Chile Road to Democracy

By | December 1, 2021

Allende’s government, Pinochet’s coup, the beginning of the dictatorship. The rapid growth of the internal market and the entrenchment (in the population of more recent European origin) of kinds of life in line with those of the advanced Western countries meanwhile matured the intrinsic contradictions in the Chilean economic system and society. The presidential elections of 1970 saw the victory of the socialist S. Allende Gossens, supported by a left-wing coalition (Unidad popular). The Allende government gave a strong impetus to reform action in a perspective of transition to socialism: copper mines were nationalized, agrarian reform accelerated, social services developed and income redistribution measures were adopted in favor of the lower classes; on the international level, relations with the socialist countries and with Cuba were extended. This policy gained the support of the popular masses (confirmed by the electoral successes of 1971 and 1973), but aroused the opposition of the ruling classes, foreign big capital and a substantial part of the middle classes, the latter being pushed to the right by the deterioration of the economic situation. With the intensification of the social and political conflict, the PDC also joined the conservative forces, while episodes of terrorism and coup threats increased the tension. On 11 September 1973 a coup d’état put an end to the Unidad popular experience (Allende himself was killed during the assault on the presidential palace) and power was assumed by a military junta, chaired by the general A. Pinochet Ugarte, proclaimed President of the Republic in 1974, which suspended the Constitution, dissolved Congress and prohibited any political activity. While repression was falling on Chile (thousands of opponents were interned, killed or made to disappear), a rigidly liberal economic policy dismantled the reforms of the Allende government. After a plebiscite in support of the regime, in 1980 a new Constitution was approved by referendum (promulgated in March 1981) which extended the powers of the president (extending his mandate to eight years) compared to the bicameral Congress, confirmed the institutional role of the military, sanctioned the illegality of Marxist-inspired organizations and established restrictions on the rights of strike, association and expression. For Chile democracy and rights, please check localbusinessexplorer.com.

The crisis of the dictatorship, the difficult transition to democracy. The economy, after a growth in production in the second half of the 1970s, fell into a serious crisis in the early 1980s. The result was a strong growth of popular opposition and, from 1983, a series of strikes and protests put the military regime in difficulty, which reacted with harsh repression. The main parties began to reorganize, but with deep contrasts between them. While in fact the moderate and centrist forces and most of the socialists were trying to reach an agreement with the military, the communists and the MIR (Movimiento de izquierda revolucionaria) believed that only a break in institutional continuity could guarantee the return to democracy and did not exclude the armed struggle between the tools to fight the dictatorship. Starting in 1987, when the regime opened the registrations for a new electoral register and allowed the return to the legality of non-Marxist parties, it was however the moderate line that prevailed. The defeat of Pinochet in the plebiscite of October 1988 over the extension of his presidency until 1997 made it possible to combine presidential elections alongside the legislative provisions of 1989, strengthening the liberalizing tendencies. The consultations saw the victory of the moderate opposition and in March 1990 the military junta handed over power to a civil administration led by the Christian Democrat P. Aylwin Azócar. Established a center-left government, Aylwin tried to promote a gradual evolution in a democratic sense, trying to face the constraints connected with institutional continuity, the permanence of Pinochet at the head of the armed forces, the weight of the right in Congress itself. The transition process from dictatorship to democracy was conditioned by the role of “protection” that the military continued to exercise over the life of the country and above all by the political presence of Pinochet. Deprived of the majority needed to change the Constitution, the Aylwin administration had to make continuous compromises with the right-wing opposition and could only approve some of the proposed reforms. Thanks also to the good performance of the economy (even in the presence of serious social inequalities), the center-left coalition was confirmed after the 1993 elections, in which the Christian Democrat E. Frei was elected president of the Republic, who reproposed some of the reform laws already tempted by its predecessor. On the international level, concluded in 1993 free trade agreements with Colombia and Ecuador, Chile re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in April 1995 and in October 1996 became part, as an associate member, of MERCOSUR. In 1998 began the long legal case of Pinochet, who was arrested while he was in London, then extradited and returned to his homeland and sent to trial at the beginning of 2001. The trial, primarily concerning the crimes and atrocities committed over the years of the dictatorship and then the establishment of secret funds in the name of his family and the result of illicit enrichments, was never concluded, due to the precarious health conditions of the former dictator, who died in 2006. However, it forced the Chile to confront without hypocrisy with the period of dictatorship, making clear the deep ideological and political divisions that still mark it. In 2000 a socialist, R. Lagos, returned to the presidency of the Republic and initiated a program of reforms, which resulted in the reform of the 1980 Constitution in 2005. In 2006 Lagos was succeeded by his party partner M. Bachelet, who launched a neoliberal policy, despite the protests of the workers and students. In 2010 the elections were won by MJS Piñera, a multibillionaire despite the protests of the workers and students. In 2010 the elections were won by MJS Piñera, a multibillionaire despite the protests of the workers and students. In 2010 the elections were won by MJS Piñera, a multibillionaire leader of the center-right forces, who beat the candidate of the Concertación (Christian Democrats, Socialists, Radicals) E. Frei.

Chile Road to Democracy