In This Review

News From the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile
News From the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile
By John Hickman
St. Martin's Press, 1998, 256 pp.

A succinct and balanced account of Chile's recent history by the British ambassador to Santiago from 1982 to 1987. Rejecting leftist arguments that the United States played a major role in the bloody 1973 overthrow of the Allende government, Hickman focuses primarily on the Pinochet regime. He assesses the policies of the young, American-trained economists under General Pinochet who radically opened Chile's markets, reminding us that the early experiments met with major setbacks in late 1981-82 that brought the Chilean banking sector to the edge of ruin and forced the exchange rate to float. He also openly discusses Chile's role during the Falklands war, suggesting that the Pinochet regime aided Britain by providing intelligence on Argentina. In light of the recent arrest of Pinochet in London, Hickman's book is more timely than the author could ever have imagined -- and perhaps more frank than he might have wanted. Most important, he praises the Rettig Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, established in 1990 by President Patricio Aylwin to investigate human rights abuses between 1973 and 1990. In Hickman's eyes, the report's findings -- 2,115 victims who had died or "disappeared" through agents of the state, 164 victims of political violence, and 641 unresolved cases -- were abuses "for which the Chilean armed forces, including Pinochet himself, must accept responsibility."