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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


MICHAEL FLEET, Associate Professor of Political Science, Marquette University

THIS BIENNIUM'S MATERIALS on Chilean politics continue to focus on the transition to and consolidation of democracy, but they also include a significant number of studies of pre-1973 politics and of the military years. Both Chilean and foreign scholars, it seems, believe that aspects of the country's past will play a role in determining its future.

Several studies of the pre-1973 period are worth singling out. The most impressive and instructive is Moulian's reflections on the Chilean party system from 1932-73 (item bi 94012401). Also extremely useful is Alan Angell's depiction of the Alessandri, Frei, and Allende governments (item bi 94004322), each driven by a utopian vision impossible for others to embrace. Paul Sigmund's review of US Chilean policy over the last 30 years offers a similar overview of political forces and outcomes (item bi 96000222). Scully and Valenzuela, on the other hand, point to the striking (although not entirely unexpected) similarity between the 1988 plebiscite and the 1989 general election results and those of the 1969 and 1973 congressional and the 1970 presidential elections (item bi 96011198). Also worthy of note is the first of four projected volumes of reminiscences of veteran communist Orlando Millas, covering the period 1932-47 (item bi 94012403).

Studies of the Pinochet years offer interesting reflections on Pinochet himself and on the structural changes undertaken during his years in power. Both, of course, are likely to condition Chilean economics and politics for years to come. Chilean journalists Raquel Correa and Elizabeth Subercaseaux's 1989 interview of the Captain General succeeds in pressing him on several points and is surprisingly revealing (item bi 94004326). So too are the responses that Díaz and Devés elicit from their interviewees (item bi 94004324), and Marras' interviews of four prominent Chilean generals (Baeza, Medina Lois, Toro, and Danús) who worked closely with Pinochet (item bi 94012411). Codevilla's Foreign Affairs article (item bi 94015403) and Spooner's book (item bi 94004307) offer more explicit and engaging discussions of Pinochet's policies, although they may leave academic readers somewhat dissatisfied. More useful to the latter are Angell and Pollack's edited book (item bi 94004341), and Carol Graham's landmark study of approaches to poverty under Pinochet and Aylwin (item bi 96000180). Huneeus' analysis of 1986 survey data was a standard reference for assessing the regime's strength and the possibilities for mobilizing popular support against it (item bi 94004364). And, finally, Kay (item bi 94004315) and Kay and Silva (item bi 96000185) offer extremely useful assessments of agricultural policy under Pinochet and, to a lesser extent, Aylwin.

Suggestive, perhaps, of a decline in intensity of interest in establishing accountability in matters of human rights violations, this period's materials included only three pieces dealing explicity with this subject. As moving as the 1991 Rettig Commission's report (see HLAS 53:3980) - and infinitely more engaging because they involve "confessions" of two people who participated directly in torture and other abusive practices for extended periods of time - are Luz Arce's account of her years in the DINA (item bi 94012428), and González and Contreras' account of a working-class Air Force recruit who worked for 10 years with the Joint Military Intelligence Command (item bi 94004365). Also of note is René García's discussion of cases which he tried to pursue before being forced to abandon them and to resign as the judge of Santiago's 20th Criminal Court (item bi 94004354).

This chapter also contains a number of valuable journalistic portrayals of the transition to democracy. This is the case, for example, with the Spaniard Luis Ignacio López's treatment of the period between the 1988 plebiscite and the 1989 elections (item bi 94012425) which includes separate chapters on such personalities as Ricardo Lagos, Andrés Zaldívar, Clodomiro Almeyda, Orlando Sáenz, and Manuel Feliú; the Spaniard José Antonio Gurriarán's interviews of Gen. Leigh and Gen. Díaz Estrada, former Minister Madariaga, and former Press Secretary Willoughby, and his discussion of Pinochet's plans for a "soft coup" (item bi 94012416); and the rambling account of the transition by a former Ministry of Interior Legal Adviser under Allende (item bi 94004340). In addition, Jeffrey Puryear has written a very informative account of the role of intellectuals (and of the foreign foundations that supported them) in the restoration of democratic rule (item bi 94012068). Abraham Santibáñez (item bi 94004366) and La Campaña del NO vista por sus creadores (item bi 94004369) offer fascinating and informative details about the opposition's campaign to defeat Pinochet in the plebiscite, an event which marked the arrival in Chile of modern campaign planning and propaganda techniques. Eduardo Silva analyzes how Pinochet's adoption of "pragmatic" (as opposed to "radical") neoliberalism shored up his relations with Chilean entrepreneurs, forced the opposition to accept the terms of his transition, and then to commit themselves to maintaining those very same policies in the post-military period (item bi 94004151).

Thoughtful, though divergent perspectives on the Aylwin government and on efforts to deepen and consolidate Chile's newly restored "democratic" institutions also characterize this biennium's materials. The principal controversy concerns Aylwin's decision not to pursue more redistributive economic policies or to push more aggressively to remove the remaining anti-democratic features of the 1980 constitution and to reassert civilian superiority over the military. Los desafíos del Estado en los años 90 contains a number of essays (in particular Sunkel's) written before Aylwin took office which stress the need to go beyond Pinochet's pragmatic neoliberal policies (item bi 94004312). Garretón, writing in mid-1991, argues that much more aggressive efforts to limit the military's power are both possible and necessary (item bi 92013629). Finally, and somewhat ironically, Jilberto Fernández blames the left (and its internationally- supported social science advisors like Garretón) for embracing a weak, social-democratic "third way" that includes neoliberal economics policies (item bi 93022085).

On the other side of the divide are Aylwin himself (item bi 94012429), and Valenzuela's relatively favorable mid-1991 assessment (item bi 94001701), in which he points out that Pinochet's shadow has actually helped the Concertación remain united. In addition, Oscar Godoy brings together a number of observers to reflect on the merits of presidential and parliamentary forms of government (item bi 94004321); a young Socialist intellectual, Jaime Lizama, argues persuasively that in the post-military period politics will be dominated by forces adept at and financially capable of packaging and projecting images in the mass media rather than those building "bases" in neighborhoods, factories, or universities (item bi 94004346); and Cristián Bofill has written a revealing account of the 1992 bugging scandal that undermined the presidential candidacies of right-wing politicians Sebastián Piñera and Evelyn Matthei (item bi 94004362).

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