Military dictatorship of Chile (1973–90)
|Republic of Chile|
|República de Chile|
Himno Nacional de Chile
|President of the Junta|
|Historical era||Cold War|
|•||Coup d'etát||September 11, 1973|
|•||Constitution||March 11, 1981|
|•||Plebiscite||October 5, 1988|
|•||Transition to democracy||March 11, 1990|
|Currency||Chilean escudo (1973–75)
Chilean peso (1975–90)
|History of Chile|
The military dictatorship of Chile (Spanish: dictadura militar de Chile) was an authoritarian military government that ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990. The dictatorship was established after the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup d'état on 11 September 1973. The dictatorship was headed by a military junta presided by General Augusto Pinochet. The perceived breakdown of democracy and the economic crisis that took place during Allende's presidency were justifications used by the military to seize power. The dictatorship presented its mission as a "national reconstruction".
The regime was characterized by the systematic suppression of political parties and the persecution of dissidents to an extent that was unprecedented in the history of Chile. Over-all, the regime left over 3,000 dead or missing, tortured thousands of prisoners,  and forced 200,000 Chileans into exile. The dictatorship shaped much of modern Chile's political and economic life. Two years after its ascension it implemented radical neoliberal economic reforms in sharp contrast to Allende's leftist policies, advised by a team of free-market economists educated in American universities known as the Chicago Boys. Later, in 1980, the regime replaced the Constitution of 1925 with a new one crafted by regime collaborators. Pinochet's plans to remain in power were thwarted in 1988 when the regime admitted defeat in a referendum that opened the way for democracy to be reestablished in 1990. However, the regime took great care to ensure that the political and economic system it had created would remain unmodified. The regime also arranged for the military to be out of civilian control after the end of dictatorship.
- 1 Rise to power
- 2 Suppression of political activity
- 3 Politics and power within the dictatorship
- 4 Opposition resurgence
- 5 Economy and free market reforms
- 6 Foreign relations
- 7 Cultural life
- 8 Plebiscite and return to civilian rule
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Rise to power
Since 1970, after he narrowly won a three-way election, Chile was ruled by President Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a Latin American country through open elections. The United States government actively attempted to destabilize the Allende government, with U.S. President Richard Nixon ordering extensive use of economic warfare for this purpose. The Nixon administration also used the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to mount a major destabilization campaign. 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." The CIA worked with right-wing Chilean politicians, military personnel, and journalists to undermine socialism in Chile.
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, 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. 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. Allende also clashed with Chile's largest circulation newspaper El Mercurio. Tax-evasion charges were trumped up against the newspaper and its director arrested. The Allende government found it impossible to control inflation, which grew to more than 300 percent by September, further dividing Chileans over the Allende government and its policies.
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 seized on the widespread discontent and on the Deputies' resolution to then launch the September 11, 1973 coup d'état; as troops surrounded La Moneda Palace, Allende died later that day in uncertain and controversial circumstances. 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. The coup received active support from the CIA, and once the junta had taken over, the United States immediately recognized the new regime and helped it consolidate power.
Suppression of political activity
Following their takeover of power in 1973, the Government Junta formally banned the socialist, Marxist and other leftist parties that had constituted former President Allende's Popular Unity coalition.  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". Eduardo Frei, Allende's predecessor as president, initially supported the coup along with his Christian Democratic colleagues. Later, they assumed the role of a loyal opposition to the military rulers, but soon lost most of their influence.
Meanwhile, left-wing Christian Democrats like Radomiro Tomic were jailed or forced into exile. 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.
Human rights violations
|“||He shut down parliament, suffocated political life, banned trade unions, and made Chile his sultanate. His government disappeared 3,200 opponents, arrested 30,000 (torturing thousands of them) ... Pinochet’s name will forever be linked to the Desaparecidos, the Caravan of Death, and the institutionalized torture that took place in the Villa Grimaldi complex."||”|
The military rule was characterized by systematic suppression of all political dissidence. Scholars later described this as a "politicide" (or "political genocide"). Steve J. Stern spoke of a politicide to describe "a systematic project to destroy an entire way of doing and understanding politics and governance."
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. 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, and as late as 1975, the CIA was still reporting that up to 3,811 were still imprisoned there. Between the day of the coup and November 1973, as many as 40,000 political prisoners were held there. 1,850 of them were killed, another 1,300 are missing since then. Some of the most famous cases of desaparecidos are Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen who was killed during the coup itself, Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara, and the October 1973 Caravan of Death (Caravana de la Muerte) where at least 70 persons were killed. Among the most infamous methods of murder involved Pinochet's henchmen dropping pregnant women out of aeroplanes. He believed this was a way of avenging soldiers killed by Allende's supporters. He was quoted to have said "If you kill the bitch, you kill off the offspring." Other instances of systematic murder include Operation Colombo and Operation Condor.
Following the 1988 plebiscite, 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. Some 30,000 Chileans were exiled, particularly to Argentina; however, they were followed in their exile by the DINA secret police, in the frame of Operation Condor which linked South American dictatorships together against political opponents. Some 20,000–40,000 Chilean exiles were holders of passports stamped with the letter "L" (which stood for lista nacional), identifyng them as persona non grata and had to seek permission before entering the country. According to a study in Latin American Perspectives, 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. 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."
Rudolph Rummel estimates 10,000 killed during Pinochet's regime, with 30,000 being the highest possible number. Rummel notes an estimate by Sivard that 3,000 miners were killed by the Chilean army in a dispute in 1987. Other sources place the number of all the victims of the dictatorship as high as 15,000 killed and 2,000 disappeared. 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. 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.
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 killed or disappeared. Among the killed and disappeared during the military regime were at least 663 MIR guerrillas. The Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front stated that 49 FPMR guerrillas were killed and hundreds tortured.
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.
Several scholars including Paul Zwier, Peter Winn and human rights organizations 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."
Politics and power within the dictatorship
In the 1970s junta members Gustavo Leigh and Augusto Pinochet clashed on several occasions beginning in the day of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. Leigh criticized Pinochet for having joined the coup very lately and then pretending to keep all power for himself. In December 1974 Leigh opposed the proposal to name Pinochet president of Chile. Leigh recalls about 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.". After a prolonged period of disagreements with Pinochet Leigh was dismissed from the junta in 1978 and replaced by General Fernando Matthei.
Over time the dictatorship incorporated civilians into the government. Many Chicago boys joined 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". Pinochet would also have been impressed by their arrogance and assertiveness in addition to their links to the financial world of the United States.
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. 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 of 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.
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.
Constitution of 1980
Establishing a new constitution was a core issue for the dictatorship since it provided a mean of legitimization. For this purpose the junta selected notable civilians willing to join the draft commission. Dissidents to the dictatorship were not represented in the commission.
Chile's new constitution was approved in a national plebiscite held on September 11, 1980. The constitution was approved by 66% of voters under a process which has been described as "highly irregular and undemocratic." The constitution came into force on March 11, 1981.
Removal of César Mendoza
|This section requires expansion. (January 2014)|
Economy and free market reforms
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. 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.
From an economic point of view, the era can be divided into two periods. The first, from 1973 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.
Chile's main industry, copper mining, remained in government hands, with the 1980 Constitution declaring them "inalienable,"  but new mineral deposits were open to private investment. 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.
Chronic inflation had plagued the Chilean economy for decades when Pinochet took power, and was threatening to become hyperinflation. Between September 1973 and October 1975, the consumer price index rose over 3,000%. In order to combat this persistent problem and pave the way for economic growth, the Chicago Boys recommended dramatic cuts in social services. The junta put the group's recommendations into effect, and cumulative cuts in health funding totaled 60% between 1973 and 1988.
The cuts caused a significant rise in many preventable diseases and mental health problems. These included rises in typhoid (121 percent), viral hepatitis, and the frequency and seriousness of mental ailments among the unemployed.
Exchange rate depreciations and cutbacks in government spending produced a depression. Industrial and agricultural production declined. Massive unemployment, estimated at 25% in 1977 (it was only 3% in 1972), and continuing inflation eroded the living standard of workers and many members of the middle class to subsistence levels. The under-employed informal sector also mushroomed in size.[original research?]
In 1982-1983 Chile witnessed a severe economic crises with a surge in unemployment and a meltdown of the financial sector. 16 out of 50 financial institutions faced bankruptcy. 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. The central bank took over foreign debts. Critics ridiculed the economic policy of the Chicago Boys as "Chicago way to socialism".
After the economic crisis, Hernán Büchi became Minister of Finance from 1985 to 1989, introducing a more pragmatic economic policy. He allowed the peso to float and reinstated restrictions on the movement of capital in and out of the country. He introduced bank regulations, simplified and reduced the corporate tax. Chile went ahead with privatizations, including public utilities plus the re-privatization of companies that had returned to the government 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 prices.
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.
The pragmatic economic policy after the crises of 1982 is appreciated for bringing constant economic growth. It is questionable whether the radical reforms of the Chicago Boys contributed to the past 1983 growth. According to Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, 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 1973–1981 radical economic policy of the Chicago Boys harmed the Chilean economy.
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. Between 1970 and 1989, there were large cuts to incomes and social services. Wages decreased by 8%. 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. 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 and eventually peaked at 30%.
"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."
The junta relied on the middle class, the oligarchy, huge foreign corporations, and foreign loans to maintain itself. Under Pinochet, funding of military and internal defence spending rose 120% from 1974 to 1979. Due to the reduction in public spending, tens of thousands of employees were fired from other state-sector jobs. 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. Many foreign multinational corporations such as International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Dow Chemical, and Firestone, all expropriated by Allende, returned to Chile.
Having come to power with the self-proclaimed mission of fighting communism, Pinochet found common cause with the military dictatorships of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and later, Argentina. The six countries eventually formulated a plan that became known as Operation Condor, in which one country's security forces would target active Marxist subversives, guerrillas, and their alleged sympathizers in the allied countries. 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.
The new junta quickly broke off the diplomatic relations with Cuba that had been established under the Allende government. Shortly after the junta came to power, several communist countries, including the Soviet Union, North Korea, 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). The government broke diplomatic relations with Cambodia in January 1974 and renewed ties with South Korea in October 1973 and with South Vietnam in March 1974. Pinochet attended the funeral of General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1936–75, in late 1975.
Chile was on the brink of being invaded by Argentina (also ruled by a military government) as the Argentina Junta started the 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. 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 U.K. 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.
In 1980, Chile's relationship with the Philippines, then a dictatorship under Ferdinand Marcos became strained when that country, due to U.S. pressure, refused to allow Pinochet's plane to land in the country, even though Marcos had invited the General to visit the country. Marcos' move was under U.S. guidelines which sought to isolate Pinochet's regime.
Relations between the two countries were restored only on 1986 when Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency of the Philippines after Marcos was ousted in a non-violent revolution, the People Power Revolution.
Relationship with the U.S.
The U.S. 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 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.
The U.S. was significantly friendlier with Pinochet than it had been with Allende, and continued to give the junta substantial economic support between the years 1973–79, while simultaneously expressing opposition to the junta's repression in international forums such as the United Nations. 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. Presumably, with international concerns over Chilean internal repression and previous American hostility and intervention regarding the Allende government, the U.S. did not want to be seen as an accomplice in the junta's "security" activities. Prominent U.S. allies Britain, France, and West Germany did not block arms sales to Pinochet, benefitting from the lack of American competition.[dubious ]
Relationship with the U.K.
Chile was officially neutral during the Falkland War, but the Chilean US-built 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. 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. 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. 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. Pinochet subsequently visited Margaret Thatcher for tea on more than one occasion. Pinochet's controversial relationship with Thatcher led Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to mock Thatcher's Conservatives as "the party of Pinochet" in 1999.
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.
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. 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 
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. 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).
After the Chilean military coup in 1973, Castro promised Chilean revolutionaries "all the aid in Cuba's power to provide." Throughout the 1970s, MIR guerrillas and several hundred Chilean exiles received military training in Cuba. Once their training was completed, Cuba helped the guerrillas return to Chile, providing false passports and false identification documents. 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. 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 President Augusto Pinochet's motorcade on 8 September 1986, killing five bodyguards and wounding 10.
The coup brought Chilean cultural life into what sociologist Soledad Bianchi has called a "cultural blackout". The government censored non-sympathetic individuals while taking control of mass media. The formerly thriving Nueva canción scene suffered from the exile or imprisonment of many bands and individuals. A key musician, Víctor Jara, was tortured and killed by elements of the military. 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.
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. 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. Soda Stereo was invited to Viña del Mar International Song Festival while Los Prisioneros were ignored despite their popular status. This situation was because Los Prisioneros were censored by media under the influence of the military dictatorship. Los Prisioneros' marginalization by the media was further aggravated by their call to vote against the dictatorship on the plebiscite of 1988.
|“||For Chile to become once again the land of poets, and not the land of murderers!||”|
Experimental theatre groups from Universidad de Chile and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile were restricted by the military regime to performing only theatre classics. 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 to go into exile after performing a parody on the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. In the 1980s a grassroots street theatre movement emerged.
Plebiscite and return to civilian rule
According to the transitional provisions of the 1980 Constitution, a plebiscite was scheduled for October 5, 1988, to vote on a new eight-year presidential term for Pinochet.
During the last years of dictatorship the commander in chiefs of the navy, air force and Carabineros disassociated themselves from Pinochet expressing their wishes that a civilian should represent the regime in the 1988 elections. Pinochet however imposed himself as candidate and when he lost the other junta members regarded it as Pinochet's personal defeat. The fact the dictatorship respected the results is attributed to pressure from the big business, the international community and unease with extended Pinochet-rule within the dictatorship.
The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the plebiscite should be carried out as stipulated by the Law of Elections. That included an "Electoral Space" during which all positions, in this case two, Sí (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 prime time 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 Sí 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 55% of the votes rejected the extension of the presidential term, against 43% for "Sí", and, following the constitutional provisions, he stayed as President for one more year. Open presidential elections were held on December 1989, at the same time as congressional elections that would have taken place in either case. Pinochet left the presidency on March 11, 1990 and transferred power to 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
From the 1989 elections onwards the military had officially left the political future of the country to civilians to be elected. Pinochet did not endorse any candidate publicly. Former dictatorship minister Hernán Büchi ran for president as candidate of the two right-wing parties RN and UDI. He had little political experience and was a relatively young (40 years) technocrat credited for Chile's good economic performance in the later half of the 1980s. The right 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.
The centre-left coalition Concertación was rather united and confident. 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. Aylwin spoke with strength about the need to clarify human rights violations but did not confront the dictatorship for it, in contrast Büchi as a regime collaborator lacked any credibility when dealing with human right violations.
Büchi and Errázuriz lost to Patricio Aylwin. The electoral system meant that the largely Pinochet-sympathetic right was overrepresented in parliament such way that it could block any reform to the constitution. This over-representation was crucial for UDI to obtain places in parliament and secure its political future. Pinochet declared to be satisfied with the election. The far-left and the far-right performed poorly in the election.
Following the restoration of Chilean democracy and during the successive administrations that followed Pinochet, the Chilean economy has prospered, and today the country is considered a Latin American success story. Unemployment stands at 7% as of 2007, with poverty estimated at 18.2% for the same year, both relatively low for the region.
The "Chilean Variation" has been seen as a potential model for nations that fail to achieve significant economic growth. 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."
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 his 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. 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.
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