Chile Recent History Part II

By | December 1, 2021

Meanwhile, the voices of dissent from civil society began to make themselves heard: the movements of the poblaciones (poor neighborhoods similar to bidonvilles), the student federation and the trade union movement, which sought to overcome the corporate sphere to which the regime had confined it, revitalizing federations and leading to the creation of a kind of confederation. The first protest in May 1983 was followed by three years of large demonstrations, barricades and clashes with the police and troops.

The unrest gave new life to the parties, which were trying to resume political initiative: the formation of political-ideological alliances, if it had the advantage of overcoming the pre-existing fragmentation, was not accompanied by the formulation of a clear strategy regarding the transition process. from dictatorship to democracy. Starting in 1983, the Democratic Alliance (AD: small right-wing groups, DC, radicals, a socialist section and other minor parties), the Socialist Bloc (the same socialist section plus the MAPU – Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitaria – and the Christian left) and the Popular Democratic Movement (MDP: the PC, the other socialist section, the MIR and left-wing groups). Within a few months AD lost the left component and the Bloc dissolved, while (1987) the MDP transformed into the United Left by incorporating the Christian Left and the MAPU. In 1985 another attempt to group the opposition was carried out on the initiative of the Church: the National Agreement, which also included right-wing parties, but which excluded the CP. For Chile 2001, please check

Despite the reduced planning and the ineffectiveness of their action, the parties began to renew the leading cadres and, on the left, to re-evaluate bourgeois democracy and to discuss the experience of Popular Unity. However, this did not eliminate the difficulties of connection with the social movements, which in part expressed new needs and saw the presence of a young generation of militants formed during the dictatorship and often not very sensitive to ideological motivations. The lack of strategies meant that the climate of mobilization was consumed without appreciable results, distancing, among other things, sectors of the middle classes fearful of the most radical forms of struggle. The last attempt to settle political and social unrest took place in 1986 through the Asamblea de la civilidad (including the Communists) who showed great capacity for mobilization and promoted a national strike. In the middle of the same year, however, the discovery of some weapons depots and an attack on Pinochet attributed to the Manuel Rodriguez Front (linked to the PC) led to the proclamation of a state of siege and a stagnation of the unrest.

Starting from 1986, the better economic performance allowed a resumption of initiative by the government: the opposition ceased to consider the collapse of the regime as inevitable and ended up accepting the terrain of struggle imposed by Pinochet, that is the referendum on the the latter remained in power until 1997. Electoral committees were formed, the parties (10 from the right and 16 from the center and left) gave birth to the Concertación por la democracia, inviting (with the late and reluctant accession of the CP) citizens to register in the electoral registers, and an agreement was reached for the victory of the no by isolating the armed groups. Despite the pressure exerted by all means by the government, the referendum of October 5, 1988 saw the defeat of Pinochet (43% of votes in favor, 54.7% against and 2.3% of white votes).

Faced with the prospect of a return to a civilian regime, Pinochet had electoral legislation passed that abandoned the proportional system and heavily penalized the opposition forces, preventing them from having a number of seats equal to the amount of votes obtained. The parliamentary elections of December 1989 saw the victory of the Christian Democrats, within the Concertación por la democracia, but the most representative group of the right, Renovación Nacional, obtained the second position in number of seats. The electoral mechanisms damaged above all the left, which with the old legislation would have managed to conquer 30% of parliamentary representation. Particularly serious was the collapse of the far left.

On the same date, the presidential elections were held, won with 53% of the votes by the single candidate presented by the opposition, the Christian Democrat P. Aylwin, who had been an irreducible opponent of Allende and had supported the coup of 1973. Aylwin took office in March 1990, in a climate of enthusiasm and hope, but when the internal divisions on the democratic front, which had already manifested themselves in the parliamentary elections, had become more acute. The return to democracy is characterized by a series of unknowns and obstacles, which add to the clear dominance, in parliament, of the older pre-1973 political generation. First of all, the difficulty of undermining the institutional continuity inherited from the Pinochet regime, which had approved a preventive amnesty law for crimes committed during the dictatorship and the immovability of the leaders of the main public bodies and commanders of the Armed Forces, including Pinochet himself, who remained at the head of the Army. More generally, the phase that began in March 1990 could be defined as ” protected democracy ”. In this regard, it should be remembered that the quorum set by the 1980 Constitution to carry out constitutional reforms is so high and the representation of the right in parliament so strong that they can only be carried out through negotiations with Pinochet’s ex-partisans.

A significant role is played by the Church, which has proposed itself as the institution with the greatest capacity to aggregate and legitimize even if in non-strictly political spheres. Finally, as the experience of other Latin American countries demonstrates, a difficult obstacle lies in the possibility of responding to requests coming from civil society, to prevent the conquest of democracy from immediately resulting in a crisis in the representativeness of parties and institutions.

Chile Recent History