On February 6, 2024, the billionaire Sebastián Piñera died in a helicopter crash. His policies while president of Chile contributed to the desperation that ultimately provoked the uprising of 2019.
As Milton Friedman would have put it, “There’s no such thing as a free helicopter ride!”1
Permit us to explore the significance of this historic reckoning.
That Sebastián Piñera should die in a helicopter is a case of unsurpassable poetic justice.
“Free helicopter rides” has long been a meme among fascists inspired by the extrajudicial murders of leftists that the Argentine and Chilean governments carried out. The personal helicopter pilot of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet openly admitted that he repeatedly murdered prisoners by throwing them into the ocean from his helicopter. As head of state, Piñera inherited and perpetuated Pinochet’s legacy, forcing capitalism on the Chilean population despite brave and widespread resistance.
This is not the first time that we have outlived our oppressors—and it will not be the last. Below, we share a statement from our dear comrades in Chile on this historic occasion.
On the Death of Sebastián Piñera
“We are at war with a powerful, implacable enemy, who bows to nothing and no one, who is ready to use violence and crime without limit.”
-Sebastian Piñera - October 21, 2019
“We aren’t at war, we’re united!”
-Masked rioters, pensioners, state orphanage escapees, students, nurses, looters, self-organized neighborhoods, everyone—every day after that until the onset of COVID-19.
On February 6, 2024, the ex-president of Chile, Sebastián Echenique Piñera, died in a helicopter accident. Beyond being a ruler of the territory dominated by the Chilean state, Piñera was also an economist and businessman. He was the owner of LAN airlines and a number of media channels and outlets.
Piñera was the first and only unabashedly right-wing head of state since the end of Pinochet’s military dictatorship, which was shown in the priorities of his economic and social policies: above all, the maintenance of the capitalist system, frequently by means of severe repression. During his first presidency (2010-2014), Piñera’s government adopted new policies that were intended to crush the growing wave of street demonstrations2—whether it was environmentalists or feminists or students in the streets. Piñera did not shy away from imprisoning subversive rebels, especially Mapuche and anarchist revolutionaries willing to act outside of the law that he swore to uphold.
Piñera’s second presidency (2018-2022) started much like the first, but was distinguished by the largest street conflicts Chile had seen in 50 years. At its apex, millions of people took to the streets in revolt, each against whichever manifestation of the general condition of exploitation and oppression under the ruling class and authoritarianism they considered most important. The protests began on October 18, 2019 and continued for months all across the country. The mercenaries at Piñera’s command reacted to the revolt by jailing thousands of people, damaging hundreds of eyes, and murdering demonstrators.
According to figures from organizations like Amnesty International, state security forces physically, psychologically, or sexually harmed more than 8000 people during the 2019-2020 period. Included among those figures are more than 400 cases of eye damage resulting from police projectiles. Some people lost both eyes.
As anti-authoritarians, we should not be surprised that the state uses such violence to defend the precious property of those in power, since the government—any government—exists primarily to maintain domination. This domination is imposed by flesh-and-blood human beings, human beings who command and other human beings who obey. Sebastián Piñera was one of these human beings. On October 18, 2019, he ordered troops to open fire against those who set the streets of Santiago alight. He declared war on all who joined the protest—whether by raising their voices, raising their fists, or raising barricades.
We will not forget or forgive. The death of someone whose life meant misery for millions simply makes us smile.
For the dead, the mutilated, the incarcerated, the raped, and the suicided of the revolt, we will stomp out one more Chinchinera on Piñera’s grave.
Milton Friedman was a zealous advocate of free-market capitalism who published a book titled There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. As soon as Augusto Pinochet established a US-backed dictatorship in Chile, several Chileans who had studied under him in Chicago—the so-called Chicago Boys—took influential positions within the dictatorship, imposing deleterious deregulation and privatization on the Chilean population at the end of a gun. ↩
While in many places around the world, the so-called Arab Spring and the various iterations of the Occupy movement dominate the popular memory of 2011 as a wild year for revolt, Chile also had a months-long period of rebellion, spilling over from university students who took over their institutions in protest of privatized education and generalizing into mass street action with participation from across society. ↩