Chile under Pinochet

Fig. 1: Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (1915-2006)

On 11 Septeber 1973 the Republic of Chile's democratic government was violently removed in a military coup d'état headed by Captain General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte. The coup removed President Salvador Allende and established a military dictatorship which lasted from 1974 to 1990.

After Allende's leftist-leaning rule, Pinochet embarked on broad economic reforms for Chile and engaged in severe and violent repression against leftist political parties. Highly controversial inside and outside of Chile, these led to series of military operations in which approximately 3,000 people are known to have been executed (United States Institute of Peace) and, according to Amnesty International and the U.N. Human Rights Commission, a further 250,000 people were detained for political reasons.

This wiki page breaks the Pinochet regime into seven crucial stages. By applying the models formulated by Paxton, Boix, O'Donnell & Schmitter, Tilly and others, we can analyse the Pinochet regime as a political pathology from first symtoms through to recovery...


Fig. 2: Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State, 1974

“Paxton’s factors”

Robert Paxton proposes that there are a number of conditions for the rise of fascism. While Pinochet's regime was not fascist these conditions can be used as a guide when analysing the rise of his dictatorship. The conditions for dictatorship are political and economic instability, crisis such as war or economic depression, and the capacity of those in power to repress those opposed to their rule:
  • Political instability
    There was significant political instability during Allende's leadership and in the years preceding. Pinochet's predecessor Salvador Allende was democratically elected president of Chile in 1970 with 1,070,334 votes, ahead of former right-wing president Jorge Alessandri and leftist Radomiro Tomic with 1,031,159 and 821,801 respectively (Valenzuela, 1978). Allende’s victory as leader of Popular Unity, a coalition of socialist, communist, radical and social democratic groups, was furthermore the result of a plurality rather than a majority. This narrow margin for victory demonstrates the highly competitive and extremely polarised nature of Chile’s political system, and indicates the ample political room for Pinochet'se rise.
    Polarisation reached a head in the 1973 congressional elections where political parties in the Centre allied with those on the Right to form the Confederacion Democratica, in opposition to the Left coalition of Popular Unity. A semblance of political stability had been maintained in Chilean democracy through the politics of compromise and accommodation. This allowed for the existence of coalitions but had been steadily eroded away since Popular Unity's predecessor, the Christian Democratic party, had been in power. This made political compromises more difficult, resulting in unstable minority governments and governmental paralysis. Democratic instability was further exacerbated due to the incongruence of Chile's presidentialist constitutional framework, which allowed for winner takes all elections, and the highly polarised multiparty system, under which no single party could achieve a majority.
    Divisions within Chilean society were growing as a result of the expanding centralised secular state, scaring the church and conservative public figures (Valenzuela, 1978). Allende’s indoctrination of socialism into the Chilean government accelerated the state/Church divide and further contributing to the sociopolitical instability of the period.

  • Economic instability
    When Allende gained power in 1970 there was severe economic instability. Chile was in the middle of an economic crisis, unemployment was increasing and national production levels were falling. Allende attempted to alter the structure and direction of Chile by reorganising the Chilean economy, nationalising private enterprise, and carrying out some agrarian reform. However, the economy continued to regress under the Popular Unity government, with inflation levels extremely high.
    During his time in office, Allende's optimistic ideology of stimulating and transforming Chile, without the inflation side-effect, was an advantage to a few and scared many. For many students, professionals, factory-workers, and peasant-leaders the economic reforms were beneficial. Prices were held down as salaries went up within his first year of office. On the other side, farmers and property owners were affected with his hyperinflation, expropriation and confiscation of property. The economy, which at first had surged, spiraled out of control as too-rapid increases in different economic areas were not sustained.
    The economic crisis, and the inability of Allende's government to deal with the crisis, resulted in the credibility of the government being undermined. One could believe that those who supported Pinochet's reformations were willing to forgo civil liberties and justice to counter-act Allende's disastrous regime in the name of stability and domestic peace.
    To further inflame the situation numerous strikes were held through 1973. These strikes were carried out by doctors, lawyers, miners, truckers and many others and were carried out both in favour of the government and in protest against the government. The jailing of the strike leaders precipitated a sudden and widepread wave of work-stoppages. Shopkeepers and small business owners joined the strikes, with the backing of the National Party. From there tension rose in Chile on all sides. Street demonstrations intensified, a student was killed by a sniper; food shortages due to the deteriorating economy increased; the black market became part of everyday life.

  • Capacity to repress
    The unrest bought the army into the spotlight, with a growing majority of officers resenting the government that they had originally sworn loyalty to (Collier & Sater). The military was increasingly subjected to the disdain of the opposition; civilians on the street insulted the officer corps, casting doubts on its intelligence. In this rising atmosphere of military discontent, 29 June 1973 heralded an attempted military coup against Allende. While it was unsuccessful it furthered the crisis, and hence, the conditions for Pinochet's dictatorship. Allende took moves to make a last minute attempt to reach an understanding with the opposition and the army, and to regain some support. He asked Congress to grant him emergency powers, which they denied. Pinochet therefore had the capacity to implement a dictatorship as he was the Chilean army commander, and thus had the support of the military. Furthermore, while some army commanders sympathised with Allende, Pinochet used coercion and the threat of reprisal to force those who disagreed into following orders. A ‘state of internal war’ was declared by the junta, it aimed to guarantee military compliance with the overthrow of the elected government. Under such conditions anyone who refused to follow orders could be demoted, arrested or even worse.

Boix’ theory of regime change

According to Carles Boix' theory of regime change there are three factors which influence whether a regime will be a dictatorship or a democracy: the capacity of the regime to repress those who oppose them, the specificity of resources and the extent of inequality. Pinochet had the capacity to repress as he was the army commander, Allende did not as he did not have the support of the military. The wealthy classes would have been alarmed at the direction Allende’s government was taking, this would have lost Allende support. Presumably those high in the military hierarchy would have been wealthy and would have felt threatened by Allende’s proposed reforms. In the period during Allende’s government Chile had high inequality and high asset specificity. Most of Chile’s wealth was generated from natural minerals such as copper, iron and manganese. Thus, Boix’ theory predicts a dictatorship of the rich, which ultimately occurred under the authoritarian regime imposed by Pinochet.

International influence

A further contributing factor in the lead-up to the 1973 coup was external pressure from the anti-communist international community. America, led by President Richard Nixon, distrusted Allende's connections with Fidel Castro. Not afraid of going to war against communist countries and heavily invested in Chile, the U.S. had much to lose if Chile became more socialist under Allende and decided to nationalise its commodities. The U.S. involvement and sponsorship of Pinochet's coup is still subject to much speculation, with contention fueled by documentation such as Fig. 2.

TAKING POWER: 1973-1975

Fig. 3 & 4: Chilean military attacks presidential palace 'La Moneda'

Under the command of Pinochet the Chilean Air Force jets attacked the presidential palace, La Moneda, on the morning of September 11, 1973. This marked the downfall of Salvador Allende, and also "the violent breakdown of one of the world's oldest democracies" (Valenzuela, 1978, pg. xi). The coup was successful as a result of military solidarity and effective leadership. Following the coup, a military junta comprised of representatives from each military branch was established. General Pinochet representing the Army, Admiral José Toribio Merino representing the Navy, General Gustavo Leigh representing the Air Force, and General César Mendozarepresenting the Carabineros (national police). As Commander-in-chief of the army (the oldest branch of the military), Pinochet became president of the junta and officially established the junta as the executive and legislative branch of the government. The position of president was originally meant to be rotated among the four branches, but Pinochet declared himself Supreme Chief of the Nation and later, on December 17, became president and reduced the junta to being a strictly legislative body. General Leigh opposed Pinochet's self-titled presidency, and after being replaced by General Fernando Matthei was subsequently forced into early retirement.

Fig. 5: (L to R) Air Force General Leigh, Army General Pinochet, Navy Admiral Merino, and Police General Mendoza

Karen Remmer describes Pinochet's dictatorship as neopatrimonial (Weeks, 2000, p.726), in that Pinochet managed to concentrate power in his own hands, instead of power being centred in the military. The concept of neopatrimonialism is where patrimonial rule coexists with military institutions and technocratic administration. Pinochet established neopatrimonial rule through advancing the careers of those who supported him, and removing those who opposed him. The September 1973 military coup was a rejection both of Allende's socialist policies and of the failings of the democratic regime. The military envisaged the dictatorial regime as a temporary phase that would lead to the creation of a new Chile with significant political, economic and institutional changes, such as the removal of the party political system. This forward thinking ideology allowed each branch to break its loyalties to Allende and sway to accept Pinochet as a central figure in the new regime.

Arturo Valenzuela argues that from the beginning the dictatorship held political parties and politicians, and the institutional areas they occupied with disdain (Arturo Valenzuela, 1994). Once in power, Pinochet first focussed on eliminating socialist insurgency, or the possibility of another socialist regime. A month after the coup the military junta took control of Chilean universities, all political organisations were suspended with special focus on the socialist, Marxist and other leftist parties that had constituted former President Allende's Popular Unity coalition. Two months afterwards the electoral role was dissolved and the regime began to expel people on the basis of political motives.


Fig. 6: Pinochet saluting his troops

It is significant that the junta felt the need to promote themselves as a transitional step on the path to democracy. O’Donnell and Schmitter suggest that post-WWII authoritarian rulers could no longer justify their regimes as long-term solutions to problems of political order. Due to widespread condemnation of fascist regimes and acceptance of the democratic model, dictatorships were forced to “justify themselves in political terms only as transitional powers, while attempting to shift attention to their immediate substantive accomplishments – typically the achievement of social peace or economic development” (p. 15). Pinochet would attempt to achieve these two crucial objectives via the elimination of socialism and extensive social restructuring. (Human Rights Quartely 1983).

The promises of the junta were taken at face value by the majority of Chileans. It was assumed that following the crack-down of the coup, once order was restored, the armed forces would return to their barracks and hand power over to civilian authorities. (Constable and Valenzuela, 1991). However, this assumption did not allow for the rapid expansion of military power and Pinochet’s ambitions which lay ahead.

Social restructure & human rights

The regime emphasised the creation and stimulation of capitalism. Pinochet intended to create a market economy in an authoritarian state, and in order to do this the social structure that Chile had known in the last 40 years leading up to Salvador Allende's presidency had to be restructured.

In order to consolidate power Pinochet's military government did away with elections, political parties, free speech, Congress, unions, and civil liberties. Every average non-political person was affected by these measures which were as intimidating as the killings and imprisonments. Pinochet further ensured the death of Chilean democracy by banning elections, burning registers, and eliminating all forms of alternative leadership. Scores of party leaders from across the board were arrested, harrassed, or even exiled (Valenzuela, 1994, p. 109), however those from the left suffering much worse. Valenzuela describes the revolutionary left as being "decimated" by Pinochet, with many of its leaders having been tortured or killed, leftist militants and party followers were either killed, or systematically harrassed, deprived of their jobs and livelihoods (Valenzuela, 1994, p. 109).

Freedom of speech and civil liberties were cut back exponentially through strict censorship of the press, and only the two newspapers owned by Chile's most powerful industrial magnate were permitted to appear. Radio stations loyal to Allende were bombed during the coup and were prevented from rebuilding. All communications were shut down completely until the junta had a firm hold of the entire country.

When looking at Pinochet's regime, human rights organisations have identified two distinct phases in governmental abuses of human rights. (Arriagada, p. 13) During the first phase, arrests were made by uniformed members of the Armed Forces or the National Police (Carabineros). During the second phase, the Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia- or DINA- took control over the arrests. DINA was a newly created secret agency, equipped with unmarked cars and secret agents. The leaders of left-wing parties were killed, imprisoned and exiled. Many people were tortured including actors, students, peasants and professional, people who were considered a 'threat' to the regime.

However, Pinochet still maintained a significant amount of support from the Chilean public, which is illustrated by his victory in the 1980 plebiscite. A possible explanation for such support is that the force Pinochet used whilst conducting the coup was disproportionately greater than that of the opposition, which was small and scattered. While some of the opposition did pose a threat with arms they were no competition to the force that Pinochet wielded. This enabled Pinochet to effect the coup within a short space of time, avoided prolonged bloodshed. Furthermore, Pinochet was able to play up the Marxist threat in order to legitimise his use of terror and repression.

The pursuit of economic prosperity

Pinochet managed to gain power and support from his overhaul of the economy, and creation of a free market system. During his regime there was massive privatisation, and inflation was reduced, which many say was a success for the country. It was even heralded "a miracle economy" by economist Milton Friedman. In 2000, Harvard economist Robert Barro asserted in Business Week that Chile's "outstanding performance derived from the free-market reforms instituted by ... Pinochet." (Cypher 2004).

Yet the support he got from the overhaul was limited to the elite who benefited from the reforms. The emerging fact that the free-market economy made a few people wealthier rather than the vast majority was drowned out by the international praise for the economic team. From an outsiders point of view Chile's economy seemed to improve during Pinochet's regime. Yet this was an illusion on an international scale. The 'improvement' benefitted a minority, yet the voice of the minority was who the neo-liberal advocates (encompassing much of the Western world) choose to listen to. Chile actually experienced two recessions during Pinochet's rule, and the boom economists talk about during the seventies was a result of Chile’s increasing foreign debt, foreign loans and foreign investment- a very unstable place to be in. (Constable & Valenzuela, p.192)

In a way Chile's economic 'example' can in part be attuned with Carles Boix's theory on the type of regime leading up to the change. Chile's national people after the coup were repressed by an authoritarian regime. The poor were excluded from the decision-making and were repressed by those at the top - the military and the rich who were benefiting from Pinochet’s neo-liberal reforms. The military had a high organisational force and support from high-powered economists from the North. According to Boix those in power could, and did, repress the poor and lower class of Chile. Here the argument strays off Boix’ theory: in the essence that those in power were not suppressing a revolt at that time, but simply a people. Still those people were unable to express themselves through political parties or unions. When the people of Chile began to organise protests against the government and “overcome their collective action problems” (Boix), the costs of repression become high, as is the case towards the end of Pinochet’s regime.

Economic and political legitimacy

Pinochet needed strong backing to keep his regime going and to give it legitimacy, especially to the international eye. He had this from two particular groups. He had the support of the "Chicago Boys", who were economic advocates and advisors for the neoliberal reform Chile underwent. They formulated the economic programme of the military government. Supporters of this included the business community and middle income wage earners, who benefited from neoliberalisation. The 'Chicago Boys' were led by the Minister of Economics, and later Minister of Finance, Sergio de Castro. Political objectives directed the economic reforms. Such objectives were aimed to create conditions that would guarantee the military regime remained a dominant force within a democratic Chile.

The second group that provided strong support were the Gremialistas, the most powerful civilian advisor of Pinochet and his military government. This group was the functional equivalent of the dictatorship's ruling party. It was led by Jaime Guzman. The Gremialistas aimed to establish a protected democracy as was outlined in the 1980 constitution. Furthermore they had a long-term political aim, one of succession. As soft-liners, gremialistas were aware that the military regime could not maintain a hold on power permanently. Their intention was to establish a political party that could step into power after the military regime called elections. This objective resulted in the formation of the political party Independent Democratic Union (Union Democratica Independiente) in 1983. The predominant view is that the 'Chicago Boys' and the Gremialisatas were two separate groups with different aims and motivations. However Carlos Huneeus argues that they were interdependant (Carlos Huneeus, 2000, p. 461.)

Pinochet’s regime can be described as a dualist state because two opposing systems co-existed concurrently. The economic system prioritised business success and economic freedom, while the political system repressed and subordinated human rights, and heavily limited political freedom. As Carlos Huneeus argues the stability of the regime came predominantly from the use of coercion rather than political consensus or the use of political resources (Carlos Huneeus, 2000, p.468). The cohesion of the regime was achieved directly by the centralised leadership of Pinochet, rather than the actions of top civil servents. The absence of a ruling party in power helped informal groups acting within the regime to attain considerable power and influence.

The 1980 Constitution

The 1980 constitution was passed in a controlled plebiscite. It included the permanent banning of all political parties and movements that 'undermined the family', promoted violence, or which advocated a society or state of a totalitarian nature or based on class conflict. In addition, groups that were considered to be 'contrary to morality, public order and national security' were also prohibited. (Loveman, 1987, p.2.). To accommodate the concept of the authoritarian regime as only a transition period the constitution contained provisions for a plebiscite in 1988 to determine if Pinochet would remain in power another eight years. The endorsement of the constitution, as well as providing a means to end the authoritarian transition period also served to further institutionalise Pinochet’s political system. The constitution upheld Pinochet's hold on power, providing stipulations that in later years would ensure Pinochet retained some amount of political influence. He would be made commander-in-chief of the army and, following has retirement, senator for life. The new constitution came into effect in 1981 while the regime was at the height of its powers.

CONTENTION: 1982-1988

external image Constable04.jpg
Fig. 7: protest outside Chile's National Congress, Santiago, 1983


By the end of 1982, Chile had been plunged into the deepest economic depression of the country's history. National income and output as measured by Gross National Product (GNP) had fallen by 14.5%, private consumption had dropped 16.3%, and investment by 36.8% (Borzutsky, 1987, p. 78). By late 1983, unemployment had climbed to over 30% of the labour force and the amount of people living in absolute poverty had increased to about 55% from about 30% in 1981 (Hernandez and Mayer, 1998). The economic crisis was not wholly the fault of the Pinochet government. However, it still struck a heavy blow to the regime's authority. This was, after all, a regime born during a previous period of economic crisis; one which relied heavily on the success of its neoliberal economic reforms for domestic and international legitimacy. This legitimacy was now called into question. The failure of the government to prevent or respond adequately to the recession meant a sharp downturn in the popularity of the regime across all levels of Chilean society. Increased hardship pushed the lower and middle classes into public displays of contention, while those of the elite who had based their support on the success of the regime’s neoliberal reforms were forced to re-evaluate their commitment.

This shift in public opinion gave opponents the confidence to mobilise against the Pinochet regime. The rise of political opposition during this period can be divided into four key components:
  • The formation of political blocs
    In 1983 the Democratic Alliance, formed from a sector of the political right, the Christian Democratic and Radical parties, and some socialist factions, demanded the replacement of the Pinochet regime with a provisional government, aiming for a return to constitutional democracy within 18 months (Borzutzky 80-1). This was an impressive display of solidarity and intention, especially since political parties were still officially banned (Time, 22 August 1983).
    However the effectiveness of this performance was limited. The Pinochet government was still relatively stable, as proved by Pinochet's outright rejection of the Alliance's proposal (Arriagada, p. 75). Outside of the Democratic Alliance, the political opposition remained divided and frustrated, unable to agree on a feasible alternative to the regime. The divisive nature of the opposition front meant that the formation of a short-term coalition with enough power to force a transition was unlikely (Loveman, p. 3).

  • The revitalisation of trade unions
    Prior to 1983 the labour movement had been heavily restricted by laws banning national labour federations, and by the cripplingly high level of unemployment (Borzutzky, p. 81). This did not, however, mean they had disappeared or given up the cause. By the early 1980s, a number of labor leaders were becoming nationally known for their independent stance (Collier & Sater). One popular labor leader was Tucapel Jimenez, the leader of the public employees' union. He was obviously seen as a threat to the governemnt as his brutally murdered body was found in February 1982. Despite the dangers involved in opposing Pinochet's regime, the unions banded together in 1983 as the Comando Nacional de Trabajadores (CNT).

  • Popular protest
    Led by El Teniente copper miners' labor leader Rodolfo Seguel, CNT called a national strike on 11 May 1983. The strike attracted widespread support and from there the following three years held more than twenty such strikes, incorporating the blare of car horns, the banging of pots (cacerolazos), and massive demonstrations on the streets of Chile (Collier & Sater). The Democratic Alliance, representing the privileged sectors of Chilean society, eventually joined the CNT as leaders of the middle class protesta movement, while the Communist-led Democratic Popular Movement organised a simultaneous movement within Santiago's slums (Borzutsky, p. 82).
    The protesta movement exemplifies what O'Donnell and Schmitter refer to as a "popular upsurge": the pivotal moment where the privileged, middle and working classes coalesce (53-4). Popular upsurges occur as indicators of transitional political periods, with the shorter and more unexpected the transition, the greater the likelihood of an upsurge (55). This hypothesis is supported by the previously "unthinkable" (Time, 22 August 1983) formation of the Democratic Alliance and simultaneous outbreak of national protests. This rapid spread has a simple explanation: in permitting one display of collective action, the government signals that it is lowering the cost of contention thus encouraging further action to take place (O'Donnell and Schmitter, p. 48). A history of popular mobilisation also increases the likelihood of a popular upsurge. This is supported by the multitude of Chilean popular protest movements, from the Marusia massacre right through to the protests at the end of Allende's government.
    The success of the protesta movement proves the importance of a strong contentious repertoire. Highly visible and vocal, this popular form of protest drew on a rich Latin American tradition of social protest. The use of cacerolazos is particularly significant. It is widely believed that this performance was first used against Popular Unity during the economic crisis of 1973. The repetition of this performance in 1983 increased the symbolic and causal coherence of the protesta movement, attracting a greater show of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment (WUNC) than would otherwise have been possible (Tilly 2006).

  • Terrorism
    The 1983 formation of the radical Frente Patriotico Manual Rodriguez (FPMR) is a further marker of popular upsurge, in this case the coalescence of radical and moderate opposition. The FPMR attacked power and water supplies, and planted a small bomb outside La Moneda in an attempt to assassinate Pinochet. These acts of terrorism contradicted Pinochet's early promises that only he could guarantee domestic peace and order, and further undermined middle and upper class support for the regime ( Borzutzky, p. 85).

...and repression

Despite initial success, the protesta repertoire of social protest was quickly followed by a counter-repertoire of state repression. Sergio Onofre Jarpa, the new head of cabinet and former Chilean Nazi Party member, instigated a heavy and brutal military crackdown on protesters. Pinochet passed an anti-terroist law in 1984 which gave the Central Nacional de Informaciones the right to detain or interrogate all those suspected of "actions or omissions designed to create commotion or fear... or those that have subversive or revolutionary intent" (Borzutzky, p. 83). A state of siege was imposed on November 6th and used to justify systematic raids on poor neighborhoods. It is estimated that around 24 000 people were detained between November 1984 and January 1985, with thousands more displaced (Borzutzky, p. 83). The repertoire of Pinochet’s regime was coercion. The need to use such force illustrates that his regime was never in complete control over Chile. Furthermore it illuatrates the capacity of Pinochet’s regime to oppress those opposed to the regime.

TRANSITION: 1988-1990

external image SERGIO_ONOFRE_JARPA.jpgexternal image NA10FO02.JPG
Fig. 8 & 9: "Mr Hard" Jarpa and General "Softy" Matthei

Duros vs. blandos

The protesta movement eventually dissolved in the face of sustained and brutal police repression. However, it aggravated the existing hard-liner/soft-liner divide within Pinochet's regime. As O'Donnell and Schmitter state, "there is no transition whose beginning is not the consequence - direct or indirect - of important divisions within the authoritarian regime itself" (19). These divisions can be seen in the conflicting statements released by military commanders following the 18 000 strong crackdown on Santiago protesters in mid 1983. While duro Major General Hernandez justified the military violence by claiming his troops had been attacked by "subversives", blandos Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Matthei and retired Army General Marambio claimed no such clashes had taken place and that the army had been called out to "repress the call of national protest" (Time, 22 August 1983). There was growing concern amongst military soft-liners that the integrity of their institutions was being undermined by Pinochet's failing regime. As Matthei put it in October 1984, "“if the transition toward democracy is not initiated properly, we shall ruin the armed forces in a way no Marxist infiltration could do” (Borzutsky, p. 85).

Potential for Transition

O'Donnell and Schmitter present two possible scenarios for authoritarian regime transition:
  1. The opposition mobilises in response to a regime failure. The ruling groups and armed forces are fragmented, uncertain of their capacity, and seek rapid political exit.
  2. The regime has experienced relative success. Confident they can achieve a majority victory, they aim to achieve a more complete electoral and popular legitimacy.

By the time of the pre-scheduled 1988 plebiscite referendum, Pinochet's regime appeared to positioned somewhere between the two. While he had failed miserably to create economic prosperity and domestic stability, he had retained control of the armed forces and his capacity to repress was relatively high. However, the military government was gradually being forced onto the defensive by a combination of domestic and international pressures for a more democratic and less authoritarian rule (Haynes). Eager to prove his legitimacy in front of an international audience, Pinochet allowed the plebiscite to go ahead.

1988 Plebiscite

At seventy-three years of age in 1988, Pinochet generally believed he was going to steer the Latin American country for the next eight years (Constable & Valenzuela). His overconfidence stemmed from the fact that he had survived many serious obstacles during his fifteen year reign, and come out unscathed. He had survived an attempt on his life, the protests of 1983, scandals surrounding human right abuses as well as the DINA, and rivalry of his leadership from General Leigh (Arriagada, p. 36). He also believed that the "yes-no" plebiscite, enshrined in the 1980 constitution, would guarantee him eight more years in power regardless of what the outcome would be. It had been designed so that even if the No vote won-resulting in Pinochet losing his power- he would still remain in power another seventeen months while presidential elections were prepared and held. In either situation he would still retain power (Constable & Valenzuela).

A no vote meant general elections for president and the congress would be held before the end of 1989. Between 5 September and 1 October 1988 television advertising time was allocated to the government and the opposition. This time was uncensored and consisted of daily 15 minute blocks for both 'yes' and 'no' campaigns. This was remarkable as from 1973 television had been strictly censored and controlled, including both the state owned TV station and university owned stations. The ‘No’ side of the campaign had General Pinochet abandon his uniform and take to the streets smiling and waving, donning miners helmets and Indian blankets, the result of a highly efficient and militaristic-run campaign. However, during the run-up to the plebiscite fundamental freedoms and rights were violated (Arturo Valenzuela and Pamela Constable, p.130). The imposition of "states of exception" allowed for arbitrary censorship and arrest, and other restrictions on political activity.

Carles Boix argues that democracy becomes a possible outcome when it costs the authoritarian regime more to repress than to redistribute under a democratic system (Carles Boix, p.19). In the case of Chile the costs were primarily external; the regime faced increasing international opposition during the 1980s. Furthermore, by this period inequality was not as high as it had been during previous regimes. Thus, according to Boix, democracy is more likely to be implemented as the wealthy would have less to lose with redistribution, as the poor would demand less. This theory was proved by the final count. Under the eyes of opposition representatives and international observers, the final vote was 55 percent for 'no' and 43 percent for 'yes'. On 11th March 1990 Patricio Aylwin was inaugurated as President of Chile.

RECOVERY: 1990-present

The "No" vote in the Pinochet plebiscite was a dramatic strike for democracy but not quite the end of authoritarianism. The transition from military to civilian rule occurred in March 1990, with Patricio Alywin assuming the presidency, several months after the plebiscite had taken place. This afforded Pinochet time to impose structural changes to the government, such as rearranging the judicial system. The new leaders assented to working within the bounds of the 1980 Constitution, effectively limiting efforts for governmental reform. Furthermore, the military continued to be a strong presence in the political sphere. Pinochet remained the head of the army as guaranteed him for the next eight years by laws passed at the end of his regime. Pinochet remained an influential figure in Chilean politics. After his retirement from the army in March 1998 he became 'senator for life' as was incorporated in the 1980 constitution.

After years of repression democratic leaders found it difficult to regain legitimacy and cohesion. Pinochet's presence made it extremely difficult for the new government to deal with past injustices. On occasions he resorted to a show of force to extort concessions from the government and to prevent members of the army from judgment on human rights abuses. Furthermore, Pinochet impeded the establishment of civilian supremacy over the armed forces, which was a severe obstacle in the movement towards democracy. The military believed that it had played a decisive role in the 'saving' of Chile from politicians and Marxists that had threatened it while under the Allende government. As leader Pinochet established a unified front with the support of the army which gave him significant leverage over the government. Thus, in order to placate the military and therefore avoid a coup or other military action, the government continued to make concessions to Pinochet.

Beyond structural political issues, Pinochet's legacy persists in the area of human rights. With the high level of governmental support, institutional constraints and public opinion it was almost impossible to indict Pinochet within Chile. When Pinochet visited London for medical treatment in 1998, Spain sought his extradition from England for a trial on human rights violations during his dictatorship. When he was arrested in Britain on 16 October 1998 roughly only 35 percent of Chile's population was in support of the British detainment of Pinochet. The army continued to support him due to his protection of them from judgement on human rights violations. The army publicly responded that Pinochet retained the 'permanent support and solidarity of the institution'. (Weeks, 2000, p. 733). Pinochet also recieved public support from the Chilean senate. However, the ensuing firestorm resulted in Pinochet's return to Chile, where the Chilean courts stripped him of immunity and confined him to house arrest. It appeared the last remnants of his regime had been exorcised.


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