Ugarate has said: “There are many who think that we should have carried out the (price) increases by stages so that it would have been less painful. But that reminds me of the case of the generous man who had to cut off his dog’s tail, and in order not to make it suffer so much he cut off a piece every day.”

Although these measures will cause all Chileans some degree of discomfort, none will suffer more than the Chilean poor. As Jonathan Kandell, New York Times Santiago correspondent recently stated: “Austerity, largely at the expense of President Allende’s most fervent supporters, the poor, has been the watchword of Chile’s new military Government . . . With the recent hefty price rises the specter of hunger has become very real for many residents of the urban slums or poblaciones.”

Correspondence the Post American has received from some Chilean Christians supports this analysis: “Who will pay the price of these increases in prices? The poor, the factory workers, lower middle class and even the small industrialists will pay. In short, those persons who do not have access to dollars will pay the price. The rich will never have to send their servants to stand in line again.”

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