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chile 80 - GLOBAL STUDIES(Department of Defense photo by R...

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Unformatted text preview: GLOBAL STUDIES (Department of Defense photo by R. D. Ward) Michelle Bachelet was Chile’s first woman president (1975—1979). A steep decline in the standard of living for most Chileans was the result of the govem- ment’s anti-inflation policy. Social-welfare programs were reduced to a minimum. The private sector was encouraged to assume many functions and services once provided by the state. Pensions were moved entirely to the pri- vate sector as all state programs were phased out. In this instance, the state cal— culated that workers tied through pensions and other benefits to the success of pri— vate enterprise would be less likely to be attracted to “non—Chilean” ideologies such as Marxism, socialism, and even Christian democracy. State-sponsored health pro— grams were also cut to the bone, and many of the poor now paid for services once pro- vided by the government. THE DEFEAT OF A DICTATOR To attain a measure of legitimacy, Chil- eans expected the military government to produce economic achievement. By 1987, and continuing into 1989, the regime’s economic policies seemed successful; the economic growth rate for 1988 was an impressive 7.4 percent. However, it masked critical weaknesses in the Chil- ean economy. For example, much of the growth was overdependent on exports of raw materials—notably, copper, pulp, tim— ber, and fishmeal. Modest economic success and an infla- tion rate of less than 20 percent convinced General Pinochet that he could take his political scenario for Chile’s future to the voters for their ratification. But in the October 5, 1988, plebiscite, Chile’s voters upset the general’s plans and decisively denied him an additional eight-year term. (He did, however, continue in office until the next presidential election determined his successor.) The military regime (albeit reluctantly) accepted defeat at the polls, which signified the reemergence of a deep- rooted civic culture and long democratic tradition. Where had Pinochet miscalculated? Public-opinion surveys on the eve of the election showed a sharply divided elec— torate. Some political scientists even spoke of the existence of “two Chiles.” In the words of government professor Arturo Valenzuela and Boston Globe cor- respondent Pamela Constable, one Chile “embraced those who had benefited from the competitive economic policies and welfare subsidies instituted by the regime and who had been persuaded that power was best entrusted to the armed forces.” The second Chile “consisted of those who had been victimized by the regime, who did not identify with Pinochet’s anti— Communist cause, and who had quietly nurtured a belief in democracy.” Polling data from the respected Center for Public Policy Studies showed that 72 percent of those who voted against the regime were motivated by economic factors. These were people who had lost skilled jobs or who had suffered a decrease in real wages. While Pinochet’s economic reforms had helped some, it had also created a dis- gruntled mass of downwardly mobile wage earners. Valenzuela and Constable explain how a dictator allowed himself to be voted out of power. “To a large extent Pinochet had been trapped by his own mythology. He was convinced that he would be able to win and was anxious to prove that his regime was not a pariah but a legitimate government. He and other officials came to believe their own propaganda about the dynamic new Chile they had created.” The closed character of the regime, with all lines of authority flowing to the hands of one man, made it “impossible for them to 80 accept the possibility that they could lose." And when the impossible occurred and the dictator lost an election played by his own rules, neither civilians on the right nor the military were willing to override the con- stitutional contract they had forged with the Chilean people. e HEALTHIWELFARE; '3 , f i" i ‘ V " 'Since‘1981‘f, all new members ‘ or Chile‘s labor force have , been reunited to contribute, , _ _, _ tenement of their monthly _ s earrings to 'privare-pension-fund - _ tints, which they own. Unfortdn’ately, " _ new re feesdiscovered lhatth‘eir _,j iensi, nstell far bélowi‘the guaranteed - threshold. one reaSOn wasrhat expenses { managing théjfands conSUmed as much ~as'33percent‘of werkers‘ contrlbt’rtions. In March 1990, Chile returned to civilian rule for the first time in almost 17 years, with the assumption of the presi- dency by Patricio Aylwin. His years in power revealed that tensions still existed between civilian politicians and the mili- tary. In 1993, for example, General Pino- chet mobilized elements of the army in Santiago—a move that, in the words of the independent newspaper La Epoca, “marked the crystallization of long- standing hostility” between the Aylwin government and the army. The military had reacted both to investigations into human— rights abuses during the Pinochet dictator- ship and proposed legislation that would have subordinated the military to civilian control. On the other hand, the command4 ers of the navy and air force as well as the two right—wing political parties refused to sanction the actions of the army. President Aylwin regained the initia- tive when he publicly chastised General Pinochet. Congress, in a separate action, affirmed its supremacy over the judiciary in 1993, when it successfully impeached a Supreme Court justice for “notable derelic- tion of duty.” The court system had been notorious for transferring human-rights cases from civil to military courts, where they were quickly dismissed. The impeach- ment augured well for further reform of the judicial branch. Further resistance to the legacy of Gen- eral Pinochet was expressed by the people when, on December 11, 1993, the center- left coalition candidate Eduardo Frei Ruiz- Tagle won the Chilean presidential election, with 58 percent of the vote. As part of his platform, Frei had promised to bring the military under civilian rule. The parliamen— tary vote, however, did not give him the two- thirds majority needed to push through such ...
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