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Chile: The Crisis of 1982 and the Erosion of Military Rule
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > Military Rule, 1973-90 > The Crisis of 1982 and the Erosion of Military Rule

THE CRISIS OF 1982 AND THE EROSION OF MILITARY RULE


From 1982 to 1990, Chile underwent a prolonged journey back to democracy. During that process, the country experienced five crucial changes. First, the economic collapse in 1982 provoked some adjustments to the neoliberal model and sparked widespread protests against the regime. That recession was compounded by the international debt crisis.

Second, although most of the regime's supporters in the business community and the armed forces held fast, the 1980s witnessed a weakening of their attachment to authoritarianism and a few defections from their ranks. Third, civil society became emboldened. A series of demonstrations against Pinochet during 1983-85 spread from organized labor to the middle class and finally ended up concentrated among the residents of the urban shantytowns. Fourth, the previously repressed and dormant political parties came back to life. They took charge during the 1988 plebiscite that effectively ended the Pinochet regime and the subsequent 1989 elections for president and Congress. Fifth, after being surrounded by like-minded dictators in South America, Pinochet became isolated as a tide of democratization swept the continent, and the United States and Europe began applying pressure for Chile to join the trend.

In sum, from its apogee in the 1980 plebiscite to its exit in 1990, the authoritarian regime lost support and saw its opponents gain momentum and eventually power. During its first decade, however, the dictatorship had brought about profound and seemingly durable changes. Politically, it had pulverized the revolutionary Marxist left. Economically, it had moved Chile's focus from the state to the market. Socially, it had fostered a new emphasis on individualism and consumerism, widening the gap between rich and poor, even while helping some of the most destitute. What it had failed to do was to extirpate the preference of most Chileans for democracy.

(Among works in English, an outstanding general history is Brian Loveman's Chile: The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism. For the colonial period, Eugene H. Korth provides a useful introduction in Spanish Policy in Colonial Chile. The subsequent Bourbon years are covered by Jacques A. Barbier in Reform and Politics in Bourbon Chile, 1755-1796.

For the nineteenth century, the work to begin with is Simon Collier's Ideas and Politics of Chilean Independence. The development of the system of land tenure is examined by Arnold J. Bauer in Chilean Rural Society from the Spanish Conquest to 1930. The country's external relations are analyzed by Robert N. Burr in By Reason or Force. Works covering the nitrate era and the Balmaceda controversy include Thomas F. O'Brien's The Nitrate Industry and Chile's Crucial Transition, 1870-1891; Michael Monteón's Chile in the Nitrate Era; Maurice Zeitlin's The Civil Wars in Chile, 1851 and 1859; and Harold Blakemore's British Nitrates and Chilean Politics, 1886-1896.

Chilean relations with the United States can be surveyed in Fredrick B. Pike's Chile and the United States, 1880-1962 and in William F. Sater's Chile and the United States. General coverage of the economy is found in Markos J. Mamalakis's The Growth and Structure of the Chilean Economy. A classic work on the copper industry is Theodore H. Moran's Multinational Corporations and the Politics of Dependence. The development of organized labor is explained in Peter de Shazo's Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile, 1902-1927 and in Alan Angell's Politics and the Labour Movement in Chile. On rural conflicts, valuable sources include Brian Loveman's Struggle in the Countryside and Thomas C. Wright's Landowners and Reform in Chile. Concerning the role of the Catholic Church, the key source is Brian H. Smith's The Church and Politics in Chile. The armed forces are covered in Frederick M. Nunn's The Military in Chilean History.

The evolution of the political system is discussed by Timothy R. Scully in Rethinking the Center. Political developments leading up to the tragedy under Allende are traced by Paul W. Drake in Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932-52, by Federico G. Gil in The Political System of Chile, and by James F. Petras in Politics and Social Forces in Chilean Development.

The two most controversial governments in Chilean history have generated a voluminous literature. On the Allende experiment, the best books to start with are Stefan de Vylder's Allende's Chile; Edy Kaufman's Crisis in Allende's Chile; Ian Roxborough, Philip O'Brien, and Jackie Roddick's Chile: The State and Revolution; Paul E. Sigmund's The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964-1976; Barbara Stallings's Class Conflict and Economic Development in Chile, 1958-1973; Arturo Valenzuela's The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Chile; and Peter Winn's Weavers of Revolution.

The first half of the Pinochet period is dissected by J. Samuel Valenzuela and Arturo Valenzuela in Military Rule in Chile, the second half by Paul W. Drake and Iván Jaksic in The Struggle for Democracy in Chile, 1982-1990, and the entire seventeen years by Pamela Constable and Arturo Valenzuela in A Nation of Enemies. Analyses of the dictatorship's economic innovations are provided in Sebastian Edwards and Alejandra Cox Edwards's Monetarism and Liberalization and in Alejandro Foxley Riesco's Latin American Experiments in Neoconservative Economics. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of March 1994




Last Updated: March 1994


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Chile was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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