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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: CHILE


MICHAEL FLEET, Associate Professor of Political Science, Marquette University


THIS BIENNIUM'S MATERIALS on Chile reflect a declining interest in politics among Chileans. Compared to previous years, this volume includes more studies published outside Chile (in the US, Europe, and elsewhere in Latin America), and a larger number of journal articles, rather than commercially marketed books, among those produced in the country. It seems that publishers can not guarantee the sale of enough copies of books about politics to justify producing greater quantities. Evidence of declining political interest is also found in the December 1993 general elections, in which the percentage of eligible voters who actually voted was relatively high, but interest and enthusiasm were clearly much lower than in 1989. Materials during this period are dominated by personal portraits and testimonies (many of which have been produced by political parties and/or presses favorable to them), by proposals and discussions dealing with institutional reform, by studies of social forces and movements, and by analyses of national politics and parties.

One interesting example of portrait and testimonial literature is Santibáñez's account of Aylwin's early career and presidency, underscoring the skill with which the Christian Democratic president managed party and broader coalition problems (item bi 96002854). Sapag offers affectionate reminiscences and anecdotes of Cardinal Raul Silva Henríquez (item bi 97001530). Serrano and Scantlebury interview a number of the economists who played central policy-making roles during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s (item bi 96002844). And Pinochet's Interior Minister Sergio Fernández offers a detailed, insider's account of policy and political decision-making during the early 1980s and in the year prior to the 1988 plebiscite (item bi 96002833). The latest volume of Pinochet's own memoirs makes for less than riveting reading (item bi 96002832), but Osorio and Cabezas offer enlightening portraits of a number of his cabinet ministers’ closest collaborators (item bi 96002834). Pohorecky sheds light on reasons for which young activists including her son found the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front to be an attractive option during the years of military rule (item bi 97001532).

Among works dealing with institutional reform, Tomassini's stand out. His edited volume offers reflections by Chileans, other Latin Americans, and Europeans on various aspects of administrative reform and modernization, State-civil societal relations, and specific policy questions (item bi 97001533). In his own work, he fashions an argument (with right-wing reform opponents in mind) linking enduring economic growth and efficiency to the greater equity and political stability that reforms might produce (item bi 96002842). In related essays, Lahera presses for more efficient, if more limited, regulation of certain markets (item bi 95012895), and Martner argues for the democratization of municipal governments which began in 1993 (item bi 96002851). On the issue of the controversial binomial electoral system imposed by Pinochet as he was leaving power, Rabkin argues persuasively that it has not had unduly disproportional effects, and has pushed the country's parties toward greater moderation and collaboration (HLAS 55:3480); Siavelis and Valenzuela take a different view, suggesting that its tendency to exclude smaller parties unwilling to join broader alliances could have destabilizing effects, and that electoral systems are generally less important in producing party-systems than historical and contextual factors which they should try to accommodate rather than neutralize (item bi 96013551). Two additional works worthy of note are the proceedings of a 1994 conference on political corruption (item bi 96002853), and retired Army Gen. Julio Canessa's reflections on the military interventions of 1924 and 1973 (item bi 96002831).

This period's material also includes a number of studies of social forces and movements. Schneider's study of neighborhood organizations offers detailed portraits of activists, and links higher levels of involvement in the mid-1980s protests to the presence of a Communist party nucleus and a tradition of political militancy (item bi 96002838). Oxhorn covers much of the same ground, but focuses on relations with national party organizations and developments beyond 1986 (item bi 95002301). Lowden analyzes the important role of the Catholic Church's Vicaria de Solidaridad, particularly during the 1970s and early 1980s (item bi 97009721). Hipsher stresses the willingness of local-level activists in Spain and Chile to lower their profiles when this was likely to make the transition smoother (item bi 96022989). Frohmann and Valdés attempt to explain why Chilean women have not parlayed their growing cultural influence into the political sphere (item bi 95018651). Finally, Rehren traces the evolution of entrepreneurial attitudes and loyalties prior to, during, and following the 1988 plebiscite (item bi 96024358).

Some interesting studies of parties and politics published during this biennium are Angell and Pollack's assessment of the December 1993 election (item bi 95016488), Spanish journalist Rafael Otano's masterful Crónica de la transición (item bi 96015383), Hite's insightful analysis of the evolution of leaders of the Chilean left (item bi 96022842), Scully's reflections on the remarkable persistence of the country's three ideological-political blocs (item bi 95015899), and a highly critical assessment of Chile's restored democracy by Galleguillos and Nef (item bi 94001896). Although there are fewer than in previous periods, this biennium includes several dramatic accounts of the activities of security forces during the years of military rule. Merino's Mi verdad is the confession of a mirista who spent 15 years working for the DINA and CNI (item bi 96002850). Caucoto and Salazar offer a thorough assessment of Carabinero involvement in the 1985 murders of three Communist party militants and the subsequent cover-up (item bi 96002847). La Epoca editor Manuel Salazar has written a forceful exposé of Manuel Contreras, the DINA, and their involvement in the murders of Ronnie Moffit and Orlando Letelier (item bi 96002835).

A final set of materials offer valuable insight into Chilean culture and society over the last 30 years. These include Lechner's thoughtful reflections on the political disaffection that has enveloped so many Chileans in recent years (item bi 96025167), Jadresic's assessment of post-military Chile's mental and spiritual health (item bi 96002849), Piñuel's analysis of the effects of television advertising in the 1988 plebiscite (item bi 96002848), and Duran's study of the impact of Chile's El Mercurio during the last year of the Allende government (item bi 97001529).


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