PDF After Pinochet: The Chilean Road to Democracy and the Market

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Two of these reforms, in the spheres of politics and education, are among the targets of the massive student movement and sectors of the left, which are seeking to dismantle them and consider them key campaign issues for the November general elections. Ruling with an iron fist, Pinochet introduced free-market policies, privatised and decentralised essential services that had been provided free of cost by the state, such as healthcare and education, and was a pioneer in putting pension funds in the hands of private companies.


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At the time the educational reforms began to be adopted in , 78 percent of primary and secondary school students were in the public education system, while the rest went to private schools. But public education was whittled down, with schools transferred to the jurisdiction of municipal governments and the creation of state-subsidised private schools, with the subventions depending on the number of students they managed to attract. The proportion of students in municipal schools had fallen to That trend can be seen in the following table:.

Forty Years after the Chilean Coup: The Challenges of the Democratic Transition

In , during the Allende administration, the immense majority of students attended public schools. And when they completed 12 years of primary and secondary education, they went to the university free of charge and without the need for pre-college remedial courses. Those were times of tuition-free public education of the same quality at all levels — a demand that is today expressed loud and clear on the streets of Chile by students who were not even born yet when the coup happened, and most of whom are not affiliated with any of the traditional political parties.

By the time the Pinochet regime had introduced all of its changes, tuition-free public universities were a thing of the past. And to enter university, students must now take admission exams — where poor students find themselves at a disadvantage due to the lower quality schools they have attended.

Coverage has grown, to But 44 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 do not complete secondary school. Moreover, in Chile, families directly finance over 70 percent of the cost of tertiary education, with the state covering just 22 percent — far below the OECD average of 68 percent public funding.

What Pinochet Did for Chile

Under pressure from the student protests that have been raging since , governments have introduced a number of changes in education, but without going to the core of the matter — inequality. Exactly seven years after the coup, on Sept. Under that system, only two senators and two deputies are elected for each district. This favours the two large alliances — the Coalition of Parties for Democracy and the right-wing Coalition for Change, which is now in government.

The constitution was reformed many times since , to eliminate the most irksome aspects, such as the lifetime and designated senators, including former commanders of the armed forces. For all the accusations levelled against him, Pinochet admitted nothing.

What happened?

Instead, he blamed his senior operatives like Manuel Contreras, his hated head of the secret police, for the terrible abuses that he himself had authorised. Neoliberalism in essence means a distant retreat by the state from total economic management: it wants the state to withdraw from much regulation, encourage free enterprise and competition, and let the market determine real value. This provided the basis for the work a group of conservative Chilean economists had discussed and planned for a decade, which was enacted after These economists renewed international trade, reduced inflation and divested the state of some of its assets.

Some of these actions proved unwise, including selling some national utilities to Spanish companies , which did not necessarily run them in the interests of Chile. His successes are still held by some to be a Chilean miracle, but the reality was a situation heavily tilted in his favour at a time when political opposition was eliminated, trade unions weakened and working class wages determined by the military dictatorship.

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The revelations of massive human rights abuses has further tarnished some of this achievement. This was the product of the peacemaking tradition called the via Chilena , the Chilean way. Some returned, somewhat disillusioned, after to become high officials in much more moderate administrations than those they had planned many years before.

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They had learned not to make political changes too fast. They came to appreciate the lessons of Euro-Communism, that political change need not be wrought by violence but negotiation and co-operation with less radical left-wing parties. Members of what was once the radical and optimistic left, who gave so much to the radical cause and suffered so grievously, now wonder about the value of their struggle under Pinochet as they contemplate the low wages of today, much unemployment and, especially, wide disillusionment in the processes of government.

Some of their children have come to the same, but more pointed, conclusion. Fifty or 60 Chileans were actually sent to Cuba by their parents so they could re-enter the country at a later stage to continue the armed struggle against Pinochet. The children did not enjoy the experience. The documentary El edificio de los chilenos The Chilean House shows the filmmaker subjecting her once-radical mother to an excoriating interrogation as to whether her ideology, and by inference, any political ideology, should supervene her duty to care for her children.

Pinochet is now remembered not so much as someone who saved his country from becoming a second Cuba, or for clearing the ground to test economic theory.


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Rather, internationally he is recalled for his sensational detention in the UK. Screen music and the question of originality - Miguel Mera — London, Islington. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Pinochet in the car, celebrating the 8th anniversary of the coup. His dictatorship in Chile was both a step forwards for neoliberalism and a step back for democracy and human rights. Peter Read , Australian National University.

What happened? Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte left with Mario Arnello.