Augusto Pinochet was the Dictator ofChile for 17 years from 1973 until 1990 after overthrowing President SalvadorAllende. Economic and political circumstances in Chile under Allende played amajor role on the creation of the Pinochet dictatorship. While the dictatorshiphas been known for its repression and violence, Pinochet was able to maintainhis regime for seventeen years due economic prosperity and military strength.
However, Pinochet would eventually meet the end of his rule due to human rightsviolation by the regime beginning to be exposed and protests by civilians forDemocracy. Pinochet would relinquish his seat as President after 17 yearshowever would remain commander chief of the army and grant himself completeimmunity for anything done during his rule. The Pinochet dictatorship has ledto controversial views praising the regime for establishing what Chile istoday, one of the strongest economies in South America.
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Pinochet led hiscountry to economic growth and prosperity however at the expense of humanrights of the Chilean people and many others. Before Pinochet came into power,Salvador Allende was the President of Chile. Allende was the head of thePopular Unity coalition and a socialist who planned to reform Chile and make ita socialist society. Allende socialist reforms were only successful in for theshort term as he increased wages and kept basic goods at a low price whichhelped stimulate the economy for a little. In the long term (Ensalaco, 2000).These reforms caused high inflation, shortage of consumer goods, and a blackmarket that would only grow under Allende. Other socialist policies includenationalizing of many industries and that did not weigh well with Chileans andCongress. Nationalization of the copper, bus, and truck industries would leadto protests against Allende (Ensalaco, 2000).
Nationalization of theseindustries would halt the use of them until Allende is overran in September of1973. Chileans would suffer economically which would lead to them turning onAllende as well. Policies implemented by Allende would continue to lead Chileto economic struggles that included high unemployment and the loss ofinternational support. The problem with Allende was he was unable to controlhis socialist political views. He did not seem to recognize the destruction itwas causing his nation and his people. The final straw for Allende wasexpropriating American-owned copper industries without compensation. This wouldlead to the involvement of the United States and Richard Nixon by supportingAllende political opponents and cutting off international lines of credit toChile. Allende radical left wing politics and poor communication also led to atense relationship between Congress and military officials (Ensalaco, 2000).
With Chile continuing to decline after 3 years of Presidency, it was clear inthe eyes of congress and the military that it was time for a change fromSalvador Allende. Eventually a military coup waslaunched on September 11th, 1973 under General Augusto Pinochet and hismilitary. They would overthrow the Chilean government under Salvador Allendeand his Popular Unity coalition. Allende would commit suicide during themilitary coup and so would begin the Dictatorship of Chile ran under Pinochetfor 17 years.
Pinochetwould establish his dominance in this first months of his regime with violenceand terror. Pinochet made it clear early that it planned to establish politicalstability in Chile however this would come at a price for many Chileans. AfterPinochet took control, thousands of suspected leftist believers were roundedup, tortured, and in several cases killed (Sigmund, 2011). One early act ofterror would be known as ‘Caravan of Death’, it was a military operation whichaimed to completely eliminate political opposition in the north of the countryat any means, usually death and torture (Ensalaco, 2000). Pinochet implementedtotalitarian tactics that sought to eliminate civilian political behavior andparty politics that previously existed to establish political stability.
However, this political stability would sole revolve around Pinochet and hisviews as he enacted Decree Law 527 to transfer absolute power to his own hands(Ensalaco, 2000). This also led to the banning of political parties, Congressshutting down, and censoring the news (Ensalaco, 2000). Establishing dominance early, allowedPinochet to implement his own reforms for Chile’s government and economy, whichwould improve in the early years of his regime. After overthrowing Allende andsetting up his military government, Pinochet focused on bringing politicalstability and fixing the Chilean economy.
In order to fix the Chilean economy,Pinochet sought help of economic graduates from the University of Chicago(Ensalaco, 2000). Pinochet would implement their idea for a neoliberal economythat would help modernized Chile. This plan completely reversed the socialreforms Allende attempted to implement. It would free up market forces, allowthe privatization of many industries. This model no longer allowed the state tobe in complete control of the country’s economic and social changes (Oppenheim,1999). This model effectively benefitted the Chilean economy, it allowed thepurchases of imported consumer goods, established multinational corporation inthe country, and modernized agriculture. Pinochet showed major improvement inthe Chilean economy in his first few years, allowing Chile to be in a positionit has never been in before, the top economic country in South America duringthis time. Economic reforms implemented during this time would carry-on foryears even through economic struggles and Pinochet’s departure (Oppenheim,1999).
Pinochet helped Chile get out of an economic gutter it was in fordecades, this economic success allowed Pinochet to maintain his control ofChile for years to come.The reformation of the ChileanConstitution however played the biggest role for maintaining the Pinochetregime. The reformed constitution would address Chile’s government andpolitical powers. The constitution has been viewed as illegitimate due to thefact all those assign to contribute were handpicked by Pinochet himself andincluded no oppose of Pinochet (Couso, 2011).
Nonetheless, the constitutionwould establish an “authoritarian democracy” as said by Pinochet to help bringpolitical stability to Chile. The constitution would also establish Pinochetand its regime to rule Chile for at least the next 8 years. Chile was thrivingeconomically before the reformed constitution in the regime, Pinochet took theeconomic prosperity as an opportunity reform the constitution to his liking andwould then put it to a vote, bringing back a sense of democracy (Oppenheim,1999). The reformed constitution would gain the majority of the vote needed andso the Pinochet regime would continue for another 8 years.
However, democracyand stability would be far from what Chile would experience. The fact that the Pinochet regimeremained in power for so long can be due to the political stability it created.Before Pinochet, Chilean governments hardly lasted longer than a decade.Pinochet managed to last 17 years, this shows that stability was indeed afactor in the maintenance of this regime.
Implementation of the constitutionenacted in 1980 furthers demonstrates the strength of the regime. Theconstitution would remain unreformed for the most part until 2005 (Couso, 2011)Despite the economic growth andstability Pinochet provided, the methods used by the regime to implement thesereforms has left the Pinochet dictatorships one of the most controversial. Themajor problem with the Pinochet rule was that it was built on repression.
Asmentioned before, Pinochet repressed opposing political parties, congress, andcivilian political participation simply to gain complete control of thegovernment (Sigmund, 2011). Pinochet went to great lengths to ensure that theseissues were dealt with. The creation of National Directorate of Intelligence(DINA) computerized files and was responsible for eliminating those who opposedthe regime. DINA is responsible for thousands of deaths and “disappearances”while under Pinochet (Ensalaco, 2000). While for the most part these type oforganizations and their responsibilities would be kept under wraps, theexposure of these evil acts would help lead to the decay of the Pinochetregime. While the Pinochet regime thrivedvery well economically for Chile, the prosperity under these new economicreforms would encounter numerous problems. For example, the neo-liberaleconomic system that initially helped the prosperity of Chile’s economy hasbeen argued to only benefitted a minority of the Chilean population as wages in1989 were lower than they were in 1970 (Diaz, 2010). The reforms were also heldresponsible for creating a more polarized society with greater income andwealth disparities, including a considerable growth in the number of poor(Oppenheim, 1999).
Things would only get worse for Pinochet and his reforms in1982, the Chilean economy completely collapsed. It has been said that this wasdue to a region wide debt that went unnoticed due to lack of wage and moneyregulation eventually leading to the collapse of the banking sector (Diaz,2010). This also led to unemployment soaring to above 20 percent and cuts ofgovernment social services (Diaz, 2000).As these economic crisis wouldcontinue to ensue throughout the 1980s, several more events would question theactual stability Chile was in under Pinochet. As the economic crisis continued,multiple protests and strikes would commence throughout the country, includingstrikes from the Copper Miners Union, these protest resulted in deaths and manyinjuries (Ensalaco, 2000). Overall, Pinochet repressive tactics caught up tohim and was not sitting well among many Chileans. During this time Pinochet wouldbegin to lose many of his followers. A combination of being exposed as amonster, murder, liar, and failure caught up to Pinochet by 1990.
It was atthis time that Pinochet decided to resign as ruler of Chile and implementedelections for the next President bringing back actual democracy to Chile.Pinochet would leave himself Commander of the Chilean Army and granted himselfimmunity for anything he did during his rule. Human rights activists eventuallywould go after Pinochet and expose his entire regime.
Pinochet would facetrials against Human Rights Violation for the rest of his life until his deathin 2005. In conclusion, Augusto Pinochet was a Chileandictator that took over a country that was already in turmoil for years. WithChile’s recent economic struggles before Pinochet, it is clear why he was ableto rule Chile for long.
He initiated his dominance from the start and used thatto establish himself and his economic and political beliefs. While extrememeasures were taken during his regime, Pinochet was one of the longergovernment to control Chile in recent years. It is clear that Pinochet did liftup Chile from where it use to be, however, this came at a great cost withrepressive tactics and the elimination of all those who opposed him.