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Evolution of the Chilean Government after the Ruthless Regime of Augusto Pinochet Research Paper

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Introduction

Augusto Pinochet was a Chilean president. He got into power by overthrowing a democratically elected government in the year 1973 and exercised a dictatorial rule until the year 1989. This paper seeks to discuss the evolution of the Chilean government after Augusto. The paper will discuss Augusto Pinochet and his rule, the politics of the Chilean government after Augusto with specifications on the presidents and their political parties.

Augusto Pinochet

Pinochet was born in November 1915 to a civil servant father who was a customs office. The father was therefore able to afford a private school for Pinochet though he (Pinochet) never performed well academically. Childress (2008) recounted that Augusto always failed in majority of subjects in his classes.

In school, the later to be president and army commander preferred classes that were related to fencing. He also had great interest in boxing. His involvement in politics started early in life as he attended political rallies in his teenage life. As a young man, Augusto was persuaded by his father to study a medical course while his mother wanted him to be a soldier.

Following his mother’s interest, Augusto tried to apply into military school but was only successful on his third attempt in the year 1933. His first two failures to join the military are claimed to have been due to his poor grades from school though he is reported to have given different explanations to the failures. In the military, Augusto was very committed to his call. His first posting was to San Bernardo infantry school where he was later reposted in the year 1940. He got married to Lucia in the year 1943.[1]

Augusto slowly rose through the ranks of service and was made a prison commander by the year 1948. He then proceeded to lecturing a military school before being offered the post of director of the institution.

In the year 1970, the then Chilean chief of general staff was shot and succumbed to the injuries in what appeared to be an assassination. Augusto was then appointed by the then president, Salvador, to fill the vacancy of the chief of general staff. With the help of the CIA, Augusto planned and successfully led a military coup that killed Salvador and he became the president.

The reign of Augusto was characterized by massive murders which were believed to be assassinations of personalities who were former allies of Salvador. The murders included the deaths of former vice president and former foreign minister of Chile. Pinochet also ensured the collapse of the national trade union by using international trade to weaken the local industries and the country’s agricultural sector.

The Pinochet’s government was highly criticized for poor economic policies that marginalized income among people and human rights violation that led into mass protests in the year 1983. He however tried to cling to power in the 1989 elections which he lost to Patricio Aylwin. Despite losing the elections, he retained his position as the commander in chief of the armed forces until in 1994 when he resigned and got a position in the senate.

He was arrested in Britain while on official visit and further judicial proceedings were initiated against him on his return to Chile. The administration of Pinochet was marred with high level dictatorship that ensured assassinations of people who were a threat to the administration.[2]

The Chilean Politics After 1990

The political system in Chile has experienced significant developments since the end of its dictatorial regime in the year 1989. In its response to reclaim democracy, a notable transition has over the years developed with regard to the nominations to political offices right from political parties’ posts.

One of the developments in the Chilean politics is the transition from reserved politics in which people were seemingly handpicked into positions rather than being selected based on the democratic support that they received from their parties supporters. Following the change from the dictatorial rule of Pinochet, party politics has democratically evolved to yield political leaders with grassroots support from their political parties and coalitions.[3]

The system of electing a president was one of the areas in the Chilean politics to experience reforms. There was a change from a previous simple majority presidential elections system to a condition of at least more than fifty percent of the casted votes in a presidential election. Prior to this reform, there was a provision that the Chilean legislature would choose from among the first two candidates in cases where the fifty percent majority was not realized.

The legislature would however occasionally choose the leader in the held elections to hold the presidency. On the contrary, the current provisions outlines for re-run elections between the first two contenders in a general election if no candidate manages to get more that fifty percent of votes. Party nominations have also been democratized, especially among parties or coalitions in government prior to elections.

The nomination processes are conducted through open grass root processes. Opposition parties and coalitions have also been democratic, though a bit inclined to partisan attitudes. The general development however is the fact that the ability of an incumbent to cling to power was checked by the constitutional provision that a president can only be elected into office for a single term.[4]

Candidates and Political Campaigns after 1990

Political involvements in Chile have been dependent on a number of factors. Political “status is obtained from kinship ties, education, networks and marriages”.[5] Education status has for example been identified as a critical element in the presidential elections. A past survey on legislators indicated that a majority of them were well educated with at least an undergraduate degree and a significant number had post graduate degrees.

A person’s relation and position in a party has also been identified as influential in party nominations. However democratic the nominations are, popularity and loyalty to party seems to play an important role in delegates decision making when they go for party primaries. The presidential election held in the year 1989 was worn by a coalition movement. Though the country was seen to be in a transformational state, its leaders were more or less the same old politicians, and this called for political tactics in the general election.

Aylwin, who won the election, decided to depersonalize his campaigns in order to broaden his support and to distance himself from his past. Consolidation of his coalition and being liberal to the electorates’ views also played a critical role in the campaigns. Developments and transformations in the political atmosphere however ensured the political detachment from personalities who were closely related to the former regimes of Salvador and Pinochet.

This transition signified change from the dictatorships of the two regimes to a new dawn of democratic establishments. Governments have also been formed on the basis of political and regional balance. The system of balancing government positions has also transformed over time with a notable change from mere loyalty to political figures to real balance that included gender considerations.[6]

General Changes realized after Pinochet

At the end of Augusto’s rule as the president of Chile, the country got an opportunity for involvement with the international world. The post Augusto Chile moved to develop policies that were meant to “pursue regional cooperation, establishing peace and security along its borders and developing new trade opportunities”.[7]

The military rule that had even engaged in assassination of foreign citizens had alienated Chile from global diplomatic ties. The transition from the Augusto’s military regime into democracy led to improved international relations between Chile and other countries. As a result, a number of international agreements have since been negotiated by Chile leading to its membership in “Asia pacific economic conference and the southern common market”.[8]

Trade negotiations have since been made with Canada, the European Union and the United States. Political stability has also been realized in the region following resolution of border conflicts that existed between Chile and its neighboring countries. Following the democratization of the country, Chile has established itself as an influential country in the region. The political transformation reestablished diplomatic links with other nations allowing it to participate and realize benefits of globalization.[9]

Chilean Governments after Pinochet

The first administration after Pinochet was the government formed by Patricio Aylwin. Patricio was elected into presidency after Pinochet stepped down following a no vote that rejected his bid to stay in power. Patricio was born in the year 1918. He undertook his university studies at the University of Chile and graduated with a degree in “judicial, political and social sciences with the highest distinction”.[10]

He then proceeded with education and later worked at Chile and Catholic universities before serving National institute of Santiago as a political economy professor. Patricio started his political engagement in the year 1945 before joining the Christian Democratic Party which he served as the party president from the year 1958 up to the year 1989. Under his presidency, Patricio is credited for “wisdom and compassion, guiding the reconstruction of Chile and reconciliation of its people”.[11]

The presidency of Patricio was under a coalition of a number of parties. Inclusive in the coalition were the Christian Democratic Party which Patricio belonged to, socialist’s party and the radicals group among other small parties. While in power, the government headed by Patricio sought to improve welfare of the people of Chile through a variety of measures and policies. Establishment of “truth and reconciliation commission”[12] and policies that would improve the country’s economy became prime agendas of his government.

He also made efforts to improve the living standards of the Chilean citizens who were languishing in poverty by establishing conditions that were favorable and attractive to investors. Increased investments created employment opportunities in the country. Being the first president after dictatorial regimes in Chile, president Patricio became the first Chilean president to visit the United States in a span of thirty years.

The visit was in the steps of involvement of Chile into global community following its earlier isolation during the military governments who had cut links with other countries. In this particular meeting, the Chilean president stated, not only to the American government but the international fraternity, that Chile was seeking cooperation, and not helps in its transformational process and period. The government of Aylwin also established proceedings to ensure justice to killings that were committed under the military rule of Pinochet.

Former key military figures who were accused of murders like the assassination of Orlando among others were put on trial. Although he made significant steps to pass legislation to liberalize the people of Chile and to improve their welfare, some of the initiatives by Patricio were unsuccessful due to the involvement of military personalities in his government.

The then constitution provided for inclusion of the forces to the executive, a move that the military used to hinder reforms there by protecting their members who would be prosecuted. A constitutional provision that limited his presidency to four years saw the end of his power in the year 1994. He however made significant progress in the democratization of Chile.[13]

President Patricio was succeeded in a peaceful transition by Eduardo Frey in a democratic process that took place in the year 1994. Like his predecessor, President Eduardo was a product of the Christian Democratic Party. He was a son to a former president and an engineer by profession. Under his leadership, the Chilean government shifted its attention to development of social amenities and infrastructure.

Through the involvement of private sectors, the government of Frey succeeded in developing transport facilities and educational and reformatory institutions. The Christian Democratic Party however lost much of its popularity during the time of Eduardo as the party’s flag bearer. The Christian democrats lost the next election that was held in the year 2000 to the socialist candidate, Ricardo Lagos.[14]

In his reign, president Lagos integrated economic developments and judicial efficiency in his main agendas. He aspired to translate the economic development that had been realized to people’s domestic wellbeing in townships and provinces.

The period of his reign witnessed improvements in welfare of Chilean people as his government established schemes to take care of its unemployed citizens. The Lagos government established compensation program for victims of torture under the former military regime. It also developed health care policy to ensure improved quality and accessibility to the services.[15]

Lagos was succeeded by another socialist candidate called Michelle Bachelet. She was the first woman president and was widely criticized for a weak government. Her administration however picked up in the second half of her presidency and was recognized for effectiveness in agendas that related to economy and social welfare. In her recognition in these areas, Michelle was honored in the year 2009 for her effort to ensure fast economic recovery of her country after the recession that occurred at that time.[16]

Conclusion

Augusto Pinochet became Chilean president in the year 1973 by overthrowing the then government. He was a military officer who had just been promoted to fill the vacancy left by assassination of his predecessor. Once in office as the president of Chile, Augusto Pinochet established a dictatorial rule which was characterized by gross violation of human rights. Augusto also destroyed diplomatic ties between Chile and international communities and even caused boarder conflicts with the country’s neighbors.

His rule was however terminated when his campaign to continue as the country’s leader was defeated in the year 1989. He stepped down as the country’s president but retained his post of the commander in chief of the armed forces. He was however later arrested in Britain and also on his arrival back in Chile for human rights violation that occurred during his time. The post Augusto Chile has been under four presidents, the first two from the Christian Democratic Party and the latter two from social democratic party.

The four presidents, who were democratically elected, have been credited for their steps that have established and developed democracy, economy and social welfare of the Chilean people. The governments have also strengthened foreign policies of the country to open Chile to the globalized world. Their administrations have moved Chile to better standards of democracy as well as in other aspects.

Bibliography

Altman, David. Political recruitment and candidate selection in Chile (1990-2003) The executive branch. Institutio de ciencia politica, n.d.

Childress, Diana. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty first century books, 2008.

Demcoalition. Defending democracy: A global survey of foreign policy trends 1992-2002. Demcoalition, n.d.

Encyclopedia. Patricio Aylwin Azocar. Encyclopedia of world biography. 2004.

Kennedy. Patricio Aylwin Azocar. Fulbright association, 2011.

Minnis, Natalie. Chile. New York, NY: Langenscheidt publishing group, 2002.

Spartacus. Augusto Pinochet. Spartacus, n.d.

Zissis, Carin. “President of Chile Michele Bachelet Honored at AS/COA”. American society website, 2009. .

Footnotes

  1. Childress, Diana. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile. (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty first century books, 2008), p. 28-30
  2. Spartacus. Augusto Pinochet. (Spratus, n.d.).
  3. Altman, David. Political recruitment and candidate selection in Chile (1990-2003): The executive branch. (Institutio de ciencia politica, n.d.) p. 3
  4. Ibid, p. 3
  5. Ibid, p. 15
  6. Altman, David. Political recruitment and candidate selection in Chile (1990-2003): The executive branch. (Institutio de ciencia politica, n.d.) p. 15
  7. Ibid, p. 5
  8. Ibid, p. 1
  9. Demcoalition. Defending democracy: A global survey of foreign policy trends 1992-2002. (Demcoalition, n.d.) p. 1.
  10. Kennedy. Patricio Aylwin Azocar. (Fulbright association, 2011) p. 1.
  11. Ibid
  12. Encyclopedia. Patricio Aylwin Azocar. (encyclopedia world biography, 2004) p. 1
  13. Encyclopedia. Patricio Aylwin Azocar. (encyclopedia world biography, 2004) p. 1
  14. Minnis, Natalie. Chile. (New York, NY: Langenscheidt publishing group, 2002). P. 64
  15. Ibid
  16. Zissis, Carin. President of Chile Michele Bachelet Honored at AS/COA. (American society website, 2009). P. 1
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