“I am not a dictator. It’s just that I have a grumpy face.” – Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet ruled as a dictator over Chile from 1973 until 1988, after executing a successful, and heavily supported, coup d’état. The years that followed his appointment as president gradually moved away from the historic democracy lived by Chileans. His violent dictatorship, the weakened global economy, and political unrest in Chile, led citizens of Chile to unite and participate in subdued public displays against Pinochet’s continued dictatorship. His zealous belief in his electability sealed his inevitable fait accompli.
Chile, Poland, the Philippines, South Africa, Ukraine and China; all of these revolutions largely can reflect back upon the waning of the Soviet Union’s strength and the end of the Cold War. These countries depended, directly or indirectly, on the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for monetary reinforcement and military support. As the Soviet Union became weaker and less able to control its contributories, so too did the United States became less supportive of anti-Communist dictatorships. The United States’ reduced support weakened those leaders previously supported by the United States solely to counter Communism.
Chile maintained a form of democracy with elected president and representatives, referred to as Presidential Republic, from 1925, until September 1973. From 1970 until 1973, the Chilean President, Salvador Allende, struggled, unsuccessfully, through his term to maintain order within Chile. However, ongoing pressures from the United States, coupled with economic recession, eventually weakened Allende’s position. Allende also faced opposition from the forces of Christian Democrats and National Party (a moderate Socialist political party).
In 1973, a coup d’état, supported by the United States, ousted Allende and instituted a junta, or military dictatorship. This placed General Augusto Pinochet in power. Pinochet’s uprising received support from the United States. In our textbook (Voyages 2010, 904), “Allende’s effort to build a socialist economy was strongly opposed by Chilean businessmen and landowners….” This influential economic group supported Pinochet to begin a free market system. Under Pinochet’s rule, the Chilean junta government instituted strong military response to guerrillas. The United States continued to support Pinochet for fear Chile would move toward a Communist government. Unabated, Pinochet exercised extreme dictatorial control over the people of Chile. As described in 1989 Democratic Revolutions, “…his regime arrested, tortured and killed thousands of opponents across the country.” Pinochet’s egregious abuse of power brought a new group of people out from the shadows to speak out against his heinous acts. Women for Life, a group of mothers of missing children, came forward to defend their children. The held silent protests for the “desaparecidos”; “disappeared ones.” Their sympathetic position forced Pinochet to restrain his otherwise hostile methods of dealing with dissidents. Technological advancements allowed the use of mass media to disseminate these announcements even further. The demonstrators could now resort to volume printing, radio broadcast, fax machines and cable television broadcasts. The access to these tools removed much of the public relations purpose of using violence against demonstrators.
Pinochet’s economics relied heavily on foreign support, but as world economics began to slip, so too did Chile’s. Pinochet’s free market is satirically portrayed in “The Contest” printed in “1989 Democratic Revolutions” (Los de Alvear 1982/Kenny 2000, 103). Frioman, a characterization of the United States in “The Contest” is shown as dominant and unrelenting. Frioman argues the beatitudes of “Miss Libertad Mercado,” or “Miss Free Market” and puerilely fights for her election to “Miss Economía.” The end of the story reveals “Free Market” has dirty secrets, such as “scarcity,” “high prices,” “recession,” and “unemployment,” appearing on stage as her children. These lighthearted attacks allow the story and point of view to be easily remembered and told to other citizens. It also elicits the response wanted by the opposition parties, partially based on the angst felt towards Americans and uber-businessmen.
Following in the footsteps of the Women for Life, the dissidents began to unite and form small groups offering resistance to Pinochet’s continued presidency. In Gender and Social Movement Decline (Adams 2002, 292), Jacqueline Adams describes how these organizations came together. “A resistance movement consisting of hundreds of [social movement organizations (SMOs)] operating in a clandestine or semiclandestine(sic) fashion arose early on. The SMOs consisted of underground political parties, survival organizations (small groups of shantytown inhabitants working to solve their economic and health problems), and human rights organizations.” Adams goes on to describe the key role the Chilean Catholic Church played in bring these groups together. This purposeful cooperation brings forward the dissidents aggravation and need for reformation.
After a failed assassination attempt on his life in 1986, Pinochet, believing his constituents seen him as irreplaceable, relented to holding a presidential plebiscite. Pinochet’s violent response to opposition, the effect of the global economic crisis on Chile, nonviolent public demonstrations, along with his grandiose bravado, resulted in a perfect storm for the ouster of General Augusto Pinochet.
Adams, Jacqueline. Gender and Social Movement Decline: Shantytown Women and the Prodemocracy Movement in Pinochet’s Chile, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2002, 31: 285, DOI: 10.1177/0891241602031003002,
Hansen, Valerie and Kenneth Curtis. Voyages in World History, Volume 2 Since 1500. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.
Kenney, Padraic, 1989: Democratic Revolutions at the Cold War’s End, The Bedford Series in History and Culture. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2000.
Los de Alvear, “The Contest,” 1982, ed. Padraic Kenny (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) (Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2000).