How many strokes does it take to make a canoe?

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No other state was as extensively plundered as Chile was under the Pinochet dictatorship.

It was September 11th. It had dawned a little cloudy, but shortly afterwards the clouds were gone and a thin sun took over the sky. Although the blue reflected below as a brilliant gray, it would be wrong and it would not even be possible to say that this was a Brigadier's sky. For the small group that at that time of the morning found themselves inside the most solemn building in the city, the news was not good and some tension remained in the air, electrifying those close by. There was a lack of definition and that generated a certain anguish. Then the plane was seen. And soon after they saw another. Coming from the north, they made a sharp left turn and headed towards the imposing building. First one, followed closely by the other. O Hawker Hunter the one in front dove and the one behind did the same. They skimmed past the top, more or less fitting in between the buildings on the parallel streets. The first explosion shook the structure from its foundations, which seemed to be ripped from the place where they had ancestrally been placed. They say they were shaped by large stones, just to withstand strong shocks. As the small group recovered from the impact and tried to breathe through the smoke and dust from the rubble, the Hawker they made a second raid and then a third, a fourth, and soon there was nothing left to do. Almost half of the building lay in ruins and fires started the fine destruction of the place. In a few minutes, the documentary collection and the rich memory housed there were consumed forever. Another memory was about to begin, but of that coming one absolutely no one even suspected that it could someday have a place in history. Except the Man who was the object of that hunt. Now, the planes have been succeeded by armored vehicles and other ground combat vehicles. The strong cannon fire completed in detail the destruction that the planes had not dealt with.

Destiny that morning, tragic as it was, had just been drawn. Destiny, that Stranger who accompanies us, Creator-Creature who marks with us the lines of our own existence, had exhausted its repertoire of premonitions and prodromes. The smell of gasoline is strong, the smoke covers everything and breathing becomes more and more difficult. Man asks those close to him to leave, not to stay there, to save themselves. Some hear it, not all. Man reconciles to Destiny, in a short while, his love for his native land and his faith in the future. Your profound feenel future. You hear, heard those present, a dry report. Some swore they heard a dry sound, yes; and yet characteristic of crushed nuts. The Man is found with his skull torn apart. Next to the body stretched out on a sofa, the rifle.(2)

At the end of that day, September 11, 1973, the scene of destruction that devastated Santiago extended to the entire country. Hundreds, thousands of prisoners began to be taken to the National State, in Ñuñoa,(3) and smaller detention centers. All improvised because there wasn't enough prison for so many people. There was resistance, even after the fall of La Moneda. It didn't last long, just a few days, maybe weeks, and yet it happened. There were also summary shootings in that and the next few days and months. I repeat: on that fateful September 11th, more than a thousand people were murdered. The figure would reach almost five thousand murders in the following months. The strict curfew, if disobeyed, was punishable by death. No one left or entered. Unions, factories, schools, churches, associations, political parties, technical chambers, Parliament, provincial governments, Ministers of State: nothing remained untouched at the end of this first day. Let us then say in reverence First Day. Carnage on Day One. Many. The Death of Man La Moneda Palace marked the beginning of the great carnage. Salvador Allende Gossens was the first. After him, thousands. With crudity and ugliness, the military commanders put their block on the street. Better said, his army, which was no longer the nation's army, but just an armed force that, praetorianally, obeyed its general. formerly known as the mediocre, now enthroned as Commander-in-Chief, by the evening of that First Day he had already transformed himself into Dictator Maximus. Murder. Truculence. Carnage.genocidal barbarity. The country was perplexed as it had never been before. Shocked, it would be better to say. And shocked remained for a long time.

What is shock, what is its effect? Let's say an emotional shock, a violent shock, the death of someone very dear under tragic circumstances. Or, let's say there was a cataclysm (kataklysmos), with destruction and death within minutes. We've already seen this scene: people walking lost, back and forth. They babble meaningless things, they are dirty, tattered, sticky. A coup d'état, however, is not a natural event. As cataclysmic as it may be, the coup is a human product, the result of political relations, therefore, power relations. A shocked person is vulnerable. It may seem idiotic, stay idion, that is, referred to itself, closed in on itself. No longer reactive to what happens outside.

How to purposely harm a person, how to turn him into a zombie, break him down, remove any substratum of will and discernment from him? How to make her “collaborate” with the authority? In the book The Shock Doctrine, Canadian political activist Noemi Klein tells us how. (4) She reports that research in behavioral psychology conducted in the 1950s indicated how this might be possible. A project at McGill University, Montreal, subjected volunteers to inhumane treatments: sensory deprivation with complete isolation for days and weeks. In the words of project coordinator Donald Hebb, “sensory deprivation is actually a way to achieve extreme monotony. It causes loss of critical capacity, thinking is less clear, patients complain that they can't even dream... While we were carrying out our experiments, we began to think that it is possible that something that produces physical discomfort and even pain could be more tolerable than simply the conditions of deprivation we were studying”. Donald Hebb stopped research: "I had no idea when I proposed it how nasty these potentially cruel weapons could get." Hebb termed gun sensory deprivation. Perverse weapons. A short time later, right there, another project coordinated by Ewan Cameron began. If before with Hebb the volunteers were free to stop cooperation, with Cameron the victims were not so lucky. According to Hebb, “What he did went further than what we had done. We worked strictly under the condition that the subjects under study were free to leave whenever they wished, and some did.” At the Memorial Allan Institute, at McGill, Cameron conducted experiments on psychiatric patients and owed no ethical satisfaction to anyone. There, he literally surrendered to the project of emptying or erasing the brains of his patients, a prototype of what became known as the technique of brainwashing. The old and well known brainwashing. Take everything out of their heads, de-subjectify them, to rebuild them from scratch. Electric shock, induced sleep and repetition of recorded messages, these were some of the techniques he used. US military and other countries showed great interest and closely followed Cameron's research. The CIA put his work into practice, codified in an instruction manual called “KUBARCK”.(5)Torture of prisoners was one of the topics. And then electric shocks, beatings, hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, extreme heat or cold, threats. How long until the guy breaks down? Among others, that was the question. The answer made it possible to point out the practical ways that could “break” a prisoner, make him stop resisting. Taken together, Cameron's findings would be very useful in the psychological warfare that opened up its first frontiers. The cold war was about to reach new heights. (6) Subjecting prisoners to mistreatment is nothing new. What is new is the rational and methodical use of this form of violence and the possibility of being taught. What is wanted is the victim's collaboration, information, not his death. However, a prisoner can be murdered by vile means, and in that case it does not matter how much torture and how many torments he will be subjected to until death supervenes. In the Argentine genocide between 1976 and 1982, prisoners were sent to Clandestine Detention, Torture and Extermination Centers, about 300 across the country. La Perla, on the outskirts of Córdoba, was the most important of them. Almost all the kidnapped held there would be killed, so it didn't matter if they cooperated or not. Thus, from the moment of arrest they were subjected to degrading treatment. All the women were sexually abused during their time there and even some men; all were subjected to excruciating physical torture; electric shocks and beatings followed day and night until the day of the final battle.(7) The objective of the Argentine military forces was this: to kill, eliminate, reduce to rubble those people classified as enemies of the country. What happened in those places – because at a certain point, everyone had a good idea – was kept only partially silenced. Information “leaked” to society and it was not uncommon for a mutilated body to be left on display in public places with large circulation. The corpse fulfilled its function as a piece of political propaganda. That was really to be seen and not to be hidden: we will make even the innocent tremble, they said. When reading Feinmann's reflections(8) about that period, I remembered that on the slave ship a similar shock was produced. At the moment when the great tumbeiro weighed anchors with its complete human load, grilled in the holds below decks, a captive was chosen by the crew, forced to lead to the mainmast, where he was tied up and, in front of everyone, whipped to death. Crying, screaming, moaning, roaring, blood, urine, feces. The spoils were thrown overboard and were the delight of hungry sharks. The scene of that “dismantling” of the black flesh, produced as a theater of exquisite cruelty, generated in the bystanders such a state of fear that it guaranteed the crossing of the ocean without major disturbances with the discipline. Let us return to Naomi Klein. Not far from McGill, on the other side of Lake Michigan, in another laboratory, new forms of intervention were being prepared. Not in individuals, but in collectives or in society. They were clean, cultured people, cleaner and more cultured than Cameron's assistants. And it wasn't about electric shock or drugs, it was about political economy. there, in Illinois University, pontificated Milton Friedman. Klein calls him “the other Dr. Shock”: neoliberal shock, as it came to be called decades later. Neoliberalism or ultraliberalism means eliminating the public sphere from the economic life of a nation. By economy is meant the ways of producing life, all forms, including subjective ones. That's it, all of this became merchandise, in a snap of a finger. All this must become a commodity, Friedman's political economy maintained. Only then will there be happiness. If some have a lot of wealth and many have little or none at all, this is only due to the merit of the former. Or genetic chance, lotteries, as they say. The case is how to convince citizens to accept the reduction of rights and gains, and even the extinction of some of them; lower income, longer hours, social insecurity, precariousness, manipulation of information, institutional violence, ethnic criminalization, increased poverty, this is how Milton Friedman's neoliberal shock works. It has been like this in the globalized world for some decades now. That is to say, since the beginning of the 1980s. Since then, for the majority of people, the possibilities of dying from starvation or at the hands of State agents or, that is, suffering some violation have increased. Naomi Klein will say that a society would not accept being subjected to such restrictions passively. And yet, if it has broken its will, such policies of maximized privatism and violent dismissals could be implemented. That's why she made comparisons between breaking the will of a subject and breaking the will of a nation, of a people. Noemi Klein makes these comparisons between torture and ultra-neoliberal economics. There are many, we can believe. In her book on how nations can be "shocked," she says it can happen "by wars, terrorist attacks, coup d'etat and natural disasters”. And they are again “shocked” by corporations and politicians who exploit the fear and disorientation of this first shock to drive economic shock “therapy”. And then people who dare to resist this policy of shock are, if necessary, “shocked” a third time – by police and soldiers, by arrest and interrogations. That is, the cathartic state produced in the individual by violent action can also be produced in societies, as a mass phenomenon.

In Chile this all happened more or less simultaneously, already on that First Day. Forty years later, a Brazilian publication highlighted the following: “Victorious, Pinochet imposed his fierce dictatorship and boasted of controlling even the movement of the leaves (…) Together with a group of disciples of Milton Friedman, he imposed a liberal model to the extreme that led to the launch of the economy after the privatization of state companies and services”.(9)Such a model, or rather project, was called The brick. The Brick. The brick with which a new and original experience would be built, albeit with a familiar face: elimination of price controls, sale of state-owned companies, elimination of import taxes and cuts in public spending, among other measures. Friedman hailed this ebullient moment and called it a “free market movement”.

Friedman had already received foreign students in his laboratory in Illinois University, place where he had been properly enthroned Alfred Von Hayek, the pope of neoliberalism. There they completed their master's and doctoral courses. Some were Brazilian, including Paulo Roberto Nunes Guedes, today the most famous of them. foreign students from Chicago School of Economics they went to do an internship in Chile, to see in practice how it should be done, how to put an end to servitude. In 1972, while still under the Allende government, Friedman opened a “free market” training program for Chilean economics students. Those from the Catholic University went there, later nicknamed “The Chicago Boys”. Out of them, in that distant 1973, came the first brick that decades later would kill precariously retired old people.

Everyone knows that no other state was as extensively plundered as Chile was under the Pinochet dictatorship. Of course, this looting could only be done at the expense of the workers and the people. No parliament, no political parties, no unions, no assemblies, no discussion with society: decisions were made in the morning, they were put into practice in the afternoon. We're going to privatize everything that can be private, we're going to end the state monopoly on copper, we're going to take advantage of the fact that everyone is stunned to pass the entire herd, we're going to control all this shit right there! And let's fucking sell the Bank of Chile! Let everyone fuck themselves the way they want!(10)

*Carlos Botazzo is a senior professor at the Department of Politics, Management and Health at the Faculty of Public Health at USP


1. Literature on this moment is plentiful, including technical reports and essays. I thought it would be interesting to share articles published in September 1973 by a Brazilian newspaper that covered the coup. Check it out at And especially here:

2. About the National Stadium check at

3. The shock doctrine. The rise of disaster capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2007. Check out the documentary of the same title. Available in

4. Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation. Available in Also check out

5. Check at

6. Hundreds of them were drugged, put on planes and thrown alive into the Rio de la Plata. For more information about the CCDTE see:

7. Feinmann, Jose Pablo. Philosophy and human rights. Buenos Aires: Planet, 2019.

8. See

9. Notes from the Ministerial Meeting of the Government of Brazil, held on April 22, 2020. Available at:


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