The Chicago Conspiracy
The Chicago Conspiracy is a documentary three years in the making. The project was filmed in Chile, and the story extends into the Mapuche indigenous lands of Wallmapu. The concept for the film was born with the death of a former military dictator. We celebrated in the streets of Santiago with thousands of people after hearing the news: General Augusto Pinochet was dead. His regime murdered thousands and tortured tens of thousands after the military coup on September 11, 1973. We celebrated both his death and the implication that the political and economic system which put him in power might itself be mortal. We began this documentary with the death of a dictator, but we continue with the legacy of a dictatorship.
The Chicago Conspiracy takes its name from the approximately 25 Chilean economists who attended the University of Chicago and other prestigious universities beginning in the 1960s to study under the neoliberal economists Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger. After embracing Friedman’s neoliberal ideas, these economists returned to assist Pinochet’s military regime in imposing free market policies. They privatized nearly every aspect of society, and Chile soon became a classic example of free market capitalism under the barrel of a gun.
The military coup was a conspiracy initiated by the upper classes in Chile and assisted by their international counterparts. The military’s action and its support from the CIA was executed on the pretext that the president at the time, Salvador Allende, a reformist and supporter of the democratic state, was actually a militant Marxist revolutionary. They claimed his government included a secret Plan Z that would establish a system similar to communist Cuba. The military has never successfully proven the existence of this plan.
The Chicago Conspiracy is a new vision of the military coup that does not focus on the story of the Allende government. Even before Allende’s election, there were armed revolutionary organizations throughout Chile, such as the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR). During the course of Allende’s rule, some factions believed that a reformist government would never bring an end to the capitalist system. This was the main group to lead an armed defense against the military once the coup was initiated. As the dictatorship took hold, the number of nationwide armed organizations grew to include MAPU-Lautaro and the communist Patriotic Front of Manuel Rodriguez (FPMR) in addition to the MIR.
The Chicago Conspiracy begins on March 29, 1985. On this day, two young brothers and militants of the MIR, Rafael and Eduardo Vergara, were gunned down by police as they walked through the politically active community Villa Francia. Recent investigations by the Chilean government have proven that the brothers were targeted by police; like so many young people before them, they were murdered by politically motivated assassins. Their community responded by creating a day of memory and protest, the Day of the Youth Combatant. Their older brother Pablo Vergara was later blown up in the southern Chilean city of Temuco in 1988.
The Chicago Conspiracy is about today. Following a national plebiscite in 1988, Pinochet ended his rule in 1990. The political classes in Chile only allowed the country to vote an end to the dictatorship out of growing fear of armed insurrection. 1990 brought a democratic government to Chile that continues to further the same neoliberal economic policies that were put into place by the dictatorship. Throughout the film, we follow the social discontent that exists to this day. We explore the legacy of a dictatorship.
The Chicago Conspiracy is about the students who fight a dictatorship-era educational law put into place on the last day of military rule. Over 700,000 students went on strike in 2006 to protest the privatized educational system. Police brutally repressed student marches and occupations.
The Chicago Conspiracy is about the Day of the Youth Combatant. March 29 is not only about the Vergara brothers–it is a day to remember all youth combatants who have died under the dictatorship and current democratic regime.
The Chicago Conspiracy is about the neighborhoods lining the outskirts of Santiago. They were originally land occupations, and later became centers of armed resistance against the military dictatorship. A number of them, such as la Victoria and Villa Francia, continue as areas of confrontational discontent to this day.
The Chicago Conspiracy is about the Mapuche conflict. The Mapuche people valiantly resisted Spanish occupation, and continue to resist the Chilean state and the multinational corporations who strip Mapuche territory for forestry plantations, mines, dams, and farming plantations. The government has utilized the dictatorship-era anti-terrorism law to jail Mapuche community members in struggle. Two young weichafes (Mapuche warriors), Alex Lemún and Matías Catrileo, were recently killed by Chilean police-one in 2002, the other in 2008.
The Chicago Conspiracy is a response to a global conspiracy of neoliberalism, militarism, and authoritarianism.