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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: CHILE


MICHAEL FLEET, Professor of Political Science, Marquette University


BETWEEN 1996–98, Chile's consolidation of democracy continued despite an economic downturn in the wake of the Asian financial crisis (1997); and amidst evidence of Chileans' growing disenchantment with political activities and institutions, yet not with democracy itself. These developments have helped sustain an ongoing debate over the significance and underlying causes of declining interest in politics, whether or not postmilitary governments should have pushed more insistently to eliminate the political restrictions left in place by the military regime, and what ensuing economic and political risks and/or costs they might have paid had they done so.

In contrast with previous volumes, the quantity and topics of books reviewed here suggest renewed interest in political issues. As a continuing theme, the Pinochet years and the man himself are focal points for political analysis and assessment. However, fewer hagiographies praising earlier political figures were published, and fewer exposés of the wrong-headed policies or acts of cruelty and injustice of previous governments appeared. Such matters continue to divide Chileans politically, but no longer dominate the political arena as they once did. Specific policy issues, and the constraints of the particular economic and political contexts in which these issues are addressed, have pushed them aside. Discussion and debate have focused instead on Pinochet's institutional legacy, i.e., the free-market structures and restrictive political arrangements (the so-called leyes de amarre) that he left behind, their implications for public-sector/private-sector relations, their effects on political parties and social movements in Chile, and the extent to which they narrowed the range of policy options available to the Aylwin and Frei Ruiz-Tagle governments.

Noteworthy works on Chilean political history are Boeninger's reflections on "governability" (item #bi 98015360#); Communist Party head Luis Corvalán's memoir (item #bi 98015365#); Colombian diplomat Eastman's perspective on the Allende and Pinochet years (item #bi 98015359#); Snow's comparison of Allende's Popular Unity government with Spain's Popular Front (item #bi 99010167#); and Valdés' account of his detention and torture following the coup (item #bi 98015376#).

In addition, a diminishing, yet substantial number of essays and analyses deal with Pinochet himself, and the accomplishments, costs, and legacies of his years in power. Not surprisingly, the works reflect widely varied perspectives. The Vial collection is a comprehensive and even-handed effort, offering analyses, from politically opposing points of view, of various policy areas and dimensions (item #bi2001001811#). In contrast, Verdugo's Interferencia secreta re-enacts the coup using taped telephone conversations with actual participants (item #bi2001006089#); while Parra has written two lengthy perorations, one addressed to Pinochet in which he accuses the general of exploiting the Chilean middle class' "need" to be treated harshly by a vengeful father, and the other a challenge to his fellow citizens to acknowledge their complicity in accepting Pinochet's rule (items #bi 98015382# and #bi2001006069#, respectively). More broadly, Huneeus argues that Pinochet's control of Chilean politics was much greater than Franco's of Spain (item #bi 97016765#); Tapia contends that Pinochet's imposition of market reforms and protected democracy were bad for Chile's "development" (item #bi 97006973#); and finally, Canessa and Balart's blustery defense of the Pinochet years suggests that the military is not yet ready to acknowledge or respond meaningfully to critics of its policies or actions during that period (item #bi 98015361#).

Regarding the regime's institutional legacy, Faúndez (item #bi 97012338#) and Siavelis (item #bi 97012339#) have written on the scope and implications of presidential power, continuing a debate begun earlier by Linz, Arturo Valenzuela, and others. On the topic of institutions mandated in the 1980 Constitution, both Huneeus (item #bi 98003917#) and J. Samuel Valenzuela (item #bi 99001572#) argue that Pinochet did accept significant reforms in 1989, but concede that more are needed. Borzutsky stresses the symbiotic relationship between the regime's economic liberalization and the "protected" (i.e., authoritarian) democracy that is largely intact today (item #bi 98013441#). Fuentes and Rojas underscore the military's autonomy and attribute it to both constitutional provisions and substantial civilian support (item #bi 98015354#). Boylan analyzes Pinochet's last-minute "reform" of the Central Bank, stripping the government of its control of monetary policy (item #bi 99000784#); Godoy argues that the military's retention of extensive political functions is no longer—and perhaps never was—sensible (item #bi 97016004#); and Rehren sheds additional light by comparing the organization of Pinochet's cabinet and presidential staff with those of Alessandri, Frei, and Allende (item #bi 99001978#).

As part of an effort to understand the extent of Pinochet's support among conservative Catholics, there has been renewed interest in the ideas and appeal of Jaime Guzmán, the relationship of his gremialista movement to economic liberalism, and the movement's influence during and after the years of military rule. For example, see works by Borzutsky (item #bi2001005702#), Guzmán himself (item #bi 98015370#), Huneeus (item #bi 99001979#), Pollack (item #bi 97012712#), and Sznajder (item #bi 99003525#).

A number of analyses focus on economic performance during the postmilitary period, and on the extent of economic and political progress under Aylwin and Frei, including Barrera (item #bi2001005695#), Cuadra (item #bi 00001196#), and Weyland (item #bi 97005583#); while Hojman assesses the political impact of El Mercurio's economic page on Concertation policy (item #bi 97012713#). On political dynamics and performance, notable contributions include Cavallo (item #bi2001001812#), Escobar's interview of Bitar (item #bi 98013695#), Huneeus' defense of the Aylwin government (item #bi 97017966#), Lagos' polling data (item #bi2001006054#) an article on political culture and transition (item #bi 97017965#), Lechner's piece on the shrinking scope of politics (item #bi2001006058#), Moulián's critique from the left (item #bi 99005031#), Varas' call for new channels and forms of citizen participation (item #bi2001006084#), and Zerán's collection of mostly left-of-center lamentations vis-à-vis globalization (item #bi2001001808#).

The literature on political parties is less voluminous, but more thought-provoking than in recent years, perhaps given the growing perception that Chilean parties have not yet adapted to the changed context and division of function and labor of the postmilitary period. Included here are such standard treatments of individual parties as Cifuentes on the left generally (item #bi 98015374#); Corvalán Márquez (item #bi 97006490#), Drake (item #bi 99005019#), Moulián (item #bi 99005031#), and Roberts (item #bi 99002320#) on the Socialists; Lomnitz and Melnick's anthropological study of the Radicals and Christian Democrats (item #bi2001001807#), a rare analysis of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (item #bi 98015372#), and the diary of a mirista living in exile in Sweden (item #bi 98015369#). In addition, some broader inquiries examine the status and future prospects of the political party system and parties more generally. Among these, the reflections of Arriagada (item #bi 98015371#), Baño (item #bi 97017044#), and Fermandois (item #bi 97016068#), plus Walker's lengthy and admirably self-critical examination of his own Christian Democratic Party (item #bi2001006099#), deserve special mention.

Given concerns about both political parties and changing forms of political representation in the postmilitary period, it is somewhat surprising that more work has not been done in the area of social movements and institutions, including labor, the Church, women's organizations, and local-level pressure or advocacy groups. Durán (item #bi 98001534#) and a book chapter on seasonal women workers (item #bi 97016714#) are among the few pieces devoted to organized labor (aside from chapters on labor in collections or anthologies on politics generally (items #bi 98015349# and #bi2001001809#)). On the other hand, the Catholic Church and women's issues and organizations continue to attract attention and controversy, as the former has retreated from more progressive positions under military rule, and as the latter have achieved greater visibility since 1990. Fleet and Smith compare the Chilean and Peruvian churches (item #bi2001005697#); Haas analyzes the Church's conservative turn with the onset of "democratic" politics (item #bi 99007728#); and Stewart-Gambino examines the same question, but makes more of an effort to consider changes in social and political contexts (item #bi 98012410#). Insofar as women's issues are concerned, both María Elena Valenzuela (item #bi 99003401#) and Lidid and Maldonado (item #bi 98015379#) reflect thoughtfully on the challenges facing feminist organizations; while Sweet and Sour Grapes: The Struggles of Seasonal Women Workers in Chile looks at women in the export-fruit industry and the effects that their involvement has had on their cultural and political consciousness (item #bi 97016714#).

Finally, brief mention should be made of a number of studies not falling into any of the above categories, including Garces' coverage of the Spanish request for Pinochet's extradition in late 1998 (item #bi 97003815#); Luckham and White's comparative analysis of the democratization process in Chile, South Korea, Zambia, and Ghana (item #bi 98015367#); and Lacunza's analysis of efforts at environmental reform in the postmilitary period (item #bi 97008546#).


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