Chilean Voters Vote to End Military Rule of Pinochet - History

Chilean Voters Vote to End Military Rule of Pinochet - History

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Elections held in December brought Patricio Aylwin to power as President of Chile. Chileans held their breaths, but Chilean military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, stepped aside at the beginning of 1990 in favor of the newly-elected President.

1988 Chilean national plebiscite

The 1988 Chilean national plebiscite was a national referendum held on 5 October 1988 to determine whether Chile's de facto leader, Augusto Pinochet, should extend his rule for another eight years through 1996. The "No" side won with nearly 56% of the vote, thus ending the general's fifteen and a half years in power.

The fact the dictatorship respected the results is attributed to pressure from big business, the international community and unease with extended rule by Pinochet within the dictatorship. [1]

Gracias to Garzón

Laura Elgueta, a public employee now in her 40s, needed no official report to confirm the barbarities of the Pinochet dictatorship. She miraculously survived a 1977 abduction in Buenos Aires carried out by a joint Argentine-Chilean government death squad. Her older brother, however, has been “disappeared” ever since. For two decades, along with other members of the Association of Families of the Disappeared, she was convinced that justice would forever be elusive–that is, until the 1998 detention of General Pinochet by Scotland Yard. “One day we are going to have to erect a monument to Judge Garzón,” Elgueta says, referring to the Madrid-based magistrate whose work led to the warrant that ensnared Pinochet. It was back in 1996 that Judge Baltasar Garzón began looking into the deaths of some 300 fellow Spanish citizens who had been caught up during the 1970s in Argentina’s internal “dirty war.” Garzón’s investigation led him into the heart of Operation Condor–the network of intelligence services and cross-border murder concocted by Pinochet’s Chile, the generals of Argentina and other neighboring dictatorships [see Peter Kornbluh, “Prisoner Pinochet,” December 21, 1998]. In the process, he established a legal precedent for treating as actionable crimes what had previously been regarded as political acts. “Garzón single-handedly changed the history of our country,” Elgueta says.

Indeed, if Pinochet’s London arrest was the best thing that ever happened to Chile’s human rights movement, then his getting dumped back into Chile 503 days later for reasons of health (in early 2000) was the second best. The British had held Pinochet just long enough to break his political hold on Chile, and they returned him home just in time to lance the boil that had festered untreated. “Since Pinochet was arrested, and especially since he came back, there’s been a public eruption of all the filth and horror of the dictatorship–from the details of repression to the role of the CIA,” says Manuel Cabieses, editor of the leading leftist magazine, Punto Final. “It’s all been indescribably dramatic. It has turned Pinochet into an intolerable burden even for most of the right.”

Pinochet had no sooner hit the Santiago airport tarmac last year after his release in London than Chilean human rights crusaders–sensing a political opening–filed an avalanche of criminal complaints against him: thirty, forty, then 150, and now more than 200 separate cases. By last summer, a reinvigorated Chilean judiciary had stripped Pinochet of his parliamentary immunity as an unelected “Senator for Life.” And the Chilean Supreme Court found some creative ways to pierce the shield of amnesty that Pinochet had decreed in the days of the dictatorship. Judge Guzmán was pushing forward the most serious case against Pinochet, the one that named him “intellectual author” of the so-called Caravan of Death. The case stemmed from the first weeks of the military dictatorship, when a special army unit traveling by helicopter went from town to town pulling recently arrested civilians out of jail–seventy-five in total–executing them and disappearing their bodies. “There’s no question that this was carried out on personal instructions of Pinochet,” says plaintiffs’ attorney Carmen Hertz, whose husband perished in the homicidal frenzy of the Caravan.

As the wall of impunity began to crack, both the Chilean military and the elected civilian government of Christian Democrats and Socialists came up with a dramatic gambit to undercut the growing demand for legal accountability. Although the military had until then never acknowledged any wrongdoing, it was now prepared to sit down with human rights representatives in an open-ended “roundtable dialogue.” The agreement severely split the human rights community. Defenders of the dialogue said there was nothing to lose. But some critics were scathing in their appraisal. “It’s part of a government strategy aimed at showing that Chile can settle at a table what it refuses to settle in the courts,” was what attorney Fabiola Letelier told me at the time the dialogue was proposed. Letelier’s brother, Orlando, a former Chilean ambassador, was murdered in 1976 by a car bomb planted in Washington, DC, by Pinochet’s secret police. “They are going to try to shut us up by offering some bones,” she said.


There has been a large amount of debate over the extent of US government involvement in destabilising the Allende government. [6] [7] Recently declassified documents show evidence of communication between the Chilean military and US officials, suggesting covert US involvement in assisting the military's rise to power. Some key figures in the Nixon administration, such as Henry Kissinger, used the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to mount a major destabilization campaign. [8] As the CIA revealed in 2000, "In the 1960s and the early 1970s, as part of the US Government policy to try to influence events in Chile, the CIA undertook specific covert action projects in Chile . to discredit Marxist-leaning political leaders, especially Dr. Salvador Allende, and to strengthen and encourage their civilian and military opponents to prevent them from assuming power." [9] The CIA worked with right-wing Chilean politicians, military personnel, and journalists to undermine socialism in Chile. [10] One reason for this was financial, as many US businesses had investments in Chile, and Allende's socialist policies included the nationalization of Chile's major industries. Another reason was the propagandized fear of the spread of communism, which was particularly important in the context of the Cold War. The rationale was that US feared that Allende would promote the spreading of Soviet influence in their ‘backyard’. [11] However, the fact that Allende's peaceful path was toward Socialism—not Communism—and because of the vested interests of the U.S. copper industry in Chile, the rationale had more to do with U.S. financial interests. As early as 1963, the U.S. via the CIA and U.S. multinationals such as ITT intervened in Chilean politics using a variety of tactics and millions of dollars to interfere with elections, ultimately helping plan the coup against Allende. [12] [13] [14]

On 15 April 1973, workers from the El Teniente mining camp had ceased working, demanding higher wages. The strike lasted 76 days and cost the government severely in lost revenues. One of the strikers, Luis Bravo Morales, was shot dead in Rancagua city. On June 29, the Blindados No. 2 tank regiment under the command of Colonel Roberto Souper, attacked La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace. Instigated by the anti-Marxist militia Patria y Libertad ("country and freedom"), the armoured cavalry soldiers hoped other units would be inspired to join them. Instead, armed units led by generals Carlos Prats and Augusto Pinochet quickly put down the coup attempt. In late July, 40,000 truckers, squeezed by price controls and rising costs, tied up transportation in a nationwide strike that lasted 37 days, costing the government US$6 million a day. [15] Two weeks before the coup, public dissatisfaction with rising prices and food shortages led to protests like the one at the Plaza de la Constitución which had been dispersed with tear gas. [16] Allende also clashed with Chile's largest circulation newspaper El Mercurio. Tax-evasion charges were trumped up against the newspaper and its director arrested. [17] The Allende government found it impossible to control inflation, which grew to more than 300 percent by September, [18] further dividing Chileans over the Allende government and its policies.

Upper- and middle-class right-wing women also played an important role in destabilising the Allende government. They co-ordinated two prominent opposition groups called El Poder Feminino ("female power"), and Solidaridad, Orden y Libertad ("solidarity, order, and freedom"). [19] [20] These women who opposed Allende felt as though their fundamental values of family and motherhood were being threatened by Marxism. Furthermore, the economic chaos that Allende's regime was seeing meant that there were struggles to buy food and thus look after their families. Allende's regime therefore threatened the most important aspect of a woman's role. These women used many tactics to destabilise the Allende regime. They carried out the ‘March of the Empty Pots and Pans’ in December 1971, and emasculated the military. These women criticised the military for being ‘cowards’ for not getting rid of Allende, arguing that they were not carrying out their role of protecting Chilean women.

On August 22, 1973, the Chamber of Deputies passed, by a vote of 81 to 47, a resolution calling for President Allende to respect the constitution. The measure failed to obtain the two-thirds majority in the Senate constitutionally required to convict the president of abuse of power, but the resolution still represented a challenge to Allende's legitimacy. The military were staunch supporters of the constitution and therefore believed that Allende had lost legitimacy as Chile's leader. [21] As a result, reacting to widespread public demand for intervention, the military began planning for a military coup which would ultimately take place on September 11, 1973. Contrary to popular belief, Pinochet was not the mastermind behind the coup. It was, in fact, naval officers who first decided that military intervention was necessary to remove President Allende from power. [22] Army generals were unsure of Pinochet's allegiances, as he had given no prior indication of disloyalty to Allende, and thus was only informed of these plans on the evening of 8 September, just three days before the coup took place. [23] On 11 September 1973, the military launched a coup, with troops surrounding La Moneda Palace. Allende died that day of suspected suicide.

The military installed themselves in power as a Military Government Junta, composed of the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabineros (police). Once the Junta was in power, General Augusto Pinochet soon consolidated his control over the government. Since he was the commander-in-chief of the oldest branch of the military forces (the Army), he was made the titular head of the junta, and soon after President of Chile. Once the junta had taken over, the United States immediately recognized the new regime and helped it consolidate power. [24]

Suppression of political activity Edit

On September 13, the junta dissolved the Congress and outlawed or suspended all political activities in addition to suspending the 1925 constitution. All political activity was declared "in recess". The Government Junta immediately banned the socialist, Marxist and other leftist parties that had constituted former President Allende's Popular Unity coalition [25] and began a systemic campaign of imprisonment, torture, harassment and/or murder against the perceived opposition. Eduardo Frei, Allende's predecessor as president, initially supported the coup along with his Christian Democratic colleagues. However, they later assumed the role of a loyal opposition to the military rulers. Though they soon lost most of their influence they were subjected to the same treatment that the UP members had been before them. [ citation needed ] During 1976–77, this repression even reached independent and Christian Democrat labour leaders who had supported the coup, several were exiled. [26] Christian Democrats like Radomiro Tomic were jailed or forced into exile. [27] [28] Retired military personnel were named rectors of universities and they carried out vast purges of suspected left-wing sympathisers. [29] With such strong repression, the Catholic church became the only public voice allowed within Chile. By 1974, the Commission of Peace had established a large network to provide information to numerous organisations regarding human rights abuses in Chile. As a result of this, Manuel Contreras, Director of DINA, threatened Cardinal Silva Henriquez that his safety could be at risk if the Church continued to interfere which in turn resulted in death threats and intimidation from agents of the regime. [30]

A key provision of the new constitution of 1980 aimed at eliminating leftist factions, “outlawed the propagation of doctrines that attack the family or put forward a concept of society based on the class struggle”. Pinochet maintained strict command over the armed forces thus he could depend on them to censor the media, arrest opposition leaders and repress demonstrations. This was accompanied by a complete shutting down of civil society with curfews, prohibition of public assembly, press blackouts, draconian censorship and universities were purged. [31]

Human rights violations Edit

The military rule was characterized by systematic suppression of all political dissidence. Scholars later described this as a "politicide" (or "political genocide"). [32] Steve J. Stern spoke of a politicide to describe "a systematic project to destroy an entire way of doing and understanding politics and governance." [33]

Estimates of figures for victims of state violence vary. Rudolph Rummel cited early figures of up to 30,000 people killed. [34] However, these high estimates have not held to later scrutiny.

In 1996, human rights activists announced they had presented another 899 cases of people who had disappeared or been killed during the dictatorship, taking the total of known victims to 3,197, of whom 2,095 were reported killed and 1,102 missing. [35] Following the return to democracy with the Concertacion government, the Rettig Commission, a multipartisan effort by the Aylwin administration to discover the truth about the human-rights violations, listed a number of torture and detention centers (such as Colonia Dignidad, the ship Esmeralda or Víctor Jara Stadium), and found that at least 3,200 people were killed or disappeared by the regime. Later, the 2004 Valech Report confirmed the figure of 3,200 deaths but reduced the estimated number of disappearances. It tells of some 28,000 arrests in which the majority of those detained were incarcerated and in a great many cases tortured. [36] In 2011, the Chilean government officially recognized 36,948 survivors of torture and political imprisonment, as well as 3,095 people killed or disappeared at the hands of the military government. [37]

The worst violence occurred within the first three months of the coup, with the number of suspected leftists killed or "disappeared" (desaparecidos) reaching several thousand. [38] In the days immediately following the coup, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs informed Henry Kissinger that the National Stadium was being used to hold 5,000 prisoners. Between the day of the coup and November 1973, as many as 40,000 political prisoners were held there [39] [40] and as late as 1975, the CIA was still reporting that up to 3,811 were imprisoned there. [41] 1,850 of them were killed, another 1,300 are still missing to this day. [40] Some of the most famous cases of desaparecidos are Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen who was killed during the coup itself, [42] Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara, and the October 1973 Caravan of Death (Caravana de la Muerte) wherein at least 70 people were killed.

Leftist guerrilla groups and their sympathizers were also hit hard during the military regime. The MIR commander, Andrés Pascal Allende, has stated that the Marxist guerrillas lost 1,500–2,000 fighters that were either killed or had simply disappeared. [43] Among the people that were killed or had disappeared during the military regime were at least 663 MIR guerrillas. [44] The Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front stated that 49 FPMR guerrillas were killed and hundreds tortured. [45]

According to the Latin American Institute on Mental Health and Human Rights, 200,000 people were affected by "extreme trauma" this figure includes individuals executed, tortured, forcibly exiled, or having their immediate relatives put under detention. [46] 316 women have reported to having been subjected to rape by soldiers and agents of the dictatorship, however the number is believed to be much larger due to the preference of many women to avoid talking about this. Twenty pregnant women have declared to have suffered abortion due to torture. [47] In the words of Alejandra Matus detained women were doubly punished, first for being "leftists" and second for not conforming to their ideal of women usually being called "perra" (lit. "bitch"). [48]

In addition to the violence experienced within Chile, many people fled from the regime, while others have been forcibly exiled, with some 30,000 Chileans being deported from the country. [49] [50] [51] particularly to Argentina, however, Operation Condor, which linked South American dictatorships together against political opponents, meant that even these exiles could be subject to violence. [52] Some 20,000–40,000 Chilean exiles were holders of passports stamped with the letter "L" (which stood for lista nacional), identifying them as persona non grata and had to seek permission before entering the country. [53] According to a study in Latin American Perspectives, [54] at least 200,000 Chileans (about 2% of Chile's 1973 population) were forced into exile. Additionally, hundreds of thousands left the country in the wake of the economic crises that followed the military coup during the 1970s and 1980s. [54] In 2003, an article published by the International Committee of the Fourth International claimed that "Of a population of barely 11 million, more than 4,000 were executed or 'disappeared,' hundreds of thousands were detained and tortured, and almost a million fled the country." [55]

There were also internal exiles who due to a lack of resources could not escape abroad. [56] In the 1980s a few left-wing sympathisers hid in Puerto Gala and Puerto Gaviota, Patagonian fishing communities with a reputation of lawlessness. There they were joined by delinquents who feared torture or death by the authorities. [56]

Several scholars including Paul Zwier, [57] Peter Winn [58] and human rights organizations [59] have characterized the dictatorship as a police state exhibiting "repression of public liberties, the elimination of political exchange, limiting freedom of speech, abolishing the right to strike, freezing wages." [60]

Fake combats Edit

Starting in the late 1970s the regime began to use a tactic of faking combats, usually known by its Spanish name: "falsos enfrentamientos". [61] This meant that dissidents who were murdered outright had their deaths reported in media as if they had occurred in a mutual exchange of gunfire. This was done with support of journalists who "reported" the supposed events in some cases, the fake combats were also staged. The faked combat tactic ameliorated criticism of the regime implicitly putting culpability on the victim. It is thought that the killing of the MIR leader Miguel Enríquez in 1974 could be an early case of a faked combat. The faked combats reinforced the dictatorship narrative on the existence of an "internal war" which it used to justify its existence. [62] A particular fake combat event, lasting from September 8 to 9 1983, occurred when forces of the CNI lobbed grenades into a house, detonating the structure and killing the two men and a woman who were in the building. The agents would later state, with help from the Chilean press, that the people in the house had fired on them previously from their cars and had escaped to the house. The official story became that the three suspects had caused the explosion themselves by trying to burn and destroy incriminating evidence. Such actions had the effect of justifying the existence of heavily armed forces in Chile. And by extension, justified the dictatorship's conduct against such "violent" offenders. [63]

Pinochet–Leigh conflict Edit

During the 1970s, junta members Gustavo Leigh and Augusto Pinochet clashed on several occasions, dating back from the beginning of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. Leigh criticized Pinochet for having joined the coup very late and then subsequently pretending to keep all power for himself. In December 1974, Leigh opposed the proposal to name Pinochet president of Chile. Leigh recalls from that moment that, "Pinochet was furious: he hit the board, broke the glass, injured his hand a little and bled. Then, Merino and Mendoza told me I should sign, because if not the junta would split. I signed.". Leigh's primary concern was Pinochet's consolidation of the legislative and executive branches of government under the new government, in particular, Pinochet's decision to enact a plebiscite without formally alerting the other junta members. [64] Leigh, although a fervent supporter of the regime and hater of Marxist ideology, had already taken steps to separate the executive and legislative branches. Pinochet was said to have been angered by Leigh's continued founding of a structure to divide the executive and legislative branches, eventually leading to Pinochet consolidating his power and Leigh being removed from the regime. [65] Leigh tried to fight his dismissal from the military and government junta but on July 24, 1978 his office was blocked by paratroopers. In accordance with legal rights established by the junta government, its members could not be dismissed without evidence of impairment, hence Pinochet and his ally junta members had declared Leigh to be unfit. [64] [66] Airforce General Fernando Matthei replaced Leigh as junta member. [67]

Another dictatorship member critical of Pinochet, Arturo Yovane, was removed from his post as minister of mining in 1974 and appointed ambassador at the new Chilean embassy in Tehran. [68]

Civilian collaborators Edit

Over time the dictatorship incorporated civilians into the government. Many of the Chicago boys joined the government, and Pinochet was largely sympathetic to them. This sympathy, scholar Peter Winn explains, was indebted to the fact that the Chicago boys were technocrats and thus fitted Pinochet's self-image of being "above politics". [69] Pinochet was impressed by their assertiveness as well as by their links to the financial world of the United States. [69]

Another group of civilians that collaborated extensively with the regime were the Gremialists, whose movement started in 1966 in the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. [70] The founder of the Gremialist movement, lawyer Jaime Guzmán, never assumed any official position in the military dictatorship but he remained one of the closest collaborators with Pinochet, playing an important ideological role. He participated in the design of important speeches of Pinochet, and provided frequent political and doctrinal advice and consultancy. [71]

According to scholar Carlos Huneeus the Gremialists and the Chicago Boys shared a long-term power strategy and were linked to each other in many ways. [70] In Chile, it has been very hard for the outside world to fully understand the role that everyday civilians played in keeping Pinochet's government afloat. Partly because there has been scant research into the topic, partly because those who did help the regime from 1973 to 1990 have been unwilling to explore their own part. One of the exemptions being an Univision interview with Osvaldo Romo Mena, a civilian torturer in 1995, recounting his actions. Osvaldo Romo died while incarcerated for the murder of three political opponents. For the most part, civilian collaborators with Pinochet have not broken the code of silence held by the military of the 1970s to 1990s. [72]

Constitution of 1980 Edit

Establishing a new constitution was a core issue for the dictatorship since it provided a mean of legitimization. [4] For this purpose the junta selected notable civilians willing to join the draft commission. Dissidents to the dictatorship were not represented in the commission. [73]

Chile's new constitution was approved in a national plebiscite held on September 11, 1980. The constitution was approved by 67% of voters under a process which has been described as "highly irregular and undemocratic." [74] Critics of the 1980 Constitution argue that the constitution was created not to build a democracy, but to consolidate power within the central government while limiting the amount of sovereignty allowed to the people with little political presence. [75] The constitution came into force on March 11, 1981.

Removal of César Mendoza Edit

In 1985, due to the Caso Degollados scandal ("case of the slit throats"), General César Mendoza resigned and was replaced by General Rodolfo Stange. [67]

Youth policy Edit

One of the first measures of the dictatorship was to set up a Secretaría Nacional de la Juventud (SNJ, National Youth Office). This was done on October 28, 1973, even before the Declaration of Principles of the junta made in March 1974. This was a way of mobilizing sympathetic elements of the civil society in support for the dictatorship. SNJ was created by advise of Jaime Guzmán, being an example of the dictatorship adopting a Gremialist thought. [76] Some right-wing student union leaders like Andrés Allamand were skeptical to these attempts as they were moulded from above and gathered disparate figures such as Miguel Kast, Antonio Vodanovic and Jaime Guzmán. Allamand and other young right-wingers also resented the dominance of the gremialist in SNJ, considering it a closed gremialist club. [77]

From 1975 to 1980 the SNJ arranged a series of ritualized acts in cerro Chacarillas reminiscent of Francoist Spain. The policy towards the sympathetic youth contrasted with the murder, surveillance and forced disappearances the dissident youth faced from the regime. Most of the documents of the SNJ were reportedly destroyed by the dictatorship in 1988. [76]

Women during the dictatorship Edit

In 1962 under the presidency of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva, the women's section expanded pre-existing neighbourhood 'mothers' centres' (which initially helped women to purchase their own sewing machines) to help garner support for their social reforms amongst the poorer sections. By the end of the 1960s, there were 8,000 centres involving 400,000 members. [78] Under Allende they were reorganised under the rubric National Confederation of Mothers' Centres (Confederación Nacional de Centros de Madres, COCEMA) and leadership of his wife, Hortensia Bussi, to encourage community initiatives and implement their policies directed at women. [79]

Attacks on military personnel Edit

One of the first armed groups to oppose the dictatorship was the MIR, Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria. Immediately after the coup MIR-aligned elements in Neltume, southern Chile, unsuccesfully assaulted the local Carabino station. Subsequently, MIR conducted several operations against the Pinochet government until the late 1980s. MIR assassinated the head of the Army Intelligence school, Lieutenant Roger Vergara, with machine gun fire in the late 1970s. The MIR also executed an attack on the base of the Chilean Secret Police (Central Nacional de Informaciones, CNI), as well as several attempts on the lives of carabineros officials and a judge of the Supreme Court in Chile. [80] Throughout the beginning years of the dictatorship the MIR was low-profile, but in August 1981 the MIR successfully killed the military leader of Santiago, General Carol Urzua Ibanez. Attacks on Chilean military official increased in the early 1980s, with the MIR killing several security forces personnel on a variety of occasions through extensive use of planted bombs in police stations or machine gun use [81]

Representing a major shift in attitudes, the CPCh founded the FPMR on 14 December 1983, to engage in a violent armed struggle against the junta. [82] Most notably the organisation attempted to assassinate Pinochet on the 7 September 1986 under 'Operation XX Century' but were unsuccessful. [83] The group also assassinated the author of the 1980 Constitution, Jaime Guzmán on 1 April 1991. [84] They continued to operate throughout the 1990s, being designated as a terrorist organisation the U.S. Department of State and MI6, until supposedly ceasing to operate in 1999. [85]

Church opposition to human rights violations Edit

The Catholic Church, which at first expressed its gratitude to the armed forces for saving the country from the horrors of a "Marxist dictatorship" became, under the leadership of Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, the most outspoken critic of the regime's social and economic policies. [ citation needed ]

The Catholic Church was symbolically and institutionally powerful within Chile. Domestically, it was the second most powerful institution, behind Pinochet's government. While the Church remained politically neutral, its opposition to the regime came in the form of human rights advocacy and through the social movements that it gave a platform to. It achieved this through the establishment of the Cooperative Committee for Peace in Chile (COPACHI) and Vicariate of Solidarity. COPACHI was founded by Cardinal Raul Silve Henriquez, Archbishop of Santiago, as an immediate response to the repression of the Pinochet regime. It was apolitical in a spirit of collaboration rather than conflict with the government. Pinochet developed suspicion of COPACHI, leading to its dissolution in late 1975. In response Silva founded the Vicariate in its place. Historian Hugo Fruhling's work highlights the multifaceted nature of Vicaria. [86] Through developments and education programs in the shantytown area of Santiago, the Vicaria had mobilised around 44,000 people to join campaigns by 1979. The Church published a newsletter called Solidarity published in Chile and abroad, and supplied the public with information through radio stations. Vicaria pursued a legal strategy of defending human rights, not a political strategy to re-democratise Chile.

Jornadas de Protesta Nacional Edit

The Days of National Protest (Jornadas de Protesta Nacional) were days of civil demonstrations that periodically took place in Chile in the 1980s against the military junta. They were characterized by street demonstrations in the downtown avenues of the city in the mornings, strikes during the day, and barricades and clashes in the periphery of the city throughout the night. The protests were faced with increased government repression from 1984, with the biggest and last protest summoned in July 1986. The protests changed the mentality of many Chileans, strengthening opposition organizations and movements in the 1988 plebiscite.

After the military took over the government in 1973, a period of dramatic economic changes began. The Chilean economy was still faltering in the months following the coup. As the military junta itself was not particularly skilled in remedying the persistent economic difficulties, it appointed a group of Chilean economists who had been educated in the United States at the University of Chicago. Given financial and ideological support from Pinochet, the U.S., and international financial institutions, the Chicago Boys advocated laissez-faire, free-market, neoliberal, and fiscally conservative policies, in stark contrast to the extensive nationalization and centrally-planned economic programs supported by Allende. [87] Chile was drastically transformed from an economy isolated from the rest of the world, with strong government intervention, into a liberalized, world-integrated economy, where market forces were left free to guide most of the economy's decisions. [87]

From an economic point of view, the era can be divided into two periods. The first, from 1975 to 1982, corresponds to the period when most of the reforms were implemented. The period ended with the international debt crisis and the collapse of the Chilean economy. At that point, unemployment was extremely high, above 20 percent, and a large proportion of the banking sector had become bankrupt. The following period was characterized by new reforms and economic recovery. Some economists argue that the recovery was due to an about-face turnaround of Pinochet's free market policy, since he nationalized many of the same industries that were nationalized under Allende and fired the Chicago Boys from their government posts. [88]

1975–81 Edit

Chile's main industry, copper mining, remained in government hands, with the 1980 Constitution declaring them "inalienable," [89] but new mineral deposits were open to private investment. [89] Capitalist involvement was increased, the Chilean pension system and healthcare were privatized, and Superior Education was also placed in private hands. One of the junta's economic moves was fixing the exchange rate in the early 1980s, leading to a boom in imports and a collapse of domestic industrial production this together with a world recession caused a serious economic crisis in 1982, where GDP plummeted by 14%, and unemployment reached 33%. At the same time, a series of massive protests were organized, trying to cause the fall of the regime, which were efficiently repressed.

1982–83 Edit

In 1982-1983 Chile witnessed a severe economic crises with a surge in unemployment and a meltdown of the financial sector. [90] 16 out of 50 financial institutions faced bankruptcy. [91] In 1982 the two biggest banks were nationalized to prevent an even worse credit crunch. In 1983 another five banks were nationalized and two banks had to be put under government supervision. [92] The central bank took over foreign debts. Critics ridiculed the economic policy of the Chicago Boys as "Chicago way to socialism". [93]

1984–90 Edit

After the economic crisis, Hernán Büchi became Minister of Finance from 1985 to 1989, introducing a return to a free market economic policy. He allowed the peso to float and reinstated restrictions on the movement of capital in and out of the country. He deleted some bank regulations, and simplified and reduced the corporate tax. Chile went ahead with privatizations, including public utilities and the re-privatization of companies that had briefly returned to government control during the 1982–83 crisis. From 1984 to 1990, Chile's gross domestic product grew by an annual average of 5.9%, the fastest on the continent. Chile developed a good export economy, including the export of fruits and vegetables to the northern hemisphere when they were out of season, and commanded high export prices.

Evaluation Edit

Initially the economic reforms were internationally praised. Milton Friedman wrote in his Newsweek column on 25 January 1982 about the Miracle of Chile. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher credited Pinochet with bringing about a thriving, free-enterprise economy, while at the same time downplaying the junta's human rights record, condemning an "organised international Left who are bent on revenge."

With the economic crises of 1982 the "monetarist experiment" was widely regarded a failure. [94]

The pragmatic economic policy after the crises of 1982 is appreciated for bringing constant economic growth. [95] It is questionable whether the radical reforms of the Chicago Boys contributed to post-1983 growth. [96] According to Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, economist and consultant of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the 1982 crises as well as the success of the pragmatic economic policy after 1982 proves that the 1975–1981 radical economic policy of the Chicago Boys actually harmed the Chilean economy. [97]

Social consequences Edit

The economic policies espoused by the Chicago Boys and implemented by the junta initially caused several economic indicators to decline for Chile's lower classes. [98] Between 1970 and 1989, there were large cuts to incomes and social services. Wages decreased by 8%. [99] Family allowances in 1989 were 28% of what they had been in 1970 and the budgets for education, health and housing had dropped by over 20% on average. [99] [100] The massive increases in military spending and cuts in funding to public services coincided with falling wages and steady rises in unemployment, which averaged 26% during the worldwide economic slump of 1982–85 [99] and eventually peaked at 30%.

In 1990, the LOCE act on education initiated the dismantlement of public education. [89] According to Communist Party of Chile member and economist Manuel Riesco Larraín:

Overall, the impact of neoliberal policies has reduced the total proportion of students in both public and private institutions in relation to the entire population, from 30 per cent in 1974 down to 25 per cent in 1990, and up only to 27 per cent today. If falling birth rates have made it possible today to attain full coverage at primary and secondary levels, the country has fallen seriously behind at tertiary level, where coverage, although now growing, is still only 32 per cent of the age group. The figure was twice as much in neighbouring Argentina and Uruguay, and even higher in developed countries—South Korea attaining a record 98 per cent coverage. Significantly, tertiary education for the upper-income fifth of the Chilean population, many of whom study in the new private universities, also reaches above 70 per cent. [89]

The junta relied on the middle class, the oligarchy, domestic business, foreign corporations, and foreign loans to maintain itself. [101] Under Pinochet, funding of military and internal defence spending rose 120% from 1974 to 1979. [102] Due to the reduction in public spending, tens of thousands of employees were fired from other state-sector jobs. [102] The oligarchy recovered most of its lost industrial and agricultural holdings, for the junta sold to private buyers most of the industries expropriated by Allende's Popular Unity government.

Financial conglomerates became major beneficiaries of the liberalized economy and the flood of foreign bank loans. Large foreign banks reinstated the credit cycle, as the Junta saw that the basic state obligations, such as resuming payment of principal and interest installments, were honored. International lending organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank lent vast sums anew. [99] Many foreign multinational corporations such as International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Dow Chemical, and Firestone, all expropriated by Allende, returned to Chile. [99]

Having risen to power on an anti-Marxist agenda, Pinochet found common cause with the military dictatorships of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and later, Argentina. The six countries eventually formulated a plan known as Operation Condor, in which the security forces of participating states would target active left-wing militants, guerrillas fighters, and their alleged sympathizers in the allied countries. [103] Pinochet's government received tacit approval and material support from the United States. The exact nature and extent of this support is disputed. (See U.S. role in 1973 Coup, U.S. intervention in Chile and Operation Condor for more details.) It is known, however, that the American Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, practiced a policy of supporting coups in nations which the United States viewed as leaning toward Communism. [104]

The new junta quickly broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and North Korea, which had been established under the Allende government. Shortly after the junta came to power, several communist countries, including the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, severed diplomatic relations with Chile however, Romania and the People's Republic of China both continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Chile. [105] Pinochet has nurtured his relationship with China. [106] [107] The government broke diplomatic relations with Cambodia in January 1974 [108] and renewed ties with South Korea in October 1973 [ citation needed ] and with South Vietnam in March 1974. [109] Pinochet attended the funeral of General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1936–75, in late 1975.

In 1980, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had invited the entire Junta (consisting at this point of Pinochet, Merino, Matthei, and Mendoza) to visit the country as part of a planned tour of Southeast Asia in an attempt to help improve their image and bolster military and economic relations with the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Due to intense U.S. Pressure at the last minute (while Pinochet's plane was halfway en route over the Pacific), Marcos cancelled the visit and denied Pinochet landing rights in the country. Pinochet and the junta were further caught off guard and humiliated when they were forced to land in Fiji to refuel for the planned return to Santiago, only to be met with airport staff who refused to assist the plane in any way (the Fijian military was called in instead), invasive and prolonged customs searches, exorbitant fuel and aviation service charges, and hundreds of angry protesters who pelted his plane with eggs and tomatoes. The usually stoic and calm Pinochet became enraged, firing his Foreign Minister Hernan Cubillos, several diplomats, and expelling the Philippine Ambassador. [110] [111] Relations between the two countries were restored only in 1986 when Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency of the Philippines after Marcos was ousted in a non-violent revolution, the People Power Revolution.

Argentina Edit

President of Argentina Juan Perón condemned the 1973 coup as a "fatality for the continent" stating that Pinochet represented interests "well known" to him. He praised Allende for his "valiant attitude" and took note of the role of the United States in instigating the coup by recalling his familiarity with coup-making processes. [112] On 14 May 1974 Perón received Pinochet at the Morón Airbase. Pinochet was heading to meet Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay so the encounter at Argentina was technically a stop over. Pinochet and Perón are both reported to have felt uncomfortable during the meeting. Perón expressed his wishes to settle the Beagle conflict and Pinochet his concerns about Chilean exiles in Argentina near the frontier with Chile. Perón would have conceded on moving these exiles from the frontiers to eastern Argentina, but he warned "Perón takes his time, but accomplishes" (Perón tarda, pero cumple). Perón justified his meeting with Pinochet stating that it was important to keep good relations with Chile under all circumstances and with whoever might be in government. [112] Perón died in July 1974 and was succeeded by his wife Isabel Martínez de Perón who was overthrown in 1976 by the Argentine military who installed themselves as a new dictatorship in Argentina.

Chile was on the brink of being invaded by Argentina, as the Argentina junta initiated Operation Soberania on 22 December 1978 because of the strategic Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands at the southern tip of South America on the Beagle Canal. A full-scale war was prevented only by the call off of the operation by Argentina due to military and political reasons. [113] But the relations remained tense as Argentina invaded the Falklands (Operation Rosario). Chile along with Colombia, were the only countries in South America to criticize the use of force by Argentina in its war with the UK over the Falkland Islands. Chile actually helped the United Kingdom during the war. The two countries (Chile and Argentina) finally agreed to papal mediation over the Beagle canal that finally ended in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina (Tratado de Paz y Amistad). Chilean sovereignty over the islands and Argentinian east of the surrounding sea is now undisputed.

United States Edit

The U.S. government had been interfering in Chilean politics since 1961, and it spent millions trying to prevent Allende from coming to power, and subsequently undermined his presidency through financing opposition. Declassified C.I.A documents reveal U.S. knowledge and alleged involvement in the coup. [114] They provided material support to the military regime after the coup, although criticizing it in public. A document released by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2000, titled "CIA Activities in Chile", revealed that the CIA actively supported the military junta during and after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet's officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military, even though some were known to be involved in human rights abuses. [115] The U.S. continued to give the junta substantial economic support between the years 1973–79, despite concerns from more liberal Congressmen, as seen from the results of the Church Committee. U.S. public stance did condemn the human rights violations, however declassifies documents reveal such violations were not an obstacle for members of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Henry Kissinger visited Santiago in 1976 for the annual conference of the Organisation of American States. During his visit he privately met with Pinochet and reassured the leader of internal support from the U.S. administration. [116] The U.S. went beyond verbal condemnation in 1976, after the murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., when it placed an embargo on arms sales to Chile that remained in effect until the restoration of democracy in 1989. This more aggressive stance coincided with the election of Jimmy Carter who shifted the focus of U.S. foreign policy towards human rights.

United Kingdom Edit

Britain's initial reaction to the overthrowing of Allende was one of caution. The Conservative government recognised the legitimacy of the new government, but didn't offer any other declarations of support. [117]

Under the Labour government of 1974-79, Britain's relations with Chile were cordial, if not close. While Britain regularly condemned the junta at the United Nations for its human rights abuses, bilateral relations between the two were not affected to the same degree. [118] Britain formally withdrew its Santiago ambassador in 1974, however reinstated the position in 1980 under the Margaret Thatcher government. [119]

Chile was neutral during the Falkland War, but its Westinghouse long-range radar deployed at Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, gave the British task force early warning of Argentinian air attacks, which allowed British ships and troops in the war zone to take defensive action. [120] Margaret Thatcher said that the day the radar was taken out of service for overdue maintenance was the day Argentinian fighter-bombers bombed the troopships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram, leaving approximately 50 dead and 150 wounded. [121] According to Chilean Junta and former Air Force commander Fernando Matthei, Chilean support included military intelligence gathering, radar surveillance, British aircraft operating with Chilean colours and the safe return of British special forces, among other things. [122] In April and May 1982, a squadron of mothballed RAF Hawker Hunter fighter bombers departed for Chile, arriving on 22 May and allowing the Chilean Air Force to reform the No. 9 "Las Panteras Negras" Squadron. A further consignment of three frontier surveillance and shipping reconnaissance Canberras left for Chile in October. Some authors suggest that Argentina might have won the war had she been allowed to employ the VIth and VIIIth Mountain Brigades, which remained guarding the Andes mountain chain. [123] Pinochet subsequently visited Margaret Thatcher for tea on more than one occasion. [124] Pinochet's controversial relationship with Thatcher led Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to mock Thatcher's Conservatives as "the party of Pinochet" in 1999.

France Edit

Although France received many Chilean political refugees, it also secretly collaborated with Pinochet. French journalist Marie-Monique Robin has shown how Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's government secretly collaborated with Videla's junta in Argentina and with Augusto Pinochet's regime in Chile. [125]

Green deputies Noël Mamère, Martine Billard and Yves Cochet on September 10, 2003 requested a Parliamentary Commission on the "role of France in the support of military regimes in Latin America from 1973 to 1984" before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, presided by Edouard Balladur. Apart from Le Monde, newspapers remained silent about this request. [126] However, deputy Roland Blum, in charge of the commission, refused to hear Marie-Monique Robin, and published in December 2003 a 12 pages report qualified by Robin as the summum of bad faith. It claimed that no agreement had been signed, despite the agreement found by Robin in the Quai d'Orsay. [127] [128]

When then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin traveled to Chile in February 2004, he claimed that no cooperation between France and the military regimes had occurred. [129]

Peru Edit

Reportedly one of Juan Velasco Alvarado's main goal was to militarily reconquer the lands lost by Peru to Chile in the War of the Pacific. [130] It is estimated that from 1970 to 1975 Peru spent up to US$2 Billion (roughly US$20 Billion in 2010's valuation) on Soviet armament. [131] According to various sources Velasco's government bought between 600 and 1200 T-55 Main Battle Tanks, APCs, 60 to 90 Sukhoi 22 warplanes, 500,000 assault rifles, and even considered the purchase of the British Centaur-class light fleet carrier HMS Bulwark. [131]

The enormous amount of weaponry purchased by Peru caused a meeting between former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Pinochet in 1976. [131] Velasco's military plan was to launch a massive sea, air, and land invasion against Chile. [131] In 1999, General Pinochet claimed that if Peru had attacked Chile during 1973 or even 1978, Peruvian forces could have penetrated deep south into Chilean territory, possibly military taking the Chilean city of Copiapó located half way to Santiago. [130] The Chilean Armed Forces considered launching a preventive war to defend itself. Though, Pinochet's Chilean Air Force General Fernando Matthei opposed a preventive war and responded that "I can guarantee that the Peruvians would destroy the Chilean Air Force in the first five minutes of the war". [130] Some analysts believe the fear of attack by Chilean and US officials as largely unjustified but logical for them to experience, considering the Pinochet dictatorship had come into power with a coup against democratically elected president Salvador Allende. According to sources, the alleged invasion scheme could be seen from the Chilean's government perspective as a plan for some kind of leftist counterattack. [132] While acknowledging the Peruvian plans were revisionistic scholar Kalevi J. Holsti claim more important issues behind were the "ideological incompatibility" between the regimes of Velasco Alvarado and Pinochet and that Peru would have been concerned about Pinochet's geopolitical views on Chile's need of naval hegemony in the Southeastern Pacific. [133]

Chileans should stop with the bullshit or tomorrow I shall eat breakfast in Santiago.

Spain Edit

Francoist Spain had enjoyed warm relations with Chile while Allende was in power. [135] [136] Pinochet admired and was very much influenced by Francisco Franco, but Franco's successors had a cold attitude towards Pinochet as they did not want to be linked to him. [135] [136] When Pinochet traveled to the funeral of Francisco Franco in 1975 the President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing pressured the Spanish government to refuse Pinochet to be at the crowning of Juan Carlos I of Spain by letting Spanish authorities know that Giscard would not be there if Pinochet was present. Juan Carlos I personally called Pinochet to let him know he was not welcome at his crowning. [137]

While in Spain Pinochet is reported to have met with Stefano Delle Chiaie in order to plan the killing of Carlos Altamirano, the Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Chile. [138]

Foreign aid Edit

The previous drop in foreign aid during the Allende years was immediately reversed following Pinochet's ascension Chile received US$322.8 million in loans and credits in the year following the coup. [139] There was considerable international condemnation of the military regime's human rights record, a matter that the United States expressed concern over as well after Orlando Letelier's 1976 assassination in Washington DC.(Kennedy Amendment, later International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976).

Cuban involvement Edit

After the Chilean military coup in 1973, Fidel Castro promised Chilean revolutionaries far-reaching aid. Initially Cuban support for resistance consisted of clandestine distribution of funds to Chile, human rights campaigns at the UN to isolate the Chilean dictatorship, and efforts to undermine US-Chilean bilateral relations. Eventually Cuba's policy changed to arming and training insurgents. Once their training was completed, Cuba helped the guerrillas return to Chile, providing false passports and false identification documents. [140] Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, boasted in February 1981 that the "Chilean Resistance" had successfully conducted more than 100 "armed actions" throughout Chile in 1980. By late 1980, at least 100 highly trained MIR guerrillas had reentered Chile and the MIR began building a base for future guerrilla operations in Neltume, a mountainous forest region in southern Chile. In a massive operation spearheaded by Chilean Army Para-Commandos, security forces involving some 2,000 troops, were forced to deploy in the Neltume mountains from June to November 1981, where they destroyed two MIR bases, seizing large caches of munitions and killing a number of MIR commandos. In 1986, Chilean security forces discovered 80 tons of munitions, including more than three thousand M-16 rifles and more than two million rounds of ammunition, at the tiny fishing harbor of Carrizal Bajo, smuggled ashore from Cuban fishing trawlers off the coast of Chile. [141] The operation was overseen by Cuban naval intelligence, and also involved the Soviet Union. Cuban Special Forces had also instructed the FPMR guerrillas that ambushed Augusto Pinochet's motorcade on 8 September 1986, killing five bodyguards and wounding 10. [142]

Influenced by Antonio Gramsci's work on cultural hegemony, proposing that the ruling class can maintain power by controlling cultural institutions, Pinochet clamped down on cultural dissidence. [143] This brought Chilean cultural life into what sociologist Soledad Bianchi has called a "cultural blackout". [144] The government censored non-sympathetic individuals while taking control of mass media. [144]

Music scene Edit

The military dictatorship sought to isolate Chilean radio listerners from the outside world by changing radio frequencies to middle wavelengths. [145] This together with the shutdown of radio stations sympathetic the former Allende administration impacted music in Chile. [145] The music catalog was censored with the aid of listas negras (black lists) but little is known on how these were composed and updated. [146] The formerly thriving Nueva canción scene suffered from the exile or imprisonment of many bands and individuals. [144] A key musician, Víctor Jara, was tortured and killed by elements of the military. [144] According to Eduardo Carrasco of Quilapayún in the first week after the coup, the military organized a meeting with folk musicians where they announced that the traditional instruments charango and quena were banned. [144] The curfew imposed by the dictatorship forced the remaining Nueva Canción scene, now rebranded as Canto Nuevo, into "semiclandestine peñas, while alternative groove disseminated in juvenile fiestas". [147] A scarcity of records and the censorship imposed on part of the music catalog made a "cassette culture" emmerge among the affected audiences. [147] The profiferation of pirate cassettes was enabled by tape recorders, [146] and in some cases this activity turned commercial as evidenced by the pirate cassette brand Cumbre y Cuatro. [145] The music of Silvio Rodríguez became first known in Chile this way. [146] Cassettes aside, some music enthusiasts were able to supply themselves with rare or suppressed records with help of relatives in exile abroad. [145]

Elements of military distrusted Mexican music which was widespread in the rural areas of south-central Chile. [145] There are testimonies of militaries calling Mexican music "communist". [145] Militaries dislike of Mexican music may be linked to the Allende administration's close links with Mexico, the "Mexican revolutionary discourse" and the over-all low prestige of Mexican music in Chile. [145] The dictatorship did however never suppressed Mexican music as a whole but came distinguish different strands, some of which were actually promoted. [145]

Cueca and Mexican music coexisted with similar levels of popularity in the Chilean countryside in the 1970s. [148] [145] Being distinctly Chilean the cueca was selected by the military dictatorship as a music to be promoted. [145] The cueca was named the national dance of Chile due to its substantial presence throughout the history of the country and announced as such through a public decree in the Official Journal (Diario Oficial) on November 6, 1979. [149] Cueca specialist Emilio Ignacio Santana argues that the dictatorship's appropriation and promotion of cueca harmed the genre. [145] The dictatorship's endorsement of the genre meant according to Santana that the rich landlord huaso became the icon of the cueca and not the rural labourer. [145]

The 1980s saw an invasion of Argentine rock bands into Chile. These included Charly García, the Enanitos Verdes, G.I.T. and Soda Stereo among others. [150] Contemporary Chilean rock group Los Prisioneros complained against the ease with which Argentine Soda Stereo made appearances on Chilean TV or in Chilean magazines and the ease they could obtain musical equipment for concerts in Chile. [151] Soda Stereo was invited to Viña del Mar International Song Festival while Los Prisioneros were ignored despite their popular status. [152] This situation was because Los Prisioneros were censored by media under the influence of the military dictatorship. [151] [152] Los Prisioneros' marginalization by the media was further aggravated by their call to vote against the dictatorship on the plebiscite of 1988. [152]

Theater and literature Edit

Experimental theatre groups from Universidad de Chile and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile were restricted by the military regime to performing only theatre classics. [154] Some established groups like Grupo Ictus were tolerated while new formations like Grupo Aleph were repressed. This last group had its members jailed and forced into exile after performing a parody on the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. [154] In the 1980s a grassroots street theatre movement emerged. [154]

The dictatorship promoted the figure of Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral who was presented as a symbol of "summission to the authority" and "social order". [155]

1988 plebiscite Edit

Following the approval of the 1980 Constitution, a plebiscite was scheduled for October 5, 1988, to vote on a new eight-year presidential term for Pinochet.

The Constitution, which took effect on 11 March 1981, established a "transition period," during which Pinochet would continue to exercise executive power and the junta's legislative power, for the next eight years. Before that period ended, a candidate for president was to be proposed by the Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Carabinero Chief General for the following period of eight years. The candidate then was to be ratified by registered voters in a national plebiscite. On 30 August 1988 Pinochet was declared to be the candidate. [156]

The Constitutional Court of Chile ruled that the plebiscite should be carried out as stipulated by Article 64 in the Constitution. That included a programming slot in television (franja electoral) during which all positions, in this case, two, (yes), and No, would have two free slots of equal and uninterrupted TV time, simultaneously broadcast by all TV channels, with no political advertising outside those spots. The allotment was scheduled in two off-prime time slots: one before the afternoon news and the other before the late-night news, from 22:45 to 23:15 each night (the evening news was from 20:30 to 21:30, and primetime from 21:30 to 22:30). The opposition No campaign, headed by Ricardo Lagos, produced colorful, upbeat programs, telling the Chilean people to vote against the extension of the presidential term. Lagos, in a TV interview, pointed his index finger towards the camera and directly called on Pinochet to account for all the "disappeared" persons. The campaign did not argue for the advantages of extension, but was instead negative, claiming that voting "no" was equivalent to voting for a return to the chaos of the UP government.

Pinochet lost the 1988 referendum, where 56% of the votes rejected the extension of the presidential term, against 44% for "", and, following the constitutional provisions, he stayed as president for one more year. The presidential election was held in December 1989, at the same time as congressional elections that were due to take place. Pinochet left the presidency on March 11, 1990 and transferred power to his political opponent Patricio Aylwin, the new democratically-elected president. Due to the same transitional provisions of the constitution, Pinochet remained as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, until March 1998.

1989 general elections Edit

From the 1989 elections onwards, the military had officially left the political sphere in Chile. Pinochet did not endorse any candidate publicly. Former Pinochet economic minister Hernán Büchi ran for president as the candidate of the two right-wing parties RN and UDI. He had little political experience and was relatively young and credited with Chile's good economic performance in the second half of the 1980s. The right-wing parties faced several problems in the elections: there was considerable infighting between RN and UDI, Büchi had only very reluctantly accepted to run for president and right-wing politicians struggled to define their position towards the Pinochet regime. In addition to this right-wing populist Francisco Javier Errázuriz Talavera ran independently for president and made several election promises Büchi could not match. [4]

The centre-left coalition Concertación was more united and coherent. Its candidate Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, behaved as if he had won and refused a second television debate with Büchi. Büchi attacked Aylwin on a remark he had made concerning that inflation rate of 20% was not much and he also accused Aylwin of making secret agreements with the Communist Party of Chile, a party that was not part of Concertación. [4] Aylwin spoke with authority about the need to clarify human rights violations but did not confront the dictatorship for it in contrast, Büchi, as a former regime minister, lacked any credibility when dealing with human right violations. [4]

Büchi and Errázuriz lost to Patricio Aylwin in the election. The electoral system meant that the largely Pinochet-sympathetic right was overrepresented in parliament in such a way that it could block any reform to the constitution. This over-representation was crucial for UDI in obtaining places in parliament and securing its political future. The far-left and the far-right performed poorly in the election. [4]

Presidential election results Edit

Candidate Party/coalition Votes %
Patricio Aylwin PDC/CPD 3,850,571 55.17
Hernán Büchi Independent/D&P 2,052,116 29.40
Francisco Javier Errázuriz Independent 1,077,172 15.43
Valid votes 6,979,859 100.00
Null votes 103,631 1.45
Blank votes 75,237 1.05
Total votes 7,158,727 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 7,557,537 94.72
Source: Tricel via Servel

Following the restoration of Chilean democracy and the successive administrations that followed Pinochet, the Chilean economy has increasingly prospered. Unemployment stands at 7% as of 2007, with poverty estimated at 18.2% for the same year, both relatively low for the region. [157] However, in 2019 the Chilean government faced public scrutiny for its economic policies. In particular, for the long-term effects of Pinochet's neoliberal policies. [158] Mass protests broke out throughout Santiago, due to increasing prices of the metro ticket. [159] For many Chileans this highlighted the disproportionate distribution of wealth amongst Chile.

The "Chilean Variation" has been seen as a potential model for nations that fail to achieve significant economic growth. [160] The latest is Russia, for whom David Christian warned in 1991 that "dictatorial government presiding over a transition to capitalism seems one of the more plausible scenarios, even if it does so at a high cost in human rights violations." [161]

A survey published by pollster CERC on the eve of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the coup gave some idea of how Chileans perceived the dictatorship. According to the poll, 55% of Chileans regarded the 17 years of dictatorship as either bad or very bad, while 9% said they were good or very good. [162] In 2013, the newspaper El Mercurio asked Chileans if the state had done enough to compensate victims of the dictatorship for the atrocities they suffered 30% said yes, 36% said no, and the rest were undecided. [163] In order to keep the memories of the victims and the disappeared alive, memorial sites have been constructed throughout Chile, as a symbol of the country's past. Some notable examples include Villa Grimaldi, Londres 38, Paine Memorial and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. [164] These memorials were built by family members of the victims, the government and ex-prisoners of the dictatorship. These have become popular tourist destinations and have provided a visual narrative of the atrocities of the dictatorship. These memorials have aided in Chile's reconciliation process, however, there is still debate amongst Chile as to whether these memorials do enough to bring the country together.

The relative economic success of the Pinochet dictatorship has brought about some political support for the former dictatorship. In 1998, then-Brazilian congressman and retired military officer Jair Bolsonaro praised Pinochet, saying his regime "should have killed more people". [165]

Every year on the anniversary of the coup, Chile becomes more polarized and protests can be seen throughout the country. [166] Leftist supporters use this day to honour the victims of the dictatorship and highlight the atrocities for which the perpetrators still haven't been brought to justice.

The indictment and arrest of Pinochet occurred on 10 October 1998 in London. He returned to Chile in March 2000 but was not charged with the crimes against him. On his 91st birthday on 25 November 2006, in a public statement to supporters, Pinochet for the first time claimed to accept "political responsibility" for what happened in Chile under his regime, though he still defended the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende. In a statement read by his wife Lucia Hiriart, he said, Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all. . I take political responsibility for everything that was done. [167] Despite this statement, Pinochet always refused to be confronted to Chilean justice, claiming that he was senile. He died two weeks later while indicted on human rights and corruption charges, but without having been sentenced.

Structure of Government under the current Constitution


The executive branch is headed by the President of the Republic, who serves a four year term and is not eligible for consecutive re-election. The President must be at least 35 years of age and a citizen of Chile. The President’s powers include participation in law making, oversight of the judiciary, and the ability to demand a session of Congress or a plebiscite. The Ministers of State, appointed by the President, must grant their approval of any Presidential regulations or decrees. The Ministers must be at least 21 years of age.


The legislature of Chile is a bicameral system composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Members of each branch are elected during the same election cycle as the president. 120 members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected in direct voting by 60 two-member electoral districts for four year terms. They must be at least 21 years old, have completed a secondary education, and have resided in their respective electoral district for no less than two years before the date of the election. The 38 members of the Senate are elected by direct vote in 19 two-member circumscriptions for eight year terms, half renewed alternately every four years. Senators must be at least 35 years of age and have completed a secondary education. Members of both branches may serve additional terms.


The Courts of Chile address civil and criminal matters. The Supreme Court is composed of twenty-one ministers, appointed by the President, who choses from 5 nominees provided by the Court. Five members of the Court must be lawyers from outside the administration of justice with at least 15 years of experience. Judges for the Court of Appeal are appointed by the President from a list of three nominees provided by the Supreme Court. Judges for lower courts are appointed by the President from a list of three nominees from the Court of Appeals of the respective jurisdiction. No person may sit as a judge upon reaching the age of 75.

Constitutional matters are determined by the Constitutional Tribunal. The Tribunal is composed of 10 members. Three are appointed by the President, four are elected by National Congress, and three are elected by the Supreme Court. Members serve 9 year terms, partially renewed by threes, and may only serve one term. Members of the Tribunal are irremovable unless they reach 75 years old.

Richard E. Feinberg

Former Brookings Expert

Professor, School of Global Policy & Strategy - University of California San Diego

Mindful of the lessons of history, last week Chilean politicians from across the political spectrum signed a monumental accord to, finally, discard the constitution first promulgated during the Pinochet era and draft a new governing charter.

The national political accord was a direct response to over three weeks of intense street demonstrations, marked by masked youths burning public symbols and sacking retail outlets, as well as a massive march of over one million Chileans in the capital Santiago (roughly one in every four adults in the city). It was the largest public gathering in the nation’s history.

‘An End to the Chapter of Dictatorship’: Chileans Vote to Draft a New Constitution

Voters overwhelmingly approved a bid to scrap the charter inherited from Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, a move that could set a new course for the country.

SANTIAGO, Chile — The protests started over a small hike in metro fares, then exploded into a broad reckoning over inequality that shook Chile for weeks. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets, calling for sweeping change in their society, with higher wages and pensions, better health care and education.

The movement soon seized on a vehicle for their demands: Chile’s Constitution.

The existing charter, drafted without popular input during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and approved in a fraudulent plebiscite in 1980, was widely blamed for blocking change — and seen as a lingering link to a grim chapter in Chile’s history.

On Sunday, just over a year after the massive demonstrations swept the nation, Chileans voted to scrap the dictatorship-era document and write a new one — a process that could transform the politics of a country that has long been regarded as one of the most stable and prosperous in Latin America.

With 100 percent of the ballots counted, voters approved the referendum in a landslide victory, and 78 percent voted in favor of a new Constitution.

“This plebiscite is not the end it is the beginning of a path we should all undertake together,” President Sebastián Piñera said in an address from the presidential palace.

“Until now, the Constitution has divided us,” he added. “As of today, we should all cooperate to make the new Constitution become one home for all of us.”

Until the protests last year, the idea of a new Constitution “wasn’t on anyone’s agenda,” said Lucía Dammert, a political scientist and board member of the research center Espacio Público. “The fact we are now discussing a new Constitution is a victory of the social movement.”

The vote, originally scheduled for April, was postponed as Chile went on lockdown during the pandemic. Now, with most of the capital, Santiago, and other areas gradually opening up, voter turnout was high.

Thousands of people flocked to the Plaza Italia in Santiago to celebrate on Sunday night, chanting, dancing, waving flags and setting off fireworks. Demonstrators unfurled banners addressed to Pinochet, with messages like “Goodbye, General,” and “Erasing your legacy will be our legacy.”

“Today, citizenship and democracy have prevailed, and peace has prevailed over violence,” Mr. Piñera said. “This is a victory for all Chileans.”

On Sunday morning, Chileans turned out in droves to participate. Throughout the country, voters in masks ringed block after block in calm, orderly lines.

After transitioning to democracy in 1990, Chile’s market-friendly business environment, framed in part by the Constitution, attracted foreign investment. The country grew consistently and saw poverty go down. But this came at the cost of an acute concentration of wealth and growing inequality. Last year, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America estimated that nearly a quarter of total income goes to 1 percent of Chile’s population.

To cover the high cost of living, Chileans are greatly indebted. The Central Bank found last year that on average nearly three-fourths of household income was used to pay debt. The public health care and education systems are in shambles, and meager pensions force most people of retirement age to continue working.

Amalia Gómez, 66, barely gets by on a $125 monthly pension and picks up seamstress jobs to compensate. She and many others like her see a new Constitution as a path to better lives and a more equitable country for future generations.

“Why not, if we are a country rich in minerals, fish, agriculture?” she said. “Why can’t we use those resources to our benefit, for our education and health?”

Sunday’s ballot asks voters whether they want a new Constitution, and who should draft it: a body of only newly elected representatives or a convention in which half of the delegates would be members of Congress.

Voters overwhelmingly opted for a newly elected constitutional convention, without automatic inclusion of Congress members. Elections will be held in April to choose the delegates, among whom there must be gender parity. Political factions are still negotiating whether to reserve seats for Indigenous delegates.

Chileans are now scheduled to vote in 2022 to approve or reject the Constitution the convention drafts.

As the nation geared up for voting, tensions were high.

After last year’s immense protests — known as the “estallido,” or explosion — rocked the country, the pandemic sent demonstrators home for much of 2020. Timid protests returned last month, leading to clashes between demonstrators and the police.


Passed under tight military control in 1980, the Chilean constitution's legal dispositions were designed to lead to the convocation of all citizens to a plebiscite during which the Chilean people would ratify a candidate, proposed by the Chief of Staff of the Chilean Armed Forces and by the General Director of the Carabineros, the national police force, and who would become the President of Chile for an eight-year term. In 1980, this meant that the Chilean people were supposed to approve Augusto Pinochet's candidacy, assuring him popular legitimacy and the sanction of a vote. If the people refused the junta's chosen candidate, the military would relinquish political control to the civilians, leading to presidential and parliamentary democratic elections the following year, putting an end to the military government.

In 1987, Pinochet's government passed a law allowing the creation of political parties and another law allowing the opening of national registers of voters. If the majority of the people voted "yes" to Pinochet's plebiscite, he would have remained in power for the next eight years. Instead, Congress was elected and installed on March 11, 1990.

Touch only one of my men, and forget about the rule of law.

Context and causes of Pinochet's decision to follow the Constitution Edit

Various factors led to Pinochet's decision to resume this procedure, including the situation in the Soviet Union, where Mikhail Gorbachev had initiated the glasnost and the perestroika democratic reforms. Those reforms led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and to the official end of the Cold War, which was an important factor.

The Cold War had important consequences in South America, considered by the United States to be a full part of the Western Bloc, in contrast with the Eastern Bloc, a division born with the end of World War II and the Yalta Conference. Following the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the local implementation in several countries of Che Guevara's foco theory, the US waged a war in South America against the "Communists subversives," leading to support in Chile of the right-wing, which would culminate with the coup of 1973 in Chile. In a few years, all of South America was covered by similar military dictatorships, called juntas. In Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner was in power since 1954 in Brazil, left-wing President João Goulart was overthrown by a military coup in 1964 in Bolivia, General Hugo Banzer overthrew leftist General Juan José Torres in 1971 in Uruguay, considered the "Switzerland" of South America, Juan María Bordaberry seized power in the June 27th 1973 coup. A "Dirty War" was waged all over the continent, culminating with Operation Condor, an agreement between security services of the Southern Cone, other South American countries, and the US government which provided training to repress and assassinate domestic political opponents. In 1976, militaries seized power in Argentina and supported the 1980 "Cocaine Coup" of Luis García Meza Tejada in Bolivia, before training the Contras in Nicaragua where the Sandinista National Liberation Front, headed by Daniel Ortega, had taken power in 1979. Similar military coups took place in Guatemala and in El Salvador. In the 1980s, however, the situation progressively evolved in the world as in South America, despite a renewal of the Cold War from 1979 to 1985, the year during which Gorbachev replaced Konstantin Chernenko as leader of the USSR.

Another alleged reason of Pinochet's decision to call for elections was Pope John Paul II's April 1987 visit to Chile: he visited Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Temuco, Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt and Antofagasta. Before his pilgrimage to Latin America, the pontiff criticized Pinochet's regime as "dictatorial" while speaking with reporters. According to The New York Times, he was "using unusually strong language" to criticize Pinochet and told the journalists that the Church in Chile must not only pray, but actively fight for the restoration of democracy in Chile. [3] During his 1987 Chilean visit, the Polish pope asked Chile's 31 Catholic bishops to campaign for free elections in the country. [4] According to George Weigel, he held a meeting with Pinochet during which they discussed the topic of the return to democracy. John Paul II allegedly pushed Pinochet to accept a democratic opening of the regime, and even called for his resignation. [5] In 2007, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, acting as Pope John Paul II's secretary, confirmed that the Pope asked Pinochet to step down and transfer power over to civilian authorities during his visit. [6] John Paul II also supported the Vicariate of Solidarity during his visit, which was a Church-led pro-democracy, anti-Pinochet organization. John Paul II visited the Vicariate of Solidarity's offices, spoke with its workers, and "called upon them to continue their work, emphasizing that the Gospel consistently urges respect for human rights." [7] Some have erroneously accused John Paul II of affirming Pinochet's regime by appearing with the Chilean ruler in his balcony. However, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, organizer of John Paul II's pilgrimages, revealed that Pinochet tricked the pontiff by telling him he would take him to his living room, while in reality he took him to his balcony. Tucci claims that the pontiff was "furious." [8]

Whatever the case, political advertisement was legalized on 5 September 1987, and became a key element of the campaign for the "NO" to the referendum, which countered the official campaign which presaged a return to a Popular Unity government in case of Pinochet's defeat. Finally, the "NO" to Pinochet won with 55.99% of the votes, against 44.01% of the votes. As a result, presidential and legislative elections were called for the following year.

Furthermore, in July 1989, a constitutional referendum took place after long negotiations between the government and the opposition. If approved, 54 constitutional reforms were to be implemented, among which the reform of the way that the Constitution itself could be reformed, the restriction of state of emergency dispositions, the affirmation of political pluralism, the strengthening of constitutional rights as well as of the democratic principle and participation to the political life. All parties in the political spectrum supported the reforms, with the exception of the small right-wing Avanzada Nacional and other minor parties. Reforms were passed with 91.25% of the vote.

The Concertación coalition, which supported the return to democracy, gathered the Christian Democrat Party (PDC), the Socialist Party (PS), the Party for Democracy (PPD) and the Social Democrat Radical Party (PRSD). Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin won a sweeping victory in the December 1989 elections, the first democratic elections since the 1970 election won by Salvador Allende. Patricio Aylwin had gathered 3,850,023 votes (55.17%), while the center-right supermarket tycoon Francisco Javier Errázuriz Talavera from the UCCP party managed to take 15.05% of the vote, whose main effect was lowering right-wing candidate Hernán Büchi's votes to 29.40% (approximately 2 million votes).

The Concertación coalition dominated Chilean politics for much of the next two decades. In February 1991, it established the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, releasing the Rettig Report on human rights violations during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. This report, contested by human rights NGOs and associations of political prisoners, counted only 2,279 cases of "disappearances" which could be proved and registered. Of course, the very nature of "disappearances" made such investigations very difficult, while many victims were still intimidated by the authorities, and did not dare go to the local police center to register themselves on lists, since the police officers were the same as during the dictatorship.

Several years later, the same problem arose with the 2004 Valech Report, which counted almost 30,000 victims of torture, among testimony from 35,000 people. However, the Rettig Report did list important detention and torture centers, such as the Esmeralda ship, the Víctor Jara Stadium, Villa Grimaldi, etc. Registration of victims of the dictatorship, and the following trials in the 2000s of military personnel guilty of human rights violations, dominated the struggle for the recognition of crimes committed during the dictatorship by human rights NGOs and associations of political prisoners, many of whom resided in exile.

Besides implementing the Rettig Commission, Aylwin's government established a Comisión Especial de Pueblos indígenas (Special Commission of Indigenous People), whose report provided the intellectual framework of the "Indigenous Law" (ley indígena) or law n° 19 253. The law went into effect on September 28, 1993 [9] and recognized the Mapuche people as an inherent part of the Chilean nation. Other indigenous people officially recognized included Aymaras, Atacameñas, Collas, Quechuas, Rapa-Nui, Yámanas and Kawashkars. Despite this state proclamation of indigenous rights, conflicts brought by land-occupations and Mapuche's claims led to state repression and the use of the anti-terrorist law against Mapuche activists, a law instated by the military junta.

Preparing for the 1993 election, the Concertación held primaries in May 1993, which pitted left-wing Ricardo Lagos (PPD) against Christian-Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, (PDC), the son of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva (1911–1982, President from 1964 to 1970). Eduardo Frei won these primaries by a large majority of 63%.

The right-wing, grouped as the Alliance for Chile, also held primaries between 2 candidates: Sebastián Piñera of the National Renewal (RN) the largest right-wing party at the time and who had supported the "NO" during the 1988 plebiscite on the return to civilian rule, and Arturo Alessandri Besa, former member of the National Party (PN), who was opposed to Eduardo Frei in the 1970 presidential election and was a representative of the Independent Democrat Union (UDI). Alessandri won those primaries, and thus represented the Alliance for Chile against the Concertación.

Others candidates included José Piñera, who was the former Minister in the early 1980s that had implemented the law granting property of copper to the Chilean Armed Forces and presented himself as an independent (6%) ecologist Manfred Max-Neef (5.55%), representative of the Left-Wing Democratic Alternative, which gathered the Communist Party (PCC), MAPU (part of the Popular Unity coalition of Allende) and the Christian Left Party Eugenio Pizarro Poblete (less than 5%) and finally Cristián Reitze Campos of the left-wing Humanist Party (1.1%).

On 28 May 1993, the Boinazo took place, during which paratroopers surrounded the Chilean Army headquarters located close by to the Palacio de la Moneda. [10] The motive for the military uprising was the opening of investigations concerning the "Pinocheques", or checks received by Pinochet for a total amount of $3 million in the frame of kickbacks from an arms deal. [11] A few days before (and unnoticed at the time), Jorge Schaulsohn, President of the Chamber of Deputies, had also denounced irregularities during arms trade committed by the Chilean Army through the intermediary of the FAMAE (Factories and Arsenals of the Army of Chile) — which was later connected to the Gerardo Huber case, a Chilean Army Colonel and agent of DINA who was assassinated the previous year. [11]

Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle finally won the election in the first round in December 1993 with an absolute majority of almost 58% (more than 4 million votes) against Arturo Allesandri who gathered 24.4% (around 1,700 000 votes). Eduardo Frei took office in March 1994 for a 6-year term until 2000. During his term, it was not possible to judge any military for his role during the dictatorship, while large sectors of the Chilean society remained Pinochetista.

Following an agreement between Pinochet and Andrés Zaldívar, president of the Senate, Zaldavír voted to abolish September 11 as a National Holiday which celebrated the 1973 coup. Supporters of Pinochet had blocked any such attempts until then. [12] The same year, Pinochet traveled to London for back surgery. Once there, he was arrested on the orders of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, provoking worldwide attention, not only because of the history of Chile and South America, but also because this was one of the first arrests of a dictator based on the universal jurisdiction principle. Pinochet tried to defend himself by referring to the State Immunity Act of 1978, an argument rejected by British judicial system. However, UK Home Secretary Jack Straw releases him on medical grounds, and refused to extradite him to Spain. Pinochet returned to Chile in March 2000. Upon descending the plane in his wheelchair, he quickly stood up and saluted the cheering crowd of supporters, including an army band playing his favorite military march tunes, which was awaiting him at the airport in Santiago. President Ricardo Lagos, who had just been sworn in on March 11, said the retired general's televised arrival had damaged Chile's image, while thousands demonstrated against him. [13]

Representing the Concertación coalition for democracy, Ricardo Lagos had narrowly won the election just a few months before by a very tight margin of less than 200,000 votes (51.32%) against Joaquín Lavín who represented the right-wing Alliance for Chile (around 49%). None of the six candidates had obtained an absolute majority on the first round held on December 12, 1999. Lagos was sworn-in for a 6-year term on March 11, 2000.

In June 2000, the Congress passed a new law which granted anonymity to members of the armed forces who provide information on the desaparecidos. [14] Meanwhile, the trials concerning human rights violations during the dictatorship continued. Pinochet was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in August 2000 by the Supreme Court and was indicted by judge Juan Guzmán Tapia. In 1999, Tapia had ordered the arrest of five military men, including General Pedro Espinoza Bravo of the DINA, for their role in the Caravan of Death following September 11 coup. Arguing that the bodies of the "disappeared" were still missing, he made jurisprudence which lifted any prescription on the crimes committed by the military. Pinochet's trial continued until his death on December 10, 2006, with alternating indictments for specific cases, lifting of immunities by the Supreme Court or to the contrary immunity from prosecution, with his health as main argument for, or against, his prosecution. In March 2005, the Supreme Court affirmed Pinochet's immunity concerning the 1974 assassination of General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires, which had taken place as part of Operation Condor. However, he was deemed fit to stand trial for Operation Colombo, during which 119 political opponents were "disappeared" in Argentina. The Chilean justice also lifted his immunity on the Villa Grimaldi case, a detention and torture center in the outskirts of Santiago.

Pinochet, who still benefited from a reputation of righteousness from his supporters, lost legitimacy when he was put under house arrest on tax fraud and passport forgery following the publication of a report concerning the Riggs Bank in July 2004 by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The report was a consequence of investigations on financial fundings of the September 11th 2001 attacks in the US. The bank controlled between US$4 million and $8 million of Pinochet's assets, as he lived in Santiago in a modest house, hiding his wealth. According to the report, Riggs Bank participated in money laundering for Pinochet, setting up offshore shell corporations (referring to Pinochet as only "a former public official") and hiding his accounts from regulatory agencies. Related to Pinochet's and his family secret bank accounts in United States and in Caraïbs islands, this tax fraud filing for an amount of $27 million shocked the conservative sectors who still supported him. Ninety percent of these funds were raised between 1990 and 1998, when Pinochet was chief of the Chilean armies, and essentially would have come from weapons trafficking when purchasing Belgian "Mirage" air-fighters in 1994, Dutch "Léopard" tanks, Swiss "Mowag" tanks, or by illegal sales of weapons to Croatia in the middle of the Balkans war. His wife Lucía Hiriart and his son Marco Antonio Pinochet were also sued for complicity. For the fourth time in seven years, Pinochet was indicted by the Chilean justice. [15]

The Chilean authorities took control in August 2005 of the Colonia Dignidad concentration camp, directed by ex-Nazi Paul Schäfer.

2005 reform of the 1980 Constitution Edit

Over 50 reforms to Pinochet's Constitution were approved in 2005, which eliminated some of the remaining undemocratic areas of the text, such as the existence of non-elected Senators (institutional senators, or senators for life) and the inability of the President to remove the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. These reforms led the President to controversially declare Chile's transition to democracy as complete. However, its anti-terrorist measures remained, which have been used against the indigenous Mapuche. Furthermore, the military still receives money from the copper industry.

In 2006, the Concertación again won the presidential election: Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first woman president, beat Sebastián Piñera (Alliance for Chile), and obtained more than 53% of the vote. Bachelet's first political crisis occurred with massive protests by students who were demanding free bus fare and waiving of the university admissions test (PSU) fee, among longer-term demands such as the abolition of the Organic Constitutional Law on Teaching (LOCE), an end to municipalization of subsidized education, a reform to the Full-time School Day policy (JEC) and a quality education for all. The protests peaked on May 30, 2006, when 790,000 students adhered to strikes and marches throughout the country, becoming Chile's largest student demonstration of the past three decades. [16]

The 2006–2007 Chilean corruption scandals were a series of events in which the Chilean governing Concertación was under investigations of corruption.

In June 2007, General Raúl Iturriaga, the former deputy director of the DINA, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for the abduction of Luis Dagoberto San Martin in 1974. Iturriaga had been in hiding from the authorities for a number of years [ clarification needed ] but was arrested in August 2007. [17]

The CUT trade-union federation called for demonstrations in August 2007. These went on during the night, and at least 670 people were arrested, including journalists and a mayor, [18] and 33 carabineros were injured. [19] The protests were aimed against the Bachelet government's free market policies. Socialist Senator Alejandro Navarro was injured by the police during the demonstrations, [20] although it later emerged that he had hit and kicked police and is currently [ when? ] under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. [21] Senators from the opposition have requested that Navarro and other congressmen who participated in the protest be removed from Congress for violating the constitutional article which bans congressmen from participating in demonstrations which "violate the peace". [22]

In August 2007, a BBC correspondent wrote that about three million workers, roughly half the workforce, earned the minimum wage of $260 (£130) a month. [20] At the same time, Arturo Martínez, general secretary of the CUT, requested explanations from the government and accused it of having stirred up the tension. [23] Politicians from the center-right Alianza and from the governing center-left Concertación have in turn criticized the CUT for the violence of the protest. [ citation needed ]

A U.S. Role

Toward the beginning of the movie, Gael Garcia's character, Rene, has a debate over U.S. support for the No Campaign with his rightwing boss, who is supporting Pinochet and his "Si" campaign in the plebiscite. "The Americans and the CIA funded the coup," his boss asserts. "They are still with us." Rene responds that "the Americans are with the NO."

To be sure, the United States did support the September 11, 1973, coup but fifteen years later, the historical record is also clear that the United States-the government, and civic groups-actively supported the NO campaign. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided some $1.6 million for the registration drive, voter education, opinion polling, media consultants, and organizing of a rapid response parallel vote count on the day of the election. U.S. Ambassador Harry Barnes vigorously and openly supported the Chilean organizations that carried on much of the work to garner electoral support for the NO, so much so that the pro-Pinochet press began referring to him as "Dirty Harry." Campaigning to extend his dictatorship through 1997, General Pinochet (who had been helped to power by the CIA) issued repeated denunciations of "Yanqui imperialism" in Chile.

At the request of Genaro Arriagada, U.S. media consultants also participated directly in the NO effort, providing strategic planning, training, materials, and creative strategy for the registration drive and the TV advertisements. Frank Greer of the legendary Washington D.C. political communications firm, GMMB, (then known as Greer, Margolis, Mitchell & Associates) traveled to Chile at least six times in 1987 and 1988. "The most important thing we did was design a field plan, down to the precinct level," Greer recalled, "that they implemented to register voters." The 194-page "Electoral Registration Campaign" manual was put together by a 24 year-old associate (and now partner), Annie Burns. Burns traveled to Santiago three times to conduct training sessions for strategists and registration volunteers. Greer also joined the creative team of Chilean media specialists who designed the actual ads that are the central focus of the movie. The challenge, he noted, was "how to get people to vote 'no' in a positive way." The TV commercials needed to provide something "new and fresh," to "create buzz, and a movement that people could join and feel safe about." And they did.

Their strategy proved so successful, Greer recalled, that the 15-minute slots for the NO campaign became the most watched show on Chilean television. Greer remembers being told by a Pinochet media adviser that as soon as he saw the NO commercials, he "knew we had lost."

Chileans overthrow Pinochet regime, 1983-1988

Democratic elections, the resignation of the Pinochet regime, and an end to human rights abuses and economic hardship. Referring to the beginning of the campaign, union leader Rodolfo Seguel said, "we tried to broaden it to the whole country, to protest not just the economic hardship, but human rights abuses, the whole system. Someone had to dare to tell the dictator that he was a dictator, that it was a dictatorship, that we needed a change."

The Alianza Democratica stated their objective saying, "We unite in agreeing to respect and promote certain ethical principles and values that democracy upholds, without which a free, prosperous, just, and fraternal society is not possible."

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Notes on outcomes

Following the plebiscite of 1988, in which Chileans voted against Pinochet's continued rule, Pinochet was forced to hold democratic elections. The opposition won these elections by a landslide and began the transition towards democracy, although this would take many years. Pinochet remained in charge of the army until the mid-1990s.

The organizing groups survived through the 1988 plebiscite and transition to democracy. The campaign also grew from initially small monthly protests to a national campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people attended rallies in 1983 and 1984 and eventually the population voted against Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite.

Database Narrative

On September 11, 1973, a military coup forced the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende out of power. After the coup Augusto Pinochet established himself as the leader of Chile and set up a military dictatorship with the heavy involvement of his army. During this regime, Pinochet used repressive measures to suppress opposition to his rule, and supported politics that divided any opposition groups. Pinochet moved the country’s economic system away from socialist policies towards a market economy, gaining the support of the pro-capitalist portions of the population. While Pinochet presided over a large economic recovery, the regime also “disappeared” thousands of dissenters to the dictatorship. The National Directorate of Intelligence, which later became the National Center for Intelligence (CNI), was the regime’s security apparatus and targeted journalists, union leaders, and student activists.

In order to bolster the appearance of popular support, the regime called plebiscites, which it won, and organized its supporters for pro-government rallies. Nonetheless, an economic crisis beginning in 1982 and 1983 led to increasingly widespread dissent, especially with the lack of democracy in Chile. Despite the dictatorship’s attempts to weaken the country’s trade union organizations, such unions, especially the Confederation of Copper Workers (CTC) led by Rodolfo Seguel, organized the growing popular dissent into protest against the regime.

In mid-1983 union leaders met to establish a list of demands for the government. On May 11, 1983, the CTC called for the first major protest, which had the support of the National Workers’ Command and several opposition party leaders (from the Communist Party and the Christian Democratic Party). Originally planned as a national strike, but changed to a National Day of Protest, in this first action the people of Santiago slowed down all activities during the day and then let loose a barrage of noise at 8 o’clock in the evening. They banged on pots and pans, honked horns, and used other methods to express solidarity with one another and frustration with the regime. Police responded violently to this action, arresting 600 and killing several protestors. Nonetheless, the action had mobilized the Chileans who were fed up with the military dictatorship

After the success of this initial protest, the organizing groups began to call monthly protests. Participation grew with each protest as students and poor Chileans from around the country joined the campaign. The opposition political parties (as part of a “Democratic Alliance” formed in August 1983) and the Catholic Church helped to mobilize this growing population of dissenters. Despite repression, groups of journalists openly spread news about protests through newspapers, magazines, and radio. At the time press freedom was just beginning to increase, although the regime still held tight control of television waves.

In addition to the monthly protests, campaigners also used lightning protests, which consisted of short, spontaneous actions with small amounts of people that dispersed before police could arrive. They were begun by small groups of people chanting slogans, or by leaflets dropped from upper stories of tall buildings.

During the monthly protests, the army and security forces used violent repression in an attempt to quell opposition. The regime used the excuse of two armed resistance groups—Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez and Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria, which were both separate from the organizers of the nonviolent resistance—to inflict repressive violence on the peaceful demonstrators.

As the regime increased its repressive violence, it simultaneously attempted to foster limited liberalization. The government slightly increased freedom of the press, allowed political exiles to return to the country, and held meetings with political opposition groups. In 1983 and 1984, the Democratic Alliance took advantage of Pinochet’s permission for two mass demonstrations. The opposition alliance mobilized hundreds of thousands of citizens to participate in these two major displays of opposition to the government.

Nonetheless, repressive violence continued to occur and undermined the legitimacy of the Pinochet regime. In response to the murder of three Communist Party members in 1985 by security forces, the archbishop of Santiago held a meeting between opposition and pro-regime political parties. Following subsequent meetings, the parties signed the National Accord for the Transition to Full Democracy. Despite this agreement between opposing political forces, the Pinochet regime rejected the accord.

Furthermore, as police forces removed themselves from acts of repression, the army took over the state sanctioned violence against opposition groups. Soldiers and tanks occupied Santiago and attacked protestors.

This army presence gained international attention when a National Workers’ Command-led strike coincided with the Assembly of the International Parliamentary Union in Santiago in May 1986 the army presence during this strike surprised international delegates to the meeting. Journalists for international media sources further spread information about resistance within Chile. Throughout the campaign, European and North American states began to call more fervently for a transition to democracy within Chile, supporting the actions of the opposition groups within the country.

In early July 1986, the Asamblea de la Civilidad, a group of truckers, retailers, and professionals, called for several national strike days. With wide participation, these strike days were better known for the army’s attack of protestors. On July 2, soldiers set two live demonstrators on fire. Another strike in September gained less support.

Also in September, armed insurgents attempted to assassinate Pinochet, destroying most of his motorcade. Pinochet survived the attack, however, and the attack limited the support for the nonviolent campaign. With the violence of the armed resistance groups having failed and the continued protests lack of success in gaining democratic concessions, the campaigners’ next hope for a shift towards democracy came in the form of a state-sanctioned vote.

In 1987 Pinochet announced that a national plebiscite would be held to either approve or reject his continuation as president. A plebiscite every eight years was written into the 1980 constitution however, there is some debate over why Pinochet allowed it to occur in 1988. Some say that international conditions, declining dictatorships in other parts of the world, and a shifting of the United State’s focus from communism to other world issues, forced Pinochet to appear more open to democracy. Others cite Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987 as having been influential in convincing Pinochet to allow the plebiscite to go forward. Still others argue that Pinochet believed he would win the plebiscite and allowed it to go forward because he thought it would quell public unrest and reinforce his hold on power.

The opposition groups quickly organized a unified campaign to defeat the plebiscite they formed the group concertación de partidos por el NO (coalition of parties for NO). The election laws established in the 1980 constitution, which Pinochet decided to follow, allowed for legal political parties and political advertising. It allotted both sides thirty minutes of television time every day for political advertisement. Since the television channels were all government controlled, and supported Pinochet in the plebiscite, this really meant that the opposition had a very small amount of television time in comparison with the regime’s SÍ campaign. However, the opposition successfully used this time to reach a wide audience of Chileans. Their television campaign consisted of hopeful messages that talked of all the possibilities for Chile’s future, and showed happy people enjoying life. The ads also displayed their symbol, a large rainbow arching over a white background and the word “no” in large black letters. This symbol was also integrated into protests and marches leading up to the plebiscite.

On October 5, 1988, the national plebiscite was held and Pinochet lost, with nearly 55% of the population voting NO. After some hesitation in the days following the plebiscite Pinochet finally agreed to step down after elections when a top military commander publicly acknowledged the NO campaign’s victory and when other members of the military junta refused to support him any longer. Finally on March 10, 1990, Pinochet left office after seventeen years in power, replaced by a democratically elected President from an opposition party.


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