Let's face it, most of Latin America is a mess. And the biggest messes are those countries run by Socialists. Chile is an exception and for that Pinochet is the reason.
But eventually, in the mid-1980s, the Chilean economy took off. Today, Chile is the most prosperous country in Latin America, with a per capita income of $15,111 in 2018 (it was only fifth-best in 1970). Inflation for 2018 was a paltry 2.56 percent. Chile ranks 15th worldwide in the Heritage Foundation’s 2020 “Index of Economic Freedom”; the next closest country in Latin America is Colombia in 45th place. It also ranked first in Latin America in the Cato Institute’s “Human Freedom Index,” last published in 2017. And it is just edged out by Costa Rica for having Latin America’s longest life span: 79.57 years to 9.52 years.
Those statistics -- not the numbers but the human flourishing they represent -- are Pinochet’s real legacy. Would most Venezuelans today -- who live in a failing totalitarian state with a popularly elected Marxist government -- prefer that a military junta had wrested control from Hugo Chavez and eliminated a few thousand of the most hardcore Marxists? They would likely jump at the opportunity. Pinochet took over an equally nightmarish state that was racing toward either bloody civil war or totalitarian communism (or both), made hard decisions to correct the problems, nurtured the government for 17 years, and voluntarily relinquished power in 1990 when the nation’s practices and institutions were strengthened so that it could flourish democratically.
For that, the international left has damned him for all time.