Breadlines in boomtowns: the American plantations
Expanded from the
7-19-1998 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 12-12-2006

Everybody knows the dice are loaded.

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.

Everybody knows the war is over.

Everybody knows the good guys lost.

Everybody knows the fight was fixed.

The poor get poor. The rich get rich.

That's how it goes. Everybody knows.

Leonard Cohen

This month, for the first time in recent memory, the Salvation Army in Las Vegas ran out of food. "And the welfare department is taking people off the roles as fast as they can, kicking people off food stamps," spokesman Sumner Dodge told the Las Vegas Sun.

"Charities just can't keep up with it," he added.

Last December, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that the working poor now outnumber the homeless in Nevada food lines. On July 20, 1997, the Reno paper also reported that more than $2.1 million of federal money earmarked to help young mothers feed their small children was returned unspent to the federal government.

The Sparks-Reno answer seems right out of Charles Dickens: debtor's prison. Crusading civil rights lawyer Terri Keyser-Cooper has sued Washoe County Sheriff Dick Kirkland for instituting a debtor's prison in our town.

"This is the clearest case I've ever filed in my life," Keyser-Cooper said. Kirkland orders fines converted to jail time for prisoners who cannot pay.

The practice was prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. Our supremes followed suit 12 years later, prompt by Nevada standards.

The Lord High Sheriff has good reason to extend the sentences: slave labor is very cost efficient. Keyser-Cooper has also sued Kirkland over his use of inmate workers. She's filed for summary judgment on the sheriff's liability because it is such a clear violation of the constitution.

As long as misleading news stories emanate from Nevada PR departments, many coming here to seek a better life will never know of the dangers.

Which brings me to a similar boomtown, the nation Bill Clinton considers worthy of the first expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Chilé was once home to the hemisphere's second-oldest representative democracy. It lasted until Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger toppled it. Richard the Rotten was pissed off that an openly socialist president got elected on his watch.

After destablizing the country, they killed Chilé's last freely-elected president. A CIA hit squad took off from the deck of Howard Hughes' Glomar Explorer, landed at the presidential palace and assassinated President Salvador Allénde.

He was replaced by our guy, Gen. Augusto Pinochét, who promptly established military rule patterned after Hitler's Germany.

The bastard even hired fugitive Nazis to create an updated WWII concentration camp for those lucky enough to escape immediate execution.

In his 1987 book, crusading Argentine editor Jacobo Timmerman wrote that "psychiatrists discovered a tactical decision made by the military that all women arrested for political reasons should be raped...In the years of the military dictatorship, not a single rapist has been brought to trial or even reprimanded."

Timmerman, himself imprisoned during the darkest days of the Argentine generals, added that "the ideas that Fascism let loose in Latin America in the 30's...are still going strong today in Chilé."

Pinochet placed ex-Nazis high in his secret police, which murdered former Chiléan ambassador Orlando Letelier and an American woman, Ronni Moffit, in a 1976 Washington, DC, car bombing.

I first wrote of the depredations of the Pinochét regime in my fourth column for the Tribune on Labor Day weekend, 1988.

Washoe County Republicans had invited Chiléan Consul General Leopoldo Porras to speak at the Reno Elks Club. He was introduced by then-attorney general Brian McKay, who spoke glowingly about Chilé's movement toward democracy.

When Porras got up to paint his rosy scenario, I confronted him.

"As part of your movement toward democracy, have plans been announced, or have any plans been made, to free your desaparecidos (the disappeared) who have been lost in your jails? Are there any plans to offer an accounting of your political prisoners to Amnesty International?"

Porras glared at me and snapped "we have no political prisoners. We have large and actual terrorist groups. The people in jail are criminals. When Amnesty International asked about protection of these people, they are asking for protection of criminals," Porras said.

He then called the dissidents Communists. The crowd growled in my direction. They had bought his snake oil. Tailgunner Joe McCarthy would have been proud.

"Chilé should be forever grateful to General Pinochét for saving their country," one local guy gushed.

Pinochét certainly didn't help our country. Immediately upon coming to power, he flooded the world copper market, destroying Nevada's already weakened copper and molybdenum mining industries.

Chilé's economic miracle has been very uneven and unfair. A huge gap separates the top from the bottom, even worse than here. In his book, Jacobo Timmerman noted that some 60 percent of the population lived in poverty under Pinochét. Many worked for $1 a day.

"One-fourth of the country lives in absolute poverty and a third of the nation earns less than $30 a week," Chiléan writer Marc Cooper reported in The Nation last March 23 (reprinted in the July-August Utne Reader).

"Real salaries are still 18 percent lower than they were during the Allende period," Cooper wrote.

Reminds me of home. American workers saw their inflation-adjusted earnings go into a slide in 1973, the very year we murdered Chiléan democracy. We finally got back to even a couple of years ago, but we'll never recover the quarter-century of economic losses. Only the working wife prevented the U.S. middle class from sliding further.

Cooper's article carries dark warnings for us. Pinochét privatized Chilé's social security system in 1981.

Corporate employers, Wall Street brokers and their political stooges are licking their chops to do ditto here. Chiléan employers no longer pay into social security. Social security investment sales people pepper Chiléan workers worse than long distance peddlers do here.

Most workers don't make enough money to save much anyway. Everyone puts the future on credit cards, worse than here, if that's imaginable.

"This whole (economic) model is impossible without a dictatorship," sociologist Tomas Moulian told Cooper.

"Only the dictatorship could have disciplined the working class into submission while their salaries were lowered and their pensions used to accumulate wealth for others. Only a dictatorship can keep a country quiet while education, university and health care are privatized, and while an absolute marketization of the labor force is imposed. Today, under this simulated democracy, the workforce is too fragmented to recover and the population is distracted by consumerism and disciplined by credit obligations."

Sounds just like home to me.

Amnesty International just established a chapter in Las Vegas.

Be well. Raise hell.


Gen. Augusto Pinochet died on Dec. 10, 2006.

On 9/11 1973, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, in a coup backed by President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State and fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger and the CIA, overthrew the democratically-elected government of Chile, second-oldest democracy in the hemisphere after the United States. Gen. Pinochet went on to a life of wealth and impunity, even committing a double political murder (with a car bomb) in Washington, DC, in 1976. He also hired fugitive Nazis to establish a WWII-style concentration camp on Pelican Island, off the Chilean coast. (You will find dozens of books on this at your local library, the best of which is by Jacobo Timmerman, the late crusading Argentine newspaper editor.)

One of the first Barbwire columns in 1988 involved Andrew Barbano's confrontation of Chile's consul general in Reno. Contrast the comments of BBC/Guardian reporter Greg Palast with the disgusting pair of whitewashes from the 12-11-2006 New York Times, all linked below.

Jesus of Nazareth warned of the whited sepulchres of Pharisean hypocrisy.

Nothing has changed in 2000 years.

Keep up the good fight.

Be well. Raise hell.

Tinker Bell, Pinochet And The Fairy Tale Miracle Of Chile
by Greg Palast, 12-10-2006

...and more ammo

Contrast Palast's factual commentary with the fatuous reportage and editorial from — aargh! —the freakin' great God Almighty New York Times.
(Free registration may be required.)

Augusto Pinochet, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies at 91
by Jonathan Kandell, 12-11-2006

New York Times editorial: The Dextrous Dictator

The Half-Life of a Despot by ARIEL DORFMAN
Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile's former dictator, is dead. Can Chileans finally get past him now?
New York Times Op-Ed 12-12-2006

   DORFMAN WRITES: "We must watch the sad spectacle of one-third of the country lamenting his departure, one-third of Chile still silent accomplices to his crimes, still justifying his crimes, still rejoicing that the general overthrew Salvador Allende, the constitutional president of Chile."

   In his 1987 book Chile: Death in the South, Jacobo Timmerman (Jan. 6, 1923 — Nov. 11, 1999) gingerly approached the only conclusion one could draw from the conduct of the Chilean people before, during and after Pinochet: That the Chilean people are not courageous. The Naziphile blackguard could not have succeeded without exploiting this serious, apparently national, character flaw. This is a harsh statement, but in view of Dorfman's reportage, this issue must again be confronted by a nation in which I have had an inexplicable admiring interest since my Latin American history classes at Fresno State under Prof. Jose C. Canales back in the 1960's. Pinochet's base is curiously and chillingly close to the unshakeable third of support still enjoyed by the foolscap President George W. Bush. — AB

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Copyright © 1988, 1998, 2004, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

Lyrics from Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen copyright © 1988 by CBS Records, Inc.


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