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Chile - Government and Politics

WITH THE REESTABLISHMENT of democratic government in March 1990, Chile was once again thrust into the international limelight. In the early 1970s, the long, narrow country on the west coast of South America had drawn widespread attention by electing a Marxist president, Salvador Allende Gossens (1970-73), who was intent on forging a new path to socialism. Following Allende's overthrow on September 11, 1973, Chile under military rule became notorious for some of the worst excesses of modern-day authoritarianism.

Headed by General of the Army Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1973- 90), the dictatorship was widely reviled for ending Chile's tradition of democratic politics and committing numerous violations of human rights. Although isolated politically, Chile's military government earned international acclaim for far-reaching economic and social reforms that transformed the country's state-oriented economy into one of the most open economic systems in the developing world. The economic reforms of the late 1970s and 1980s set the foundation for extraordinary investment and growth in the early 1990s. Economic progress, combined with the return of democratic politics largely devoid of the confrontation and polarization of the past, positioned Chile to enter the twentyfirst century with increased prosperity in a climate of peace and freedom.

Chile's favorable situation developed because the military government's success at implementing an economic revolution was not duplicated in the political arena. From the outset, Pinochet and his colleagues had sought to displace the parties, politicians, and institutions of the past so that they might create a nation of pliant and patriotic citizens, devoted to their private pursuits under the tutelage of a strong and benevolent state with merely a façade of representative government.

However, the military commanders badly underestimated the strength of the nation's traditional political parties and failed to understand the degree to which democratic practices and institutions had become a fundamental part of Chile's national character. Indeed, Pinochet was forced to abandon his plan for virtual life-long rule after a humiliating personal defeat in a 1988 plebiscite at the hands of the very civilian leaders whom he had reviled and persecuted. Their resilience made possible the transition to democracy in March 1990 and the success of Chile's first civilian government after seventeen years of authoritarian rule.

Chile's transition back to democracy encountered serious challenges. Although opposition groups had vehemently rejected the Pinochet government's constitution of 1980 as illegitimate and undemocratic, they were forced to accept the political rules and playing field as defined by the military government in order to challenge its very authority. To a greater degree than most other transitions to democracy in Latin America, Chile's was accomplished within the framework of an institutional order conceived by an authoritarian regime, one that continued to define the political game long after the return to representative government. Pinochet was unable to destroy his adversaries or project his own presidential leadership into the future, but he succeeded in imposing an institutional legacy that Chile's civilian elites would have to modify substantially if Chile were to become fully democratic.



Development and Breakdown of Democracy, 1830-1973

Following the wars of independence and several failed experiments in institution building, Chile after 1830 made steady progress toward the construction of representative institutions, showing a constancy almost without parallel in South American political history. From 1830 until 1973, almost all of Chile's presidents stepped down at the end of their prescribed terms in office to make way for constitutionally designated successors. The only exceptions to this pattern occurred in 1891, after a brief civil war; in the turbulence from late 1924 to 1927, which followed the military's intervention against the populist President Arturo Alessandri Palma (1920-24, 1925, 1932-38); in 1931, when several chief executives resigned under pressure and military officers intervened directly in politics; and in 1932, when the commander of the Air Force of Chile (Fuerza Aérea de Chile--FACh), Marmaduke Grove Vallejo, proclaimed his short-lived Socialist Republic. For most of its history, Chile was governed by two charters--the constitution of 1833 and the constitution of 1925, which drew heavily on its nineteenth-century predecessor.

Under the 1833 document, Chilean presidents, notably Manuel Bulnes Prieto (1841-51) and Manuel Montt Torres (1851-61), presided over the gradual institutionalization of representative practices and a gradual expansion of suffrage, while exercising strong executive authority. By the 1870s, the president was being challenged by increasingly cohesive political parties, which, from their vantage point in the National Congress (Congreso Nacional; hereafter, Congress), sought to limit executive prerogatives and curb presidential intervention in the electoral process.

With the assertion of congressional power, presidents were limited to one term, and their control over elections was circumscribed. However, it took the Civil War of 1891 to bring to an end the chief executive's power to manipulate the electoral process to his advantage. The victory of the congressional forces in that conflict inaugurated a long period in which Congress was at the center of national politics. From 1891 until 1924, presidents were required to structure their cabinets to reflect changing legislative majorities, and the locus of policy making was subject to the intrigues and vote trading of the legislature.

Although politics during the parliamentary period was often chaotic and corrupt, Chile enjoyed unusual prosperity based on a booming nitrate trade and relatively enlightened leadership. Political parties, whose activities had once been limited to the corridors of Congress, soon engaged the interests and energies of Chileans at every level of society. The parties thus provided the basis for an open, highly competitive political system comparable to those of Europe's parliamentary democracies. The competitiveness of Chilean politics permitted the emergence of new interests and movements, including the Communist Party of Chile (Partido Comunista de Chile--PCCh) and the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista--PS), representing a growing and increasingly militant proletariat.

The collapse of nitrate exports and the crisis brought on by the Great Depression of the 1930s discredited the politicians of Chile's oligarchical democracy and encouraged the growth of alternative political forces. From 1924 to 1931, Chile was buffeted by political instability as several presidents resigned from office and Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (1927-31, 1952- 58), a military officer, rose to power on an antipolitics platform. In 1925 a new constitution was approved. Although it did not deviate substantially from previous constitutional doctrine, it was designed to shift the balance of power from Congress back to the president.

By the second and third decades of the twentieth century, Chile was facing some of the same challenges confronting the nations of Europe. Parliamentary democracy had fallen into disrepute as the machinations of corrupt elites were challenged by both fascism and socialism, doctrines that stressed social as opposed to political rights and that sought to expand the power of the state in pursuing them. Precisely because of its tradition of competitive politics and the strength of its political parties, Chile was able to withstand the challenge of alternative ideologies without experiencing the breakdown of democratic authority that swept the South American continent.

Chilean politics changed dramatically, however, as a multiparty system emerged without exact parallel in Latin America, one in which strong Marxist parties vied with conservative parties, while pragmatic centrist parties attempted to mediate. In this polarized context, presidents governed with shifting coalitions, pushing the country alternately to the right or left, depending on the particular political configuration of the moment. Although the left gained ground throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the right maintained electoral clout by blocking efforts to bring congressional representation into line with new demographic trends. This was not a period of policy stalemate, however. By encouraging a policy of import-substitution industrialization and expanding social welfare programs, the Chilean state markedly increased its role in national life.

In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Chilean politics changed in a qualitative sense. With the 1964 election of a Christian Democratic government under the leadership of President Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964-70), Chile embarked on an experiment in reformist politics intended to energize the economy while redistributing wealth. Frei and his colleagues were determined to modernize the country through the introduction of significant social reforms, including an extensive agrarian reform that would bring an end to the concentration of economic power in the hands of rural landlords.

Frei's government accomplished many of its objectives. In pushing for change, however, the president broke the tacit alliance with the right that had made his election possible. His attempt to co-opt part of the program of the left and mobilize followers in traditionally leftist constituencies also threatened the Marxist parties. By the end of the 1960s, the polarization of Chilean politics had overwhelmed the traditional civility of Chile's vaunted democratic institutions. The centrist agreements of the past, which had enabled presidents to navigate a difficult course of compromise and conciliation, now became more difficult to attain.

In a reflection of Chile's increased ideological polarization, Allende was elected president with 36.2 percent of the vote in 1970. Unable or unwilling to form coalitions, the left, center, and right had all nominated their own candidates in the mistaken hope of obtaining a majority. Although Allende's Popular Unity (Unidad Popular--UP) government drew initially on the congressional support of the Christian Democrats, whose backing made his election possible in the congressional runoff on October 24, 1970, the left increasingly pushed to implement its agenda without building political bridges to the "bourgeois parties." Like Frei before him, Allende was convinced that he would be able to break the deadlock of Chile's ideologically entrenched multiparty system and create a new majority capable of implementing his revolutionary agenda. Once this effort failed, Allende's attempts to implement his program by decree only heightened opposition to his policies. Finally, the president's failure to make substantial gains from his electoral victory in the March 1973 congressional elections meant that he would be unable to obtain the necessary congressional majority to implement his legislative objectives. In an atmosphere of growing confrontation, in which moderates on both sides failed to come up with a regime-saving compromise, the military forces moved in to break the political deadlock, establishing the longest and most revolutionary government in the nation's history.

<>Imposition of Authoritarian Rule
<>The Constitution of 1980
<>Authoritarianism Defeated by Its Own Rules
<>The Constitutional Reforms of 1989

Chile - Imposition of Authoritarian Rule

The military authorities took power in a violent coup on September 11, 1973, accusing Allende, who committed suicide during the takeover, of having violated the constitution. Within months, however, it became apparent that the new regime blamed the breakdown of democracy not only on the parties of the left and the Marxist president but also on the institutional framework embodied in the constitution of 1925. In the military's view, Chile's constitution had encouraged the rise of venal parties and politicians preoccupied not with the broader welfare of the country but with their own interests and hunger for power. The military blamed what they viewed as self-serving politicians for allowing foreign ideologies to penetrate the nation, thereby creating an internal threat that the armed forces felt obliged to confront.

Within days of the coup, the new government appointed a commission of conservative scholars to begin crafting a new constitutional order. However, after initial enthusiasm for their work, commission members soon discovered that institutional reform was not a top priority of the authorities and that the junta was in no hurry to set a timetable for its own departure. The military's primary goal was to revitalize the economy, while destroying the parties of the left and rendering obsolete the parties and leaders of other stripes.

In 1978, however, a power struggle within the junta between Pinochet, commander of the Army of Chile (Ejército de Chile), and Gustavo Leigh Guzmán, the FACh commander, forced the military government to come to terms with its blueprint for the future of the country. Leigh resented the growing power and influence of Pinochet, his putative equal in the junta, and sought to force an early conclusion to the transition back to civilian rule in a form similar to the constitutional framework of the immediate past. Pinochet, basking in the power and authority of an executive with access to a powerful secret police network, the National Information Center (Centro Nacional de Información--CNI), which replaced the National Intelligence Directorate (Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia--DINA) in 1977, had no enthusiasm for an early return to civilian rule; rather, he hoped to institute more farreaching transformations of Chile's institutions. The junta president was an admirer of long-time Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, whose 1975 funeral he had attended in one of his few trips abroad. Pinochet also viewed Franco's political system as a model for Chile, one in which the armed forces could play a permanent guiding role. When Leigh was forcibly dismissed from the junta in April 1978, in a veritable coup within a coup, Pinochet's position became unassailable. Within months, Pinochet instructed the constitutional commission, which had languished with no clear purpose, to produce a new constitution with a time frame more to his liking. When the Council of State (Consejo de Estado), headed by former president Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez (1958-64), softened some of the provisions of the draft and proposed a return to civilian rule by 1985, Pinochet balked and demanded a new, tougher version.

The "permanent" articles of the draft were designed to go into effect a decade after promulgation, and Pinochet was specifically named to preside over the country's fortunes for an eight-year "transition" period. Pinochet further insisted that he be named to fill the first eight-year term of the "constitutional period" that followed, which would begin in 1990. The president's advisers, however, were able to persuade him that ratification of the constitution in a plebiscite could be seriously jeopardized if it were too apparent that Pinochet would obtain an additional sixteenyear mandate.

To satisfy Pinochet's ambitions, the designers of the constitution provided for a plebiscite to be held in late 1988 or 1989 on a single candidate to be designated by the four commanders of the armed forces (army commander Pinochet included) to lead the country in the next eight-year term. In an obscure provision, the text specifically exempted Pinochet from the article barring presidents from reelection, a clear sign that the general had every intention of perpetuating himself in power.

With the ratification of the constitution of 1980, in a highly irregular and undemocratic plebiscite characterized by the absence of registration lists, Pinochet achieved his objectives. Chile's democratic parties had proved incapable of challenging the power of the military to impose its own blueprint for the future. After seven years of constitutional ambiguity and questionable political legitimacy, the military's sweeping control over virtually every aspect of public life had become codified and sanctioned in an elaborate "democratic" ritual, which the authorities believed finally conferred on them the legitimacy of the popular will. With the economy at last on the upswing and a majority of voters resigned to accepting military rule as the only means of ensuring order and prosperity, Pinochet seemed invincible. As if to signal the government's renewed confidence and continuing contempt for its political opponents, Andrés Zaldívar, the highly respected president of the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano--PDC), was exiled for daring to question the plebiscite's results.

Chile - The Constitution of 1980

The constitutional document imposed by the regime in 1980 consisted of 120 "permanent" articles, which went into full effect after the transition to "constitutional government." The document also included thirty-four "transitional" articles applying to the transitional period from March 11, 1980, to March 11, 1990. The transitional articles provided the regime with sweeping powers and outlined the procedures for the 1988-89 plebiscite on constitutional amendments and the election of a legislature. The most controversial provision was Transitional Article 24, which eliminated due process of law by giving the president broad powers to curtail the rights of assembly and free speech and to arrest, exile, or banish into internal exile any citizen, with no rights of appeal except to the president himself.

The "permanent" articles of the constitution were intended to create a "modern and protected democracy," an authoritarian version of representative government that guarantees "national security" by severely circumscribing the will of the people. This was to be accomplished in three ways: through the establishment of a permanent role for the armed forces as "guarantors" of the nation's institutions; through the imposition of restrictions on political activity, including the banning of movements or ideologies hostile to democracy; and through the creation of institutional mechanisms that would limit popular sovereignty.

The cornerstone of the military regime's constitutional doctrine was, according to the 1980 document, the establishment of a permanent tutelary role for the armed forces. The principal manifestation of this "tutelage" was, according to the 1980 document, the National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional--Cosena), a body composed of eleven members, eight of whom have enjoyed full voting rights since 1989 and only two of whom were to be elected officials (Article 95). Voting members consisted of the president of the republic, the president of the Senate of the Republic (Senado de la República; hereafter, Senate), the president of the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), the commanders in chief of the armed forces, and the director general of the Carabineros of Chile (Carabineros de Chile). This arrangement provided military leaders with an absolute majority on any Cosena vote. Nonvoting members included the ministers of defense; economy, development, and reconstruction; finance; foreign relations; and interior.

The 1980 constitution prescribed that Cosena could "express to any authority established by this constitution its opinion regarding any deed, event, act, or subject matter, which in its judgment gravely challenges the bases of the institutional order or could threaten national security" (Article 96). Cosena was thus empowered to admonish top government leaders and institutions, including Congress and the president, on any matter Cosena deemed relevant to the nation's security as Cosena defined it. Although the fundamental law did not specify what would transpire should an authority ignore Cosena's opinion, the framers clearly intended to give the armed forces constitutional authority to take matters into their own hands should their views be ignored.

The 1980 constitution also gave Cosena significant powers of "authorization" and "nomination." The constitution required the president to seek approval from Cosena to impose any state of exception and gave the council authority to solicit any information it deemed necessary in "national security" matters from any government agency. Under the 1980 charter, Cosena was also empowered to name four of the nine designated members of the Senate and two of the seven members of the powerful Constitutional Tribunal (Tribunal Constitucional), whereas the president and the Senate could nominate only one each. Finally, only Cosena could remove military commanders.

Perhaps the most significant protection of military prerogatives was provided by Article 93, which severely limits civilian control over the armed forces. Although the president names the commanders of each of the military services and the director general of the Carabineros, nominees must be selected from a list of the five highest-ranking officers with greatest seniority. Once a commander is appointed, that appointee is safe from presidential dismissal for the duration of the individual's four-year term, unless qualified charges are brought against the person.

A second set of instruments for the establishment of a "protected" democracy excluded from political life those individuals, parties, or movements whose views and objectives are judged hostile to democracy. The language of Article 8 was aimed specifically at the parties of the Marxist left, although it could be applied to other groups and movements as well. According to the article, "any act by a person or group intended to propagate doctrines that are antagonistic to the family or that advocate violence or a totalitarian concept of society, the state, or the juridical order or class struggle is illicit and contrary to the institutional order of the Republic." Furthermore, any organization, movement, or political party that supports such aims is deemed unconstitutional. Article 19 barred parties from intervening in any activities that are "foreign to them," including the labor movement and local or community politics. Finally, Article 23 and Article 57 specifically barred leaders of "intermediate groups," such as unions, community organizations, and other associations, from leadership of political parties, and vice versa; deputies or senators could lose their seats for acting directly on such groups' behalf.

Third, the military regime sought to limit the expression of popular sovereignty by placing a series of checks on government institutions whose existence derives from popular consent. The most dramatic example was the elimination of elected local governments. Since colonial times, Chileans had elected municipal governments with considerable local powers and autonomy. Although modern local governments were limited in their efficacy by the overwhelming power and financial resources of the state, participation and interest in local politics had always been high. Article 32 of the constitution called for the direct presidential appointment of regional intendants (intendentes), governors (governadores) of provinces, and mayors (alcaldes) of large cities. Other mayors could be appointed by provincial corporative bodies.

Reversing Chilean democratic practice, the constitution created an exaggerated presidentialism, severely limiting the prerogatives of Congress. Article 32 was particularly dramatic, giving the president the power to dissolve the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados), at least once in the chief executive's term. Popular representation in Congress was to be checked through the appointment of nine "designated" senators, more than a fourth of the thirty-five-member chamber. Finally, the constitution made any reform in the basic text extremely difficult to implement by requiring the concurrence of the president and two succeeding legislatures, each of which would have to approve an amendment by a three-fifths vote.

Chile - Authoritarianism Defeated by Its Own Rules

The reversal of fortune for Chile's democratic opposition came very gradually. After massive protests in 1983, spearheaded by labor leaders buoyed by mass discontent in the wake of a sharp downturn in the nation's economy, party leaders sought to set aside their acrimonious disputes and make a collective effort to bring an end to the military government. By this point, even influential elements on the right were signaling their displeasure with the personalization of power, fearing that a prolongation of the Pinochet regime would only serve to radicalize Chilean politics further and set the stage for a popular uprising that would overwhelm the authorities.

But Pinochet seemed to relish the challenge of taking on the opposition and was determined to carry out his self-appointed mandate to reshape Chile's economic and political systems. In a strategic retreat made under pressure from regime moderates, Pinochet briefly permitted officials to open a dialogue with democratic opponents, only to refuse to make any change in the formula for transition outlined in the constitution of 1980. In response to the continuing wave of protests, Pinochet declared a state of siege in November 1984 that included a crackdown on all demonstrations.

In August 1985, after months of delicate intraparty negotiations backed by Chile's Roman Catholic cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno, a broad alliance of eleven political groups, from center-right to socialist, signed a document entitled the National Accord for Transition to Full Democracy. It called for a gradual transition to civilian rule without specifying a particular timetable; legalization of all political activity; an end to restrictions on civil liberties; and free, direct presidential elections rather than the plebiscite contemplated in the constitution of 1980. The signing of the accord by such an array of groups meant that for the first time since 1973 Pinochet could no longer claim majority support. The regime appeared vulnerable, and many Chileans began to believe that Pinochet would agree to relinquish power.

And yet, the accord soon lost its momentum as Pinochet and his aides worked skillfully to sow mistrust and rancor within the fragile alliance. The general refused to acknowledge the accord's existence or meet with its leaders, despite a personal plea from Cardinal Fresno.

In the face of a determined military leader, opposition forces were at a clear disadvantage. They had no coherent strategy to force the regime to accept their point of view. The far left, which had refused to endorse the accord, hoped for a Sandinista-style insurrection that would drive Pinochet from power and give the PCCh and its allies, which included clandestine armed groups, the upper hand in the formation of a "provisional" alternative government. The moderate opposition envisioned a completely different scenario: some kind of breakdown of military support for Pinochet in response to peaceful civilian discontent, followed by free elections.

With the erosion of support for the National Accord, the Chilean opposition fell back into partisan and ideological quarrels. After years without national, local, or even internal party elections, opposition leaders were frozen in past disputes, incapable of gauging popular support for various policies. Given the parties' stasis, student elections on Chile's university campuses became bellwethers of political opinion. Often, the Christian Democratic and Communist candidates for student offices proved far more willing to compromise and form working alliances than their older counterparts.

The dramatic attempt on Pinochet's life by the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (Frente Patriótica Manuel Rodríguez--FPMR) in September 1986 further weakened the general's divided opponents and temporarily strengthened his own grip on power. The elaborately planned attack by the PCCh's armed branch, in which commandos stormed Pinochet's motorcade on a hillside road outside Santiago, left five bodyguards dead but the general unharmed. Conservatives rallied around the regime, Christian Democrats and moderate Socialists distanced themselves from the Communists, and the Western democracies tempered their support of the opposition movement. Over the ensuing months, several new campaigns by the democratic opposition fizzled, including a movement of prominent citizens calling for free elections. Key opposition leaders, notably Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin Azócar, began to emphasize the wisdom of trying to take on the regime in the upcoming plebiscite, rather than pressing for free elections.

As 1987 began, Pinochet and his aides confidently started planning for the presidential plebiscite. The economy was showing signs of recovery. The Marxist left, decimated by arrests and executions following the attack on Pinochet, was discredited. The democratic opposition was torn between those who accepted the regime's transition formula and those who denounced it as illegitimate. Moderate conservatives and some regime insiders, including the chiefs of the FACh and the National Police (Policía Nacional), urged Pinochet to permit open elections or to allow a candidate other than himself to stand for office. But the general was surrounded by sycophants who assured him that he was the only man capable of saving Chile from anarchy and chaos. Pinochet viewed politicians as demagogues determined to reverse the accomplishments of the military regime that only he, as a patriotic, self- sacrificing soldier, could defend in the face of a life-and-death threat from the communist foe.

On August 30, 1988, Chile's four military commanders met in secret deliberation and unanimously nominated the seventy-three- year-old Pinochet to run for president in a plebiscite that would take place in just five weeks, on October 5. Any commander who might have opposed General Pinochet did not do so, apparently because of a belief in the principle of military unity, or because of intimidation by Pinochet's power. The vast resources of the regime were already mobilized to ensure Pinochet's victory. Military provincial governors and civilian mayors, all appointed by Pinochet, were acting as local campaign chiefs. A voter- registration drive had begun in early 1987, with Pinochet himself the first to register. While opposition forces were denied access to the mass media, state television aired glowing advertisements for the government's accomplishments. The regime stepped up production of low-income housing, and Pinochet presided over countless ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The general's wife, Lucía Hiriart, who headed a vast network of women's aid and mothers' clubs, organized them into a grass-roots support network for the yes vote.

The turning point for the opposition had come in 1987, when key leaders concluded that their only hope to defeat the military was to beat it at its own game. Opposition leaders accepted the reality, if not the legitimacy, of constitutional provisions they despised by agreeing to register their followers in the electoral rolls set up by the junta, legalize political parties according to the regime's own prescriptions, and prepare to participate fully in a plebiscite they viewed as undemocratic.

By early 1988, fourteen parties had joined a loose coalition for the no vote. Moderate Socialists played a key role in convincing dubious Chilean leftists to register to vote, and the more radical wing of the Socialist Party finally followed suit. With little money and only limited freedom to operate, an all- volunteer force led by Socialists and Christian Democrats registered voters, organized training sessions for poll watchers, and collected the signatures needed to legalize parties. By the cutoff date, a record 92 percent of the voting-age population had registered to vote, and four parties had collected enough signatures to register poll watchers for 22,000 voting tables.

Despite inherently unfair campaign conditions, the military government made some efforts to provide a level playing field. The Constitutional Tribunal, to the annoyance of some hard-liners in the regime, issued a firm ruling arguing that the constitution requires the implementation of a series of measures that would guarantee an impartial vote and vote count. Ironically, these measures had not been applied in the plebiscite that had ratified the constitution itself in 1980. Although opposition leaders did not trust the government, a fair election was also in the government's interest. Pinochet and his commanders were confident that the population's fear of a return to the confrontations of the early 1970s, in combination with signs of economic recovery and a campaign run with military efficiency, would permit Pinochet to overwhelm the fractious opposition and let his detractors, both at home and abroad, know that he enjoyed broad popular legitimacy.

In the weeks before the plebiscite, the no campaign, finally granted access to television, stunned the nation with its unity and a series of upbeat, appealing advertisements that stressed harmony and joy in a reunited Chile, called for a return to democratic traditions, and hinted at the poverty and oppression average people had suffered under the dictatorship. In response, the government stepped up its official propaganda campaign, bombarding the airwaves with grim and far less appealing ads that reminded voters of the violence and disorder that had preceded the coup and warned that Pinochet's opponents offered only more of the same.

On October 5, 1988, the voting proceeded in a quiet, orderly fashion, with military guards at each polling place, per tradition. By 9:00 P.M., the opposition's computers had counted half a million votes and showed the no tally to be far ahead. However, the government kept delaying the release of its tallies, and state television finally switched to a comedy series from the United States.

After frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed effort by some government officials to provoke street violence as an excuse to cancel the plebiscite, government television announced, at 2:40 A.M., that with 71 percent of the vote counted, the no was far ahead. The following night, a grim-faced Pinochet appeared on television and acknowledged his defeat: 54.5 percent for the no, versus 43 percent for the yes. Pinochet's acceptance of his electoral loss was a remarkable event. Despite the general's evident ambition to remain in power, the firm discipline within Chile's military establishment and the commitment of the other junta commanders, who had pledged to guarantee the vote's outcome, prevented him from doing so.

Chile - The Constitutional Reforms of 1989

The victory of the opposition led to a period of political uncertainty. The no coalition had campaigned on a platform that rejected not only Pinochet's candidacy but also the "itinerary" and proposed "institutionality" of the Pinochet government. Democratic leaders felt that their clear victory entitled them to seek significant modifications in the constitutional framework established by the armed forces. However, they firmly rejected calls for Pinochet's resignation, or the formation of a provisional government, as unrealistic. Although Pinochet and the armed forces had suffered an electoral defeat, they had, of course, not been defeated militarily, nor had they lost their iron grip on the state. Nor was there any hint that the military would be willing to disregard Pinochet's wishes and abandon the transition formula and institutional order envisioned in "their" 1980 constitution. The fact that Pinochet had received 43 percent of the popular vote, despite fifteen years in office, only strengthened his hand in military circles.

Under these circumstances, the opposition leaders understood that they could not risk upsetting the military's transition formula or giving Pinochet an excuse to renege on the constitutional provision calling for an open presidential election within seventeen months. The opposition had won the plebiscite following Pinochet's rules; it could not now turn around and fully disavow them. Yet the opposition faced a serious dilemma. The 1980 constitution would be very difficult to amend once a new government was elected; a government elected under its terms would be locked into a legal structure the coalition considered fundamentally undemocratic. Pinochet would appoint almost one-third of the Senate, and the congressional election would take place under the rules of a system designed to favor the forces of the right, which had supported the military government. Changes to the constitution could be approved much more expeditiously before the full return to democracy because they would require the approval of only four men on the military junta, subject to ratification by a plebiscite.

Moderates within the military government who were open to discussions with the opposition quickly distanced themselves from regime officials and supporters who saw any compromise as capitulation. These moderates believed that it was in the military regime's clear interest to bargain with the opposition so as to salvage the essential features of the institutional legacy of the armed forces. They wanted a "soft landing" and feared that if the regime proved inflexible, a groundswell of support for the opposition could sweep away all of what they viewed as the government's accomplishments.

The position of the moderates in the military government, whose power was not assured, was bolstered significantly by the willingness of the largest party on the right, the National Renewal (Renovación Nacional--RN), to sit down with the opposition parties to come to an agreement on constitutional reforms. Political leaders of the democratic right were also uncomfortable with many of the authoritarian features of the 1980 constitution and anxious to distance themselves from the more unpalatable features of the regime as the country began to move toward electoral politics. They too were committed to a spirit of dialogue that might help prevent a breakdown in the transition and a return to raw military rule. The rightists' willingness to talk to their opponents in the center and on the left placed the regime hard-liners on notice: if reforms were not accomplished before the election of a Congress, the center-left parties of the opposition and the moderate right might yet find a way to dismantle the constitution of 1980.

The moderates within the government won the day with two additional arguments. First, they argued that any compromise with the opposition would leave the essence of the constitution intact while providing it with a legitimacy it presently lacked. The constitutional reforms finally would establish the Pinochet document as the legitimate successor to the 1925 constitution.

Second, the government soft-liners made persuasive arguments that constitutional reforms, prior to the advent of democratic politics, could improve certain features of the constitution. The constitution was designed for Pinochet's reelection, not his defeat, and the armed forces feared that the document did not sufficiently protect their institutional autonomy. By entering into a constitutional-reform agreement, the authorities could insist on an amendment that would elevate the law regulating the armed forces' internal operations, including promotions, organization, training, and finances, to the status of an "organic constitutional law." This would mean that changes in the law could not be made unless approved by a majority, or four-sevenths, of all senators and deputies.

The extraordinary bargaining among the democratic opposition, the moderate right, and the regime owed much to the leadership of Patricio Aylwin, the leader of the Christian Democrats, who had become the standard-bearer of the no alliance. Aylwin understood that the hard-liners within the military government could make the transition difficult, if not impossible, if the reform process broke down. Nor did Aylwin, who expected to be the next president of Chile, relish the prospect of a confrontational transition government in which the new authorities would endeavor vainly to implement reforms while supporters of the former military government sought to hold the line. The prospects for the first government after a long authoritarian interlude would be jeopardized by a continuous struggle to define the future of the country's institutional order. Better to agree on the playing field now, in order to avoid fatal problems later. For the regime, Carlos Cáceres, Pinochet's minister of interior, played a critical role. At one point in the talks, he threatened to resign when the general balked at key constitutional reforms, only to find strong support for his position among other commanders on the junta.

Opponents of constitutional reform on both the far left and the far right shared a curious symbiotic logic. Those on the left rejected reform because they envisioned a sharp break with the military government, which would be defeated once again in an open presidential election and would have to concede the failure of its institutional blueprint. Those on the right relished that very confrontation because they saw it as forcing the military once again to accept its "patriotic responsibility" and save the country from a citizenry still not ready for democracy.

The fifty-four reforms, approved by 85.7 percent of the voters on July 30, 1989, fell far short of the expectations of the opposition but nevertheless represented significant concessions on the part of the authorities. From the point of view of the opposition, the most important modifications were to Article 8, which in its new form penalized parties or groups that, through their actions and not simply through their objectives, threatened the democratic order. Other reforms eliminated the prohibition against party membership of labor or association leaders, required the courts to consider habeas corpus petitions in all circumstances, and prohibited exile as a sanction. The revised article also reduced the qualified majorities required for approval of organic constitutional laws and constitutional amendments in Congress; eliminated the requirement that two successive Congresses vote to enact amendments; and increased the number of elected senators to thirty-eight, thus reducing the proportion of designated senators while restoring some oversight functions to the Senate. In addition, the amended article eliminated the president's power to dissolve the lower house of Congress and reduced some of the chief executive's power to declare a state of exception; changed the mandate of Cosena by substituting the word representar (represent) for hacer presente (make known), a legal construction that the opposition interpreted from legal precedents at the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (Oficina de la Contraloría General de la República) as giving Cosena an advisory role, rather than an enforcement role; and increased the membership of Cosena to eight by adding another civilian member, the comptroller general (contraloría general). The latter modification ensured that the military members of Cosena would not enjoy a four-to-three majority.

From the perspective of the Pinochet government, the most important result of the reform process was the retention of the essential elements of its constitutional design and its ratification by an overwhelming majority of the citizenry. What the military had not achieved in 1980, it achieved with the negotiations of 1989. The constitution of the armed forces had now replaced the constitution of 1925 as the legitimate fundamental law of the land. Although it had to concede some points, the military gained a significant victory with the provision that laws dealing with the armed forces would be governed by an organic constitutional law. The Pinochet regime also succeeded in having the first elected president's term limited to four years with no option to run for reelection. Government officials were convinced that even if the opposition parties won the next election, they would be incapable of governing, a situation that would open the door in four years to a new administration more to the military's liking.

With the approval of the constitutional reforms, Chile's transition became, in political sociologist Juan J. Linz's terms, a transición pactada (a transition by agreement), rather than a transición por ruptura (a sharp break with the previous order). However, the opposition made clear that it saw the agreements as constituting only a first step in democratizing the constitution, and that it would seek further reforms of Cosena, the composition of the Constitutional Tribunal and the Senate, the election of local governments, the president's authority over the armed forces, and the powers of Congress and the courts.

With the constitutional reforms behind them, Chileans turned their attention to the December 14, 1989, elections, the first democratic elections for president and Congress in nineteen years. The fourteen opposition parties formed the Coalition of Parties for Democracy (Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia--CPD), with Aylwin as standard-bearer. His principal opponent was Pinochet's former minister of finance, Hernán Büchi Buc, who ran as an independent supported by the progovernment Independent Democratic Union (Unión Demócrata Independiente--UDI) and the more moderate rightist party National Renewal, which ran a joint congressional coalition called Democracy and Progress (Democracia y Progreso). Independent businessman Francisco Javier Errázuriz Talavera ran as the third candidate on a populist platform supported by a heterogeneous group of small parties calling themselves Unity for Democracy (Unidad por la Democracia).

Aylwin (1990-94) won a decisive victory, improving on the no vote in the plebiscite with 55.2 percent of the 7.1 million votes cast to Büchi's 29.4 percent and Errázuriz's 15.4 percent. In the congressional races, the CPD was able to beat the heavy odds imposed by the government's electoral formula and win a majority of the elected seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The CPD gained 49.3 percent of the vote to 32.4 percent for Democracy and Progress in the Chamber of Deputies, and 50.5 percent of the vote versus 43 percent for its opponent in the Senate.

Although the CPD won a majority of the contested seats in Congress, it fell short of having the numbers required to offset the designated senators to be appointed by the Pinochet government. Passage of even the simplest legislation would have required negotiations with opposition parties or individual designated senators. The military regime's electoral law had ensured an overrepresentation of the parties of the right in relation to their voting strength, making it virtually impossible for the new civilian government to adopt constitutional reforms without the concurrence of one of the main opposition groups.

Not the least of the new government's challenges was Pinochet himself, who by constitutional provision could remain as commander in chief of the army until 1997. Pinochet made it clear that he would continue to be a watchdog, ensuring that the new rules were followed and that "none of his men were touched" for their actions in the "war" to save Chile from communism.

Although Chile's authoritarian legacies clearly frustrated the new leadership, the transition probably was facilitated in the short term by the veto power that the military and the right continued to enjoy. Had the CPD pressed for an immediate modification of Pinochet's institutional edifice and attempted to dismiss many of his supporters, the armed forces would have been far more resistant to the return of civilian rule.

Chile's rightist parties, which remained suspicious of popular sovereignty and fearful that a center-left alliance with majority support could threaten their survival, would have been much more likely to conspire with the military had their "guarantees" been undermined. These authoritarian legacies also contributed to the success of the transition by helping the broad coalition under Aylwin's leadership achieve unity, retain it, and elaborate a common program of moderate policies. This moderation can be attributed not only to respect for a new style of politics after the traumatic years of authoritarian rule, but also to the new authorities' genuine fear of the strength of the armed forces and their rightist supporters. The danger Chile now faced was that the very provisions that made the transition possible in the short term could make the consolidation of a stable democracy more difficult in the long term.


The State and the System of Government

Even prior to the 1970 election of Salvador Allende, the Chilean state was one of the most extensively structured in Latin America. By the end of the 1960s, direct public investment constituted over 50 percent of all gross investment. Government expenditures accounted for 14 percent of the gross national product ( GNP), and 13 percent of the economically active population worked in the public sector. From 1940 until 1952, the budget deficit of the government averaged 0.5 percent of the gross domestic product ( GDP). It grew to 2.4 percent between 1940 and 1952 and 4.3 percent between 1959 and 1964, a period largely conconcurrent with the administration of the conservative Jorge Alessandri.

With the growth of the state went the growth of a far-flung bureaucracy with its own dynamic and considerable independence from executive power. State expansion involved the creation of an ever larger and more bewildering array of decentralized and semiautonomous agencies, which depended only nominally on particular ministries for control. By the mid-1960s, 40 percent of all public employees in Chile worked for more than fifty such agencies, charged with implementing most of the economic and social service responsibilities of the state.

Particularly important was the Production Development Corporation (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción--Corfo), created in 1939 to develop Chilean industry in accord with an import-substitution industrialization policy. By mid-century Corfo owned shares in eighty of the country's most important enterprises and held majority shares in thirty-nine of them. Utilities, ports, steel production, and other enterprises were developed by an array of state agencies. Although public ventures, these enterprises were governed by their own boards and enjoyed substantial autonomy from ministerial and executive control. Some permitted direct representation of interest groups in a quasi-corporatist scheme. Such representation was most commonly enjoyed by business organizations, which had voting rights in agencies such as the Central Bank of Chile (Banco Central de Chile; hereafter, Central Bank), the State Bank of Chile (Banco del Estado de Chile; hereafter, State Bank), and Corfo. During the Allende years, a policy of nationalization of private industry brought close to 500 firms into state hands, including the country's giant copper companies, which had been owned by United States interests.

The expansion of the state sector was in response to a development strategy that entrusted economic growth to publicsector initiative and regulation. State expansion was also fueled by a presidential form of government that encouraged chief executives to establish new programs as their historical legacy. Civil service laws made it difficult for incoming presidents to dismiss employees, a situation that led to the creation of new agencies to undertake new programs without dismantling old ones. In a sluggish economy, the state sector was also an important source of patronage. Political parties, particularly those that were part of the incumbent presidential coalition, became important employment centers for government agencies.

The Chilean state, however, was also notable for its general lack of corruption and its fairly efficient operation. Public employees were keenly aware that their careers could be ruined if the powerful Office of the Comptroller General caught them using funds improperly. Although tax revenues often lagged, Chile enforced tax laws with greater success than many of its neighbors. A career in public service was valued, and the Chilean state counted on many dedicated and fairly well-educated officers from Chile's middle classes. The relative efficiency and probity of the Chilean state was the result of a long history of competitive party politics, in which opposition parties and Congress kept a close watch on the conduct of public affairs.

By the 1960s, Chile's strategy of import-substitution industrialization had run its course. The country was plagued by chronic inflation as contending groups sought government subsidies or wage readjustments that would keep them ahead of their competition. The scramble for favorable state action on behalf of sectoral interests was intensified by growing polarization and confrontation in the political sphere, as increasingly mobilized social groups sought larger shares of Chile's finite resources. The system came to a breaking point during the Popular Unity government, when the authorities unabashedly used state agencies as a means of expanding political support. The Allende government swelled the rolls of government offices with regime partisans and made ample use of regulatory powers to freeze prices and increase wages, while printing unbacked money to cover an expanding government deficit. State agencies became veritable fiefdoms for the different parties, each trying to pursue its own agenda with little regard for a coordinated national policy.

Within days of toppling the Allende government, the military regime began a dramatic reduction in the size of Chile's public sector. Between 1973 and 1980, public-sector employment was reduced 20 percent, and by the latter year only forty-three firms remained in state hands. In the late 1980s, another round of privatization further reduced state control of productive enterprises. Cutbacks in state expenditures in other fields, including medical care and education, reduced deficits to the point that by the mid-1980s the state budget was in the black. Government surpluses reached 3 percent of GNP by the end of the military regime.

The civilian government of Patricio Aylwin took great pains to retain a smaller but more efficient state. By 1992 government surpluses had reached 5 percent of GNP; expansions in state expenditures for social services were financed by increased revenues generated by tax reform, rather than by deficit spending. By comparison with many developed countries, Chile still retained a powerful state sector, with utilities, railroads, and the giant copper mines that produced a significant percentage of government revenues remaining under government control. At the same time, the process of state decentralization begun by the military government continued, albeit under the aegis of democracy rather than dictatorship.

Chile's system of government was patterned after that of the United States, as were those of all of the Latin American countries. The failure of the French Revolution to produce an enduring republican model left the representative model of Philadelphia as the only viable republican system of government in the early nineteenth century. Chile thus incorporated the principle of the separation of powers into its constitutional framework, even though the country rejected in its constitution of 1833 the federal system pioneered by the United States.

Much of Chile's political history can be described as an ongoing, occasionally violent struggle for advantage among the executive and legislative branches of government. In the 1920s, the Office of the Comptroller General became a virtually coequal branch of government with the others because of its great oversight powers and its virtual autonomy. With the approval of constitutional amendments in 1970 and the adoption of the 1980 constitution, the Constitutional Tribunal, Cosena, and the Central Bank became important government organs in their own right.

<>The Presidency
<>The Legislative Branch
<>The Courts
<>The Autonomous Powers
The Comptroller General
<>The Constitutional Tribunal
<>The Central Bank of Chile
<>The Electoral Certification Tribunal
<>The Armed Forces
<>Regional and Local Government

Chile - The Presidency

The constitution of 1925 sought to reestablish strong presidential rule in order to offset the dominant role assumed by the legislature after the Civil War of 1891. Elected to serve a single six-year term, the president was given broad authority to appoint cabinets without the concurrence of the legislature, whose members were no longer eligible to serve in executive posts. Formal executive authority increased significantly in succeeding years as Congress delegated broad administrative authority to new presidents, who increasingly governed by decree. Constitutional reforms enacted in 1947 and in 1970 further reduced congressional prerogatives.

Although the 1925 constitution gave Chilean presidents increased power on paper, actual executive authority does not appear to have increased significantly. No president could count on gaining majority support without the backing of a broad alliance of parties. In 1932, 1938, 1942, and 1964, presidential candidates structured successful majority coalitions prior to the presidential election, promising other parties cabinet appointments and incorporation of some of their programmatic objectives. In 1946, 1952, 1958, and 1970, because presidential candidates did not attract sufficient coalition support to win a majority of the votes, the election was thrown into Congress, which chose the winner from the two front-runners. Whether elected by a majority of the voters or through compromises with opposition parties in Congress, Chilean presidents found that governing often amounted to a balancing act. Only by structuring complex majority coalitions could the president pass legislative programs and prevent the censure of key ministers by Congress.

The presidential balancing act was complicated by frequent defections from the chief executive's coalition of supporters, even by members of his own party, particularly in the waning months of his constitutionally stipulated single term. One result was that the average cabinet often lasted less than a year. For example, in the government of Gabriel González Videla (1946-52), who was a member of the Radical Party (Partido Radical--PR), the average cabinet lasted six and one-half months; Allende's cabinets lasted slightly less than six months. The average duration of ministerial appointments was six months and seven months in the same two governments, respectively. This pattern resulted in frustrated presidents and policy discontinuity that belied the formal powers of the chief executive.

The authors of the constitution of 1980 sought to address the government's structural problems by creating a far stronger executive. The 1980 charter increases presidential terms from six to eight years but retains the prohibition against immediate reelection, and it gives broad new powers to the president at the expense of a weakened legislature. However, prior to the transfer of power in March 1994, the constitution was amended, reducing the presidential term back to six years.

The constitution specifies that the president should be at least forty years of age, meet the constitutional requirements for citizenship, and have been born on Chilean territory. The president is elected by an absolute majority of the valid votes cast. The 1980 constitution did away with the traditional practice of having Congress decide between the two front-runners when no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes. It institutes instead a second-round election aimed specifically at barring political bargaining in the legislature and ensuring the election of a president with the backing of a majority of the population.

In addition to specific prerogatives and duties, the constitution grants the president the legal right to "exercise statutory authority in all those matters that are not of a legal nature, without prejudice to the power to issue other regulations, decrees, or instructions which he may deem appropriate for the enforcement of the law" (Article 32). The president has the right to call plebiscites, propose changes to the constitution, declare states of emergency and exception, and watch over the performance of the court system. The president names ministers and, in accord with specific procedures, two senators, the comptroller general, the commanders of the armed forces, and all judges of the Supreme Court and appellate courts (cortes de apelaciones). Departing from previous practice, which required senatorial confirmation of diplomatic appointments, the 1980 constitution bars the legislative branch from any role in the confirmation process. Finally, it increases the legislative faculties of the president dramatically, making the chief executive a virtual colegislator (Article 32, in concordance with Article 60).

Ironically, although the CPD strongly criticized the disproportionate powers given to the president in the 1980 constitution, President Aylwin moved with determination to make full use of those very powers. The son of a middle-class family, whose father was a lawyer and judge and eventually president of the Supreme Court, Aylwin was born on November 26, 1918, in Viña del Mar. He studied law and had faculty appointments at the University of Chile and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. In 1945 he joined the National Falange (Falange Nacional), the precursor of the PDC, which he helped form in 1957. A former senator, Aylwin served seven terms as president of the PDC, a position he held when he was nominated as the PDC's presidential candidate. In his work as spokesman for the multiparty opposition coalition, he displayed great skills as a conciliator, gaining the confidence of parties and leaders on the left, who had vehemently opposed his support for the overthrow of the Allende government. A man of deep religious conviction, humble demeanor, and unimpeachable honesty, Aylwin impressed friends and foes alike when he successfully negotiated the constitutional reforms of 1989.

As president, Aylwin surprised even his closest advisers with his firm leadership, particularly his willingness to stand up to Pinochet, who remained army commander. For instance, in a crucial meeting of Cosena, Aylwin challenged Pinochet on a matter directly related to the issue of presidential authority and received backing from the other military commanders for his position. Aylwin moved cautiously but firmly in dealing with the human rights abuses of the past, appointing a commission that officially acknowledged the crimes of the security forces. Subsequent legislation provided compensation for victims or their families, even if prosecution for most of those crimes appeared unlikely ever to take place.

The Aylwin government also took great pains to assure domestic and foreign investors of its intention to maintain the basic features of the free-market economic model. The CPD was keenly aware that it needed to retain the confidence of the national and international business communities and show the world that it too could manage economic policy with skill and responsibility. Indeed, by showing that Chile could manage its economic affairs in democracy, the government could provide an even more favorable economic climate, one not clouded by the political confrontations and potential instability of authoritarianism. The Aylwin government appeared to meet this objective, as the Chilean economy grew at an average rate of more than 6 percent from 1990 through 1993.

The Aylwin government was cautious in proposing constitutional reforms for fear of alienating the military and the opposition parties of the right, which controlled the Senate. The key constitutional reform, enacted on November 9, 1991, created democratically elected local governments by reestablishing elections for municipal mayors and council members. Additional reforms of the judicial system were also approved. Although it indicated its desire to change the electoral system and the nature of civil-military relations, the Aylwin government was unable to achieve those objectives.

The executive branch in Chile is composed of sixteen ministries with portfolio and four cabinet-level agencies--the Central Bank, the Production Development Corporation (Corfo), the National Women's Service (Servicio Nacional de la Mujer--Sernam), and the National Energy Commission (Comisión Nacional de Energía). Ministers serve exclusively at the president's discretion. Each ministry is required to articulate a series of firm objectives for each fiscal year, and the president uses these ministerial goals to judge the success of a particular department and minister. Every seven months, a formal evaluation (state of progress) is conducted to ascertain the progress of each ministry. The president writes a formal letter to each minister in January, evaluating the accomplishments or failures of the department in question. Cabinet officers have significant authority over their own agencies.

Although important in setting the overall priorities of the government and coordinating a uniform response to issues, cabinet meetings deal primarily with general subjects. Critical policy questions, however, are often addressed at the ministerial level by interministerial commissions dealing with specific substantive areas. These include infrastructural, development, economic, socioeconomic, and political issues. If there is no unanimity on a particular matter, the question goes to "the second floor" (the president's office) for final disposition. The president is kept closely apprised of all matters under discussion at all times by the secretary general of the presidency, who has the primary responsibility of coordinating the work of ministerial commissions. Under President Aylwin, that position was held by Edgardo Boeninger Kausel, a former rector of the University of Chile. Boeninger's success resulted not from the power of his position, which in formal terms is unimportant, but from his skills as a negotiator and consensus builder and from the willingness of the cabinet, composed of individuals from different parties, to work in a collegial fashion. This style of authority might slow decisions, but it has the advantage of averting serious conflicts and sparing the president from having to micromanage policy or serve as a constant referee. Aylwin's secretary general of the government, Enrique Correa Rios, the government's chief spokesman, also played a prominent role in projecting the government's image and serving as a bridge to political parties and opposition leaders.

In addition to the office of the secretary general of the presidency and secondary general of the government, two ministries had key roles in the Aylwin administration. The Ministry of Finance had virtual autonomy in formulating and guiding overall economic and budgetary policy. The Ministry of Interior, the principal "political ministry" of the government, was charged with law enforcement and with coordinating government policy with the parties of the CPD.

Chile - The Legislative Branch

Inaugurated on July 4, 1811, the National Congress became one of the strongest legislative bodies in the world by the end of the nineteenth century. The 1925 constitution reaffirmed the commitment to a bicameral system made up of a 150-member Chamber of Deputies and a fifty-member Senate. However, that charter diminished congressional prerogatives by barring members of Congress from occupying ministerial posts, restricting the legislature's power over budget laws, and giving the president considerable legislative powers, including the right to designate particular legislation as "urgent." Nevertheless, Congress remained a critical arena for the formulation of national policy, serving as the most important institution for cross-party bargaining and consensus building in Chile's fragmented political system. Congress produced fundamental legislation, such as laws establishing social security (1924), the Labor Code (1931), the minimum wage (1943), Corfo (1939), restrictions on the PCCh (1948), and agrarian reform (1967). Congress also had an important means of oversight in its authority to accuse ministers of wrongdoing.

Under the 1980 constitution, Chile retains a bicameral legislature composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, both of which play a role in the legislative process. However, the 1980 charter reduced the Chamber of Deputies to 120 members, two for each of sixty congressional districts. All deputies serve for four years on the same quadrennial cycle. Upon taking office, all deputies must be citizens possessing the right to vote. They must be at least twenty-one years old, must have completed secondary education, and must have lived in the district they represent for at least two years. The 1980 constitution also reduced the Senate, to thirty-eight members, who serve eight-year terms, with half of the body coming up for election every four years. Senators must be citizens with the right to vote, must be at least forty years old, must have completed secondary school, and must have lived in the region they represent for at least three years. High-level government officials, including ministers, judges, and the five members of the Central Bank Council, are barred from being candidates for deputy or senator until a year after they leave their posts. Leaders of community groups or other associations also are not permitted to become candidates unless they give up their posts.

In addition to the elected senators, the Senate has nine designated senators (eight since the death of one in 1991), all of whom serve eight-year terms. The Supreme Court names two from the ranks of former members of the court and one who has served as comptroller general. Cosena designates four senators, each a former commander of each of the armed services who held that post for at least two years. Finally, the president of the republic designates two senators, one who has been a university president and the other a government minister (Article 45). All former presidents who remain in office for at least six years of the eight-year term are automatically senators for life. Pinochet, the only former president alive when the current Senate was installed in March 1990, opted instead to remain commander in chief of the army, a post that is constitutionally excluded from a senatorial position. The appointed senators played a somewhat surprising role in the Aylwin government by not always acting in unity with the rightist opposition, as the government feared they would. Indeed, these senators occasionally served as bridges between the government and the armed forces, helping to diffuse tensions and avert misunderstandings.

The Chamber of Deputies carries out its duties by means of thirteen permanent commissions, each one of which is composed of thirteen deputies. The Senate has eighteen commissions, each with five members. Most of the commissions correspond to a ministry responsible for a similar substantive area. Mixed commissions, composed of members from both houses, are charged with resolving discrepancies between the houses on particular pieces of legislation.

The constitution establishes a hierarchy of laws that must be approved by majorities of various sizes. Ordinary laws are approved by a simple majority of the members present in both chambers. Laws requiring a qualified quorum must be approved by an absolute majority of all legislators. An example would be a law redefining the boundaries of regions or provinces. Organic constitutional laws, designed to complement the constitution on key matters, require approval by four-sevenths of all members to be modified, repealed, or enacted into law. Finally, laws interpreting the constitution require the approval of three- fifths of all legislators for enactment.

Constitutional amendments can be initiated by the president, ten deputies, or five senators, and they require the concurrence of three-fifths of all legislators and the signature of the president to be approved. Key provisions dealing with such matters as rights and obligations, the Constitutional Tribunal, the armed forces, and Cosena require the assent of two-thirds of the members of each chamber and approval by the president. If the president rejects a constitutional reform measure that is subsequently reaffirmed by Congress by at least a three-fifths vote, he or she can take the matter to the voters in a plebiscite.

Congress has the exclusive right to approve or reject international treaties presented to it by the president before ratification, following the same procedure used in approving an ordinary law. Although the president, with the consent of Cosena, can institute a state of siege, Congress, within a period of ten days, can approve or reject the state of siege by a majority vote of its members.

In case the office of the president is left vacant and there are fewer than two years left in the presidential term, Congress can select a presidential successor through a majority vote of its members. Should the vacancy occur with more than two years left in the presidential term, a new presidential election would be called. The Chamber of Deputies can also initiate a constitutional accusation by majority vote against the president, ministers, judges, the comptroller general, admirals, generals, intendants of regions, and governors of provinces for violations of the law, constitutional dispositions, or abuse of power. The Senate, in turn, acts as a jury and finds the accused either innocent or guilty as charged. If the president of the republic is accused, the conviction depends on a two-thirds majority in Senate. The Senate is also required to give the president permission to leave the country for a period of more than thirty days or for any amount of time during the last ninety days of the presidential term. Further, the Senate can declare the physical or mental incapacity of the president or president-elect, once the Constitutional Tribunal has pronounced itself on the matter.

The original constitutional provisions of 1980 virtually barred the Senate from exercising oversight of the executive branch or expressing opinions on the conduct of government. These provisions were removed from the constitution in the 1989 amendments. The amendments also eliminate the president's power to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. The constitution of 1980, however, severely limits the role of Congress in legislative matters relative to earlier legislatures in Chilean history. Article 62 states that "the President of the Republic holds the exclusive initiative for proposals of law related to changes of the political or administrative division of the country, or to the financial or budgetary administration of the State." Article 64 of the constitution also restricts the budgetary prerogatives of the legislative branch.

In several areas, the president is given sole authority to introduce bills. These include measures involving spending, changes in the duties and characteristics of public-sector administrative entities, modifications to the political-administrative configuration of the state, and initiatives related to collective bargaining. The president can also call the legislature into extraordinary session, at which time the legislature can only consider legislative and treaty proposals introduced by the president. The president may grant certain initiatives priority status, requiring that Congress act within three, ten, or thirty days, depending on the degree of urgency specified. In this sense, the president has the exclusive power to set the legislative agenda and, therefore, the political agenda. In a further restraint on legislators, the 1980 constitution permits the Constitutional Tribunal to remove a senator or deputy from office if he or she "permits the voting of a motion that is declared openly contrary to the political constitution of the State by the Constitutional Tribunal" (Article 57).

Finally, Congress is limited in its ability to act as a counterforce against the president's power in matters dealing with the constitutional rights of citizens. Although the president needs the approval of the majority of Congress to establish states of siege, the president may declare a state of assembly, emergency, or catastrophe solely with the approval of Cosena (Article 40).

Important legislative initiatives approved during the Aylwin government have included, in the political sphere, constitutional changes leading to the creation of democratic local governments; laws reforming the administration of justice, including the treatment of political prisoners and terrorism; and the creation, in 1990, of a cabinet-level agency, Sernam, to pay special attention to women's issues. In the sociocultural area, changes included a revision to the National Education Law (Estatuto Docente) to "dignify" the teaching profession and establish a "teaching career"; a reformulation of student loan programs; and measures designed to simplify the reporting of petty crimes and robbery and increase the powers of the police in dealing with such crimes. Congress also approved measures to regulate collective bargaining and recognize labor organizations. In the economic sphere, the most important legislation enacted into law included the Industrial Patents Law, designed to ease Chile's entrance into international markets; the lowering of tariff barriers; and the creation of a price-stabilization fund for petroleum. In the international sphere, Congress approved various treaties of economic cooperation (including one with the European Economic Community) and ratified the findings of the Bryan Commission, a joint commission with the United States that settled the case of the 1977 assassination of Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington, which had constituted a long-time source of conflict between Chile and the United States.

During the Aylwin administration, relations between the executive and Congress were conducted through an informal network of bilateral commissions composed of ministers and their top advisers and senators and deputies of the governing coalition working in the same policy area. However, these meetings proved less important than the weekly gatherings presided over by the minister of interior with party leaders of the CPD coalition, leaders of the CPD parties in the legislature, and the secretary generals of the presidency and the government. At these weekly meetings, the legislative agenda was discussed and decided upon. This pattern of decision making signified, in practice, that individual members of Congress and the legislature itself had assumed a secondary and pro forma role, following the instructions of legislative leaders in their close negotiations with government and party leaders. Nor did congressional committees or members of Congress have enough staff and expertise to deal with experts from the executive branch on complex legislative matters. Individual legislators could articulate concerns and provide important feedback, but early in the postauthoritarian period the legislature appeared to be playing a decidedly secondary role.

Chile - The Courts

Although the Republic of Chile's founders drew on the example of the United States in designing the institutions of government, they drew on Roman law and Spanish and French traditions, particularly the Napoleonic Code, in designing the country's judicial system. The judicial system soon acquired a reputation for independence, impartiality, and probity. However, the judiciary fell into some disrepute during the Parliamentary Republic (1891- 1925), when it became part of the logrolling and patronage politics of the era.

The 1925 constitution introduced reforms aimed at depoliticizing and improving the judicial system by guaranteeing judicial independence. Chile's justice system established itself as one of the best on the South American continent, despite a serious lack of resources and inadequate attention to the needs of the nation's poorest citizens.

During the Popular Unity government, the Supreme Court repeatedly clashed with the president and his associates. The Allende government viewed the court as a conservative and inflexible power, obsessed with a literal definition of a law designed to protect the privileges of private property against the new logic of a revolutionary time. The Supreme Court retorted vehemently that its task was simply to follow the dictates of the law, not to change it to suit some other objective.

The courts had much less difficulty dealing with the military regime, which left the court system virtually intact. As soon as the courts accepted the legitimacy of the military junta as the new executive and legislative power, they worked diligently to adjudicate matters in conformity with the new decree laws, even when the latter violated the spirit and letter of the constitution. In particular, the courts did nothing to address the serious issue of human rights violations, continuously deferring to the military and security services. The Supreme Court saw its own jurisdiction severely eroded as the military justice system expanded to encompass a wide range of national security matters that went far beyond institutional concerns.

According to the 1925 constitution, modified somewhat by the 1980 document, the Supreme Court can declare a particular law, decree law, or international treaty "inapplicable because of unconstitutionality." This does not invalidate the statute or measure for all cases, only for the one under consideration. Another important function of the Supreme Court is the administration of the court system. The organization and jurisdiction of Chile's courts were established in the Organic Code of the Tribunals (Law 7,241) adopted in 1943. This law was modified on several occasions; two recent instances are the organic constitutional Law 18,969 of March 10, 1990, and Law 19,124 of February 2, 1992. Chile's ordinary courts consist of the Supreme Court, the appellate courts (cortes de apelación), major claims courts, and various local courts (juzgados de letras). There is also a series of special courts, such as the juvenile courts, labor courts, and military courts in time of peace. The local courts consist of one or more tribunals specifically assigned to each of the country's communes, Chile's smallest administrative units. In larger jurisdictions, the local courts may specialize in criminal cases or civil cases, as defined by law.

Chile has sixteen appellate courts, each with jurisdiction over one or more provinces. The majority of the courts have four members, although the two largest courts have thirteen members, and Santiago's Appellate Court (Corte de Apelación) has twenty-five. The Supreme Court consists of seventeen members, who select a president from their number for a three-year term. The Supreme Court carries out its functions with separate chambers consisting of at least five judges each, presided over by the most senior member or the president of the court.

Members and prosecutors of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president of the republic, who selects them from a slate of five persons proposed by the court itself. At least two must be senior judges on an appellate court. The others can include candidates from outside the judicial system. The justices and prosecutors of each appellate court are also appointed by the president from a slate of three candidates submitted by the Supreme Court, only one of whom can be from outside the judicial system. In order to be appointed, ordinary judges at the local level are appointed by the president from a slate of three persons submitted by a court of appeals. They must be lawyers, must be at least twenty-five years old, and must have judicial experience. Ministers of the appeals courts must be at least thirty-two years old, and Supreme Court ministers must be at least thirty-six years old, with a specified number of years of judicial or legal experience. Judges serve for life and cannot be removed except for inappropriate behavior.

The relationship between the Aylwin administration and the Supreme Court was tense. Pinochet offered extraordinary retirement bonuses to the eldest court members to ensure the appointment of relatively young judges who were friends of the outgoing regime. The parties of the CPD were highly critical of these appointments and made no secret of their strong disapproval of the Supreme Court's behavior under the military government, particularly its complete disregard for the massive violations of human rights. Responding to these concerns, the Aylwin administration introduced constitutional reform legislation that would overhaul the nomination procedure for Supreme Court ministers, create a separate administrative structure for the judicial branch, and obligate the Supreme Court to take a more vigilant role in the protection of human rights. These reform efforts failed because the parties of the right refused to go along with change in the face of strong opposition from the Supreme Court, which was fearful that it would lose its prerogatives and concerned that the judicial system would become "politicized." Still pending as Aylwin's term neared its end were reforms of the military justice system with its authority to try civilians in areas of national security and to judge military personnel even when charged with a criminal or civil crime against civilians.

Chile - The Autonomous Powers

The Comptroller General

The Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic has been a highly visible institution since the adoption of the 1925 constitution. In 1943 it was upgraded to an autonomous government organ through an amendment to the constitution (Law 7,727) and was retained as such in the constitution of 1980. Charged with serving as the government's auditor, the agency has a large professional staff, which scrutinizes the collection and expenditure of government funds by the National Treasury, the municipalities, and other state services as determined by law. Over the years, the agency gained a reputation for insisting on strict conformity to the law, instilling respect in career officials and elected officials alike.

In addition to its preaudit and postaudit functions, the Office of the Comptroller General has significant juridical functions, as it is empowered to rule on the legality and constitutionality of decrees and laws. All supreme decrees and resolutions are routinely sent to the Office of the Comptroller General for a ruling prior to adoption. In this sense, the comptroller general's oversight functions are essentially preventive. The chief executive can overrule the comptroller general's objection to a presidential decrees by issuing a so-called decree of insistence requiring the signature of every cabinet minister. Overruling the comptroller general opens the ministers to the threat of censorship by the Chamber of Deputies. In order to guarantee the comptroller general's autonomy, the official is appointed by the president, with the consent of the Senate, to serve until age seventy-five. The comptroller general has complete control over the organization and staff of the office in conformity with Law 10,336 (Law of Organization and Powers of the Comptroller General of the Republic).

Chile - The Constitutional Tribunal

Although the comptroller general serves as an effective watchdog over government officials and functionaries, definitive and binding decisions on constitutional matters are made by the Constitutional Tribunal. The tribunal was created by the constitutional reforms of 1970 (Law 17,284) to provide the country with a body that would serve as final arbiter on constitutional matters and thus prevent the adoption of unconstitutional laws or decrees. Like other "neutral" institutions, such as the military and the courts, the tribunal was highly politicized by the crisis of the Allende years. It was unable to serve as an effective arbiter as the institutional conflict--between the government and its opposition and between the presidency and Congress--as well as the political conflict escalated beyond the point of no return.

Under the 1980 constitution, the Constitutional Tribunal consists of seven members appointed on a staggered basis to eightyear terms. The Supreme Court selects three, Cosena two, and the president and Senate one each. The tribunal possesses broad powers to judge the constitutionality of laws at all points in the legislative process. It can also declare unconstitutional any decrees issued by the president of the republic and rule on the constitutionality of a plebiscite. The tribunal resolves disputes among government ministers, legislators, and the executive and can rule on complaints presented by the president or members of either of the legislative chambers, provided that at least one-fourth of the members agree to register a formal grievance. The tribunal also rules on constitutional challenges to the legality of political parties (Article 19).

The Constitutional Tribunal is the court of last resort on constitutional matters. Article 83 of the constitution provides that "no appeal whatsoever shall apply against the decisions of the Constitutional Tribunal." The article adds that "once the court has decided that a specific legal precept is constitutional, the Supreme Court may not declare it inapplicable on the same grounds on which the decision was based."

The parties represented in the Aylwin coalition were not comfortable with the tribunal's broad jurisdiction. In their view, the tribunal's far-reaching powers to determine the constitutionality of laws, presidential decrees, and other government decisions made it a highly undemocratic body, particularly given that its members are appointed almost entirely by nonelected bodies. The Aylwin government favored constitutional reforms that would give the president and Congress the right to appoint a substantial majority of the tribunal members. The government also sought to limit the tribunal's power to decide the constitutionality of laws approved by Congress and signed by the president.

Reforms seemed unlikely in the immediate future because the parties of the right argued that a tribunal designed to protect the supremacy of the constitution would be undermined, should it be constituted by those very bodies that would be scrutinized. In addition, those accepting the status of the tribunal pointed to the positive role it played in settling the dispute over the status of independent candidates in the 1992 municipal elections. They contended that the tribunal's role in settling the dispute helped avert a major political dispute that might have delayed the elections.

Chile - The Central Bank of Chile

The Central Bank of Chile, like the Office of the Comptroller General, was created in 1925 on the recommendation of the financial mission to Chile headed by United States banking official Edwin Walter Kemmerer. The Central Bank was charged with printing money and controlling its circulation. Its authority over the country's monetary policy increased gradually over the years. The 1980 constitution elevates the Central Bank to constitutional status as an "autonomous" state organ to be governed by an organic constitutional law (Law 18,840). The military government was concerned that the Central Bank be insulated from political pressures to ensure that sound monetary policies were followed. The regime was reacting in part to the common practice of earlier years, particularly under the UP government, when public expenditures were financed with direct and indirect loans from the Central Bank, fueling budget deficits and inflation.

The Central Bank is governed by the five-member Central Bank Council appointed by the president, with the consent of the Senate, on a staggered basis. Each member serves ten years and can be reappointed. The president of the Central Bank is selected from among the council members to serve for five years.

Chile - The Electoral Certification Tribunal

Until the adoption of the 1925 constitution, the fairness of the electoral process was determined by Congress itself. Because of widespread abuses engendered by the system, the constitutional reformers of the time created the Electoral Certification Tribunal (Tribunal de Certificación Electoral--TCE), drawn by lots from a group of distinguished public figures, primarily jurists, who would evaluate the integrity of the electoral process and rule on particular challenges. The 1980 constitution preserves the TCE, specifying that its members include three ministers or former ministers of the Supreme Court chosen by the Supreme Court through a secret ballot, a lawyer also elected by the Supreme Court, and a former president of the Senate or Chamber of Deputies who has held that post for no fewer than three years. The TCE's duties and responsibilities are defined by an organic constitutional law (Law 18,460).

Chile - The Armed Forces

The armed forces constitute an essentially autonomous power within the Chilean state. An entire chapter of the constitution (Chapter 10) is devoted specifically to the armed forces, granting them a status comparable to that of Congress and the courts. Although the opposition felt that it had reduced the tutelary role of the armed forces with the constitutional reforms of 1989 by softening the language dealing with Cosena's powers, the military continued to have a constitutionally sanctioned right to discuss politics and policy and make its views known to the democratically elected authorities.

Whether or not the commanders of the services "represent" their views "or make them known," the political fact remains that the armed forces are defined by the constitution as the "guarantors of the institutional order of the Republic." Thus, their leadership exercises tutelage over the conduct of the elected government and other state bodies. This privilege is given only to the commanding officers. The 1980 constitution lays down strict rules requiring lower-ranking officers to refrain from any political activity or expression and to conform strictly to the orders of their superiors.

The 1989 reforms did not change the provisions that insulate the commanders in chief of the armed services and the National Police from democratically elected leaders. Although the military commanders and the head of Chile's paramilitary police, the Carabineros, are chosen by the president from among those officers having the most seniority in their respective services, the appointment is for four years, during which time the commanders cannot be removed except by Cosena under exceptional circumstances.

The constitution also specifies that entry into the armed services can only be through the established military academies and schools that are governed exclusively by the services without outside interference. The Organic Constitutional Law on the Armed Forces (Law 18,948 of February 1990) governs in detail military education, hierarchy, promotion, health, welfare, and retirement. It also provides the armed forces with a specific minimum budget that cannot be reduced. Other legislation provides the military with a set percentage from the worldwide sales of the state-run copper companies.

Despite seventeen years of military rule, the armed forces are remarkably uncontaminated by factionalism or partisan politics. No major divisions within the services are apparent. However, because the military enjoyed privileged treatment during Pinochet's rule, any attempt to tamper with military prerogatives was likely to be strongly resisted.

Pinochet's insistence on retaining his position as commander in chief of the army displeased the Aylwin government. As commander of the army, the general affirmed the military's determination to resist prosecution for human rights violations. Yet the army's credibility was badly damaged by allegations of financial wrongdoing by Pinochet's son, the discovery of mass graves containing corpses of individuals who died while in military hands, and the illegal export of arms to Croatia. The report of the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, known as the Rettig Commission, confirmed many of the allegations of military abuses.

The Aylwin government contended that the full consolidation of democracy could not be accomplished without a fundamental change in the relationship between civil and military authority. Members of the CPD asserted that presidential control of the armed forces existed in all modern democracies and since 1822 had been an essential element in Chile's constitutional tradition.

A proposal for reform of the Organic Constitutional Law on the Armed Forces was signed by President Aylwin on March 29, 1992, and sent to Congress. Aylwin's initiative dealt specifically with Article 7 and Article 53 of the organic laws of the armed forces and police, which limit presidential prerogatives in relation to the hiring, firing, and promotion of members of the military. Among the suggested reforms was a provision providing the president with the right to choose commanders of the armed forces from among the ten most senior officers, instead of the top five. These proposals were opposed, however, by both parties of the right, making it impossible to envision any constitutional reform on this matter in the foreseeable future.

The opposition contended that the tenure of the commanders had contributed to the stability and moderation of the Chilean transition. It argued that these reforms would result in the politicization of the armed forces by undermining the hierarchy, discipline, and professionalism of military institutions. The rightist parties also contended that the reform proposals, if successful, would upset the counterweights on presidential power and would disturb the institutional balance existing between the president, the Constitutional Tribunal, Congress, and Cosena. This balance, they argued, helped guarantee the success of the Chilean transition by insulating the armed forces from overt political pressures.

Chile - Regional and Local Government

With the adoption of the constitution of 1833, Chile abandoned earlier attempts to create a federal system and opted for a unitary form of government. As such, regional and local governments became creatures of national authority, subject to the legislative and constitutional powers vested in the central government. This did not mean that local governments did not enjoy varying degrees of self-determination and autonomy over the years. The 1833 document provided for the election of local municipal councils through direct popular vote, a practice retained by the constitution of 1925. During much of the nineteenth century, local governments were barely able to provide the minimal services they were charged with, such as the maintenance of public order and basic sanitation, given the scarcity of resources. In 1891, however, the country embarked on a bold experiment, providing significant local autonomy to the nation's elected municipalities, many of which flourished under local leadership with local resources. The center of gravity of Chilean politics shifted toward local governments and their allies in Congress.

Partly in reaction to the corrupt machine politics of the city bosses, the 1925 constitution sought greater oversight of local authorities by expanding the democratic process through the creation of elected provincial assemblies. However, enabling legislation that would have made those assemblies a reality was never adopted. Instead, the oversight functions were turned over to appointed agents of the central government. During the dramatic expansion of the national state in the wake of the Great Depression, local governments were left behind. Tax revenues, which by law were supposed to be returned to local governments, were routinely kept by the authorities of the central government. The essence of local politics became a struggle to use party and patronage networks to extract resources on a preferential basis for local development. As the nation's electorate expanded, local government officials played an increasingly important role as electoral agents. Mayors and councilors became political brokers seeking to exchange votes for a water treatment plant, a stretch of highway, or jobs for constituents. Elections for local office were as hotly contested as elections for national office and served as building blocks of party development.

The military regime viewed the somewhat fractious state of local politics as proof that parties and politicians were incapable of efficient administration. As a result, it designed a system of local administration distinctly based on corporatism and heavily dependent on direct appointments from the center. According to the constitution of 1980, regional and local governments would be administered by intendants and mayors, respectively. These figures would be appointed directly by the president of the republic, although the mayors of smaller towns would be designated by regional councils created to advise the intendants. The regional councils would be formed by employees of state agencies in the locality, military officers, and designated representatives of interest groups with no party affiliation. This conception of regional government would be extended to the municipal level with similarly designated local councils.

Although this scheme would make local authorities highly dependent on appointments from above, the military government also took an important step to decentralize state functions by giving local administrative units greatly increased resources and autonomy to make local governments viable. A notable example was the decision to give municipal governments far more responsibility for elementary and secondary education and other local services.

The Aylwin government made the restoration of democracy at the grass-roots level a matter of high priority. Many opposition leaders on the right shared the view that the military regime had gone too far in eradicating the country's long tradition of elected local governments. After considerable debate, the government and the National Renewal party were able to reach consensus on a constitutional reform law, adopted in November 1991, to change Chapter 13 of the constitution dealing with local administration (Law 19,097).

The constitutional reform was followed by the adoption of a new Organic Constitutional Law on Municipalities (Law 19,130 of March 19, 1992), which paved the way for municipal elections in June 1992. Under the law, local governments are formed by a municipal council and a mayor who serve four-year terms and are elected through a proportional representation system. Candidates must be sponsored by registered political parties that obtained at least 5 percent of the vote in previous contests. The number of councilors varies, from six in smaller municipalities to ten in the larger ones. The law establishes that the councilor who receives the most votes on the party list that receives the largest number of votes is elected mayor, provided that he or she obtains at least 35 percent of the total vote. If this requirement is not met, the mayor is elected by the municipal council from among its own number by an absolute majority of the vote. The Organic Constitutional Law on Municipalities requires that the mayor and councilors be citizens in good standing, reside in the region where they are running for office, and be literate. It bars government officials and members of Congress from running for local office. It is the mayor's responsibility to propose a communal plan, a budget, investment programs, and zoning plans to the municipal council for approval. The mayor also appoints delegates to remote areas of the community. The municipal council approves local ordinances and regulations and oversees the work of the mayor, being authorized to call to the attention of the comptroller general any irregularities.

Municipalities have sole responsibility for traffic regulation, urban planning and zoning, garbage collection, and beautification. Municipal governments work closely with state agencies on a host of other matters, ranging from public health to <>tourism, recreation, and education, and are authorized to create administrative units to oversee each of these activities. Most of the municipal resources come from the Common Municipal Fund, administered by the Ministry of Interior, which endeavors to favor poorer areas in the distribution of resources for local government. The law on municipalities also calls for the creation of an economic and social council in each municipality. This is an advisory body constituted by representatives of local organized groups, including neighborhood associations and functional organizations, such as parent-teacher associations and mothers' groups.

On June 23, 1992, 6.4 million Chileans (90 percent of the nation's registered voters) participated in Chile's first municipal elections since 1971. As was done in the congressional elections of 1989, joint lists designed to maximize electoral fortunes were formed by both the progovernment and the antigovernment parties. The results of the municipal contests did not deviate substantially from those observed in the earlier race. The CPD obtained 60.6 percent of the vote, to the right's 30 percent (38 percent if the independent Union of the Centrist Center [Unión de Centro Centro-- UCC] is counted with the right).

Nationwide elections for the country's thirteen regional councils were held in April 1993. The CPD won the majority of the thirteen regions. Of the total of 244 regional council members elected nationwide, 134 were CPD candidates and eighty-six were candidates of the opposition parties of the right. Another thirteen seats went to independent candidates or those from other parties. A tie resulted only in the sparsely populated Aisén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region in the far south, where the government and the opposition each won eight council seats.


The Party System

In the early 1990s, Chile had a strong, ideologically based multiparty system, with a clear division among parties of the right, center, and left. Chile's parties traditionally have been national in scope, penetrating into remote regions of the country and structuring politics in small villages and provincial capitals. Party affiliation has served as the organizing concept in leadership contests in universities and private associations, including labor unions and professional associations. Political tendencies are passed from generation to generation and constitute an important part of an individual's identity.

By the middle of the twentieth century, each of Chile's political tendencies represented roughly one-third of the electorate. The left was dominated by the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista--PS) and the Communist Party of Chile (Partido Comunista de Chile--PCCh), the right by the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) and the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador), and the center by the anticlerical Radical Party (Partido Radical--PR), which was replaced as Chile's dominant party by the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano--PDC) in the 1960s.

Although ideological polarization characterized party politics until the 1960s, political coalitions across party lines helped to mitigate conflict. Party politics dominated both the national arena, where ideological objectives predominated, and the local arena, which focused on more clientelistic concerns. The interplay between these two levels helped moderate interparty conflict. Polarization increased markedly, however, in the wake of the 1959 Cuban Revolution as parties radicalized their programs, seeking to achieve hegemony over their rivals in an increasingly desperate attempt to control Chile's future.

The military authorities believed that their policies would fundamentally change the traditional party system. Repression, legal restrictions, and new legislation governing parties and elections, combined with profound underlying changes in the nation's social structure, would render the old parties obsolete. Although the authorities conceded by 1985, in the aftermath of national protests, that they had not destroyed the party system, they remained intent on designing rules that would change its basic physiognomy. In March 1987, the Law of Political Parties was adopted, which provided for stringent requirements that officials of the military government believed the old parties could not meet. The law requires each legal party to obtain signatures equivalent to 5 percent of the electorate in at least eight regions, or in at least three contiguous regions. It also places restrictions on party activities and regulates party financing, internal organization, and selection of leaders, specifying that top party leaders be chosen democratically by rank-and-file members.

However, Chile's parties were able to adjust well to the law. Indeed, the requirement for a large number of signatures gave party leaders a strong incentive to mobilize grass-roots support and strengthen local party organizations. The selection of party leadership through democratic means helped legitimize the leaders who fought the military government, leaders whom the authorities had often characterized as unrepresentative.

<>The Electoral System
<>The Parties of the Left
<>The Parties of the Center
<>The Parties of the Right
<>The 1993 Presidential Election

Chile - The Electoral System

The far-reaching electoral reforms implemented before the 1989 elections represented a further attempt to transform Chile's party structure into a moderate two-party system. The constitution of 1925 had established a system of proportional representation to allocate seats in multimember districts, the most widely used system in Latin America and Europe. For the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, the country was divided into twenty-eights districts, each electing between one and eighteen deputies for a total of 150, producing an average district delegation of 5.4 deputies. Although implementation of the proportional representation system was not responsible for the emergence of the country's multiparty system, it encouraged party fragmentation, particularly before 1960, when parties were allowed to form pacts with each other in constituting individual lists.

Women were granted the vote for municipal elections in 1934 and for national elections in 1949. Chile has a lively history of women's civic and political organizations that goes back to the early decades of the twentieth century, including the formation of two political parties led by women, one of which, the Feminine Civic Party (Partido Cívico Femenino), elected its main leader to the Senate before it faded from the scene in the mid-1950s. However, there are still conspicuously few women in national politics an din top government positions. Only six women were elected to Congress in 1989, and only one woman held ministerial rank in President Aylwin's government. Yet close to half of all Chileans who were affiliated with parties in 1992 were women, and slightly more than half of the electorate is composed of women.

The military government redrew electoral boundaries to create sixty legislative districts, each of which would send two representatives to the Chamber of Deputies. Redistricting favored smaller and more rural districts that were deliberately designed to favor progovernment parties. Thus, one vote in District 52, which was a government stronghold in the plebiscite, was worth three times more than one vote in District 18, in which the opposition had fared better. By reducing the electoral districts to an average representation of two deputies per district, the military authorities sought to create an electoral formula that would provide supporters of the Pinochet regime with a majority of the seats in the legislature, with a level of support comparable to Pinochet's vote in the plebiscite, or about 40 percent of the turnout.

According to the new law, parties or coalitions continue to present lists with a candidate for each of the two seats to be filled. The law considers both the votes for the total list and the votes for individual candidates. The first seat is awarded to the party or coalition with a plurality of votes. But the first- place party list must receive twice the vote of the second-place list, if it is to win the second seat. This means that in a two-list contest a party can obtain one seat with only 33.4 percent of the vote, whereas a party must take 66.7 percent of the vote to gain both seats. Any electoral support that the largest party gets beyond the 33.4 percent threshold is effectively wasted unless that party attains the 66.7 percent level.

The designers of the electoral system considered the worst-case scenario to be one that assumed a complete unity of purpose among the anti-Pinochet forces, a unity that would at best provide them with 50 percent of Congress. Government officials were convinced that another scenario was more likely: the parties of the centerleft would soon fragment, unable to maintain the unity born of their common desire to defeat Pinochet. The military government envisioned multiple lists, with the list of the right being the largest, able to double the next competing list in many constituencies and thus assuring the promilitary groups at least half of all elected representation, if not a comfortable majority.

For the parties of the right, the worst-case scenario came to pass. Showing remarkable focus and discipline, the fourteen parties of the opposition structured a common list and chose a common presidential candidate, and as a result the coalition garnered a majority of the elected seats. The binomial electoral system did, however, benefit the right. The National Renewal Party obtained many more seats than it should have in light of the percentages of the vote it received nationally. The system also forced parties to coalesce into large blocs to maximize their strengths. The result was two broad coalitions, not a two-party system. Indeed, the results of the 1989 congressional elections, despite the requirements of the binomial system and the constitution that broad slates be formed by these party coalitions, reveals that the Chilean electorate split its vote for individual candidates in a manner reminiscent of traditional tendencies. Thus, the right obtained 38 percent of the vote; the center, 24 percent; and the left 24.3 percent.

Survey research corroborated that the electorate was likely to continue to identify with left-right terms of reference. In March 1993, about 22.8 percent of respondents classified themselves as politically right or center-right; 24.6 percent as center; and 33.7 percent as center-left. Only 19 percent refused to opt for an ideological identification. These figures differ somewhat from the electoral results reported previously but are consistent with trends indicating that the right lost some of its appeal during the Aylwin government, while the moderate left gained.

Despite attempts at political engineering, not only did Chileans continue to identify with broad ideological tendencies, they also identified with a wide range of parties explicitly considered to embody those tendencies. In surveys, between 70 percent and 80 percent of all Chileans identified themselves with particular parties, a high level considering the many years of military rule and the experience of other democratic countries. Identification with individual parties increased during the first three years of the Aylwin government. In the March 1993 survey, more than a third of the respondents identified themselves with the Christian Democrats, 20 percent with the leading parties of the left, and 20 percent with the principal parties of the right. The rest identified themselves with smaller parties of the left, center, and right.

The survey findings do not mean that the ideological polarization of the past has remained constant. The Chilean electorate still segments itself into three roughly equal thirds, but the distance between its left and right extremes have narrowed substantially. With its more radical program, the PCCh was not able to win more than 6.5 percent of the vote in municipal elections. In surveys taken during the 1990-93 period, fewer than 2 percent of respondents preferred the PCCh. Right-wing nationalist parties associated with the military government had even less appeal and did not ever register on surveys. The far left of the Socialist Party had lost ground to the more moderate tendencies of the party, and the authoritarian right had developed no significant electoral following. Ideological moderation also characterized the centrist Christian Democrats, who no longer defended the "third way" between Marxists and capitalists that they advocated in the 1960s. Perhaps the strongest indication of programmatic moderation was the consensus in postmilitary Chile on free-market economics and the important role of the private sector in national development.

As Chile approached the twenty-first century, differences among parties were no longer based on sharply differing visions of utopias. Ideological differences now concerned more concrete matters, such as the degree of government involvement in social services and welfare or, increasingly, moral questions such as divorce and abortion. A narrowing of programmatic differences did not mean, however, that the intensely competitive, multiparty nature of Chilean politics was likely to change in the near future.

Chile - The Parties of the Left

The Communist Party of Chile (Partido Comunista de Chile--PCCh) is the oldest and largest communist party in Latin America and one of the most important in the West. Tracing its origins to 1912, the party was officially founded in 1922 as the successor to the Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Obrero Socialista--POS). It achieved congressional representation shortly thereafter and played a leading role in the development of the Chilean labor movement. Closely tied to the Soviet Union and the Third International, the PCCh participated in the Popular Front (Frente Popular) government of 1938, growing rapidly among the unionized working class in the 1940s. Concern over the PCCh's success at building a strong electoral base, combined with the onset of the Cold War, led to its being outlawed in 1948, a status it had to endure for almost a decade. By midcentury the party had become a veritable political subculture, with its own symbols and organizations and the support of prominent artists and intellectuals such as Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, and Violetta Parra, the songwriter and folk artist.

As a component of the Popular Unity coalition that elected Salvador Allende to the presidency in 1970, the PCCh played a strong moderating role, rejecting the more extreme tactics of the student and revolutionary left and urging a more deliberate pace that would set the groundwork for a communist society in the future. The military government dealt the PCCh a severe blow, decimating its leadership in 1976. Although the party called for a broad alliance of all forces opposed to the dictatorship, by 1980 it moved to a parallel strategy of armed insurrection, preparing cadres of guerrillas to destabilize the regime and provide the party with the military capability to take over the state should the Pinochet government crumble.

After the attempt on Pinochet's life in 1986, the democratic parties began to distance themselves from the PCCh because the PCCh was openly opposed to challenging the regime under the regime's own rules. The PCCh's strong stand against registration of voters and participation in the plebiscite alienated many of its own supporters and long-time militants, who understood that most of the citizenry supported a peaceful return to democracy.

Particularly problematic for the party was the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (Frente Patriótica Manuel Rodríguez--FPMR), an insurrectionary organization spawned by the PCCh. The party found the FPMR difficult to rein in, and the FPMR continued to engage in terrorism after the demise of the military government. The FPMR had eclipsed Chile's better-known revolutionary group, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria-- MIR), formed in the 1960s by university students, a movement that barely survived the repression of the military years. During the Aylwin administration, a group known as the Lautaro Youth Movement (Movimiento Juvenil Lautaro--MJL), an offshoot of the United Popular Action Movement-Lautaro (Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario-Lautaro (MAPU-L), sought without success to maintain a "revolutionary" offensive.

The dramatic failure of the PCCh's strategy seriously undermined its credibility and contributed to growing defections from its ranks. The party was also hurt by the vast structural changes in Chilean society, particularly the decline of traditional manufacturing and extractive industries and the weakening of the labor movement. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its East European allies represented a final blow. Although the PCCh obtained 6.5 percent of the vote in the 1992 municipal elections, by mid-1993 it was enjoying less than 5 percent support in public opinion surveys and did not fare well in the 1993 presidential race.

The Socialist Party (Partido Socialista--PS), formally organized in 1933, had its origins in the incipient labor movement and working-class parties of the early twentieth century. The Socialist Party was far more heterogeneous than the PCCh, drawing support from blue-collar workers as well as intellectuals and members of the middle class. Throughout most of its history, the Socialist Party suffered from a bewildering number of schisms resulting from rivalries and fundamental disagreements between leaders advocating revolution and those willing to work within the system.

The Socialist Party's greatest moment was the election of Salvador Allende to the presidency in 1970. Allende represented the moderate wing of a party that had veered sharply to the left. The Socialist Party's radical orientation contributed to continuous political tension as the president and the PCCh argued for a more gradual approach to change and the Socialists sought to press for immediate "conquests" for the working class.

After the overthrow of Allende's Popular Unity government, the Socialist Party suffered heavy repression and soon split into numerous factions. Some joined with the Communists in supporting a more insurrectionary strategy. Another faction of "Renewed Socialists," led primarily by intellectuals and exiles in Western Europe, argued for a return to a moderate socialism for which democratic politics was an end in itself. The latter faction broke with the Marxist-Leninist line of the immediate past, embracing market economics and a far more pluralist conception of society. Guided by leaders such as Ricardo Lagos Escobar and Ricardo Núñez Muñoz, the Renewed Socialists reached an accord with the Christian Democrats to mount a common strategy to bring an end to the military government.

Prior to the 1988 plebiscite, the Socialists launched the Party for Democracy (Partido por la Democracia--PPD) in an effort to provide a broad base of opposition to Pinochet, one untainted by the labels and struggles of the past. Led by Lagos, an economist and former university administrator, the PPD was supposed to be an "instrumental party" that would disappear after the defeat of Pinochet. But the party's success in capturing the imagination of many Chileans led Socialist and PPD leaders to keep the party label for the subsequent congressional and municipal elections, working jointly with the Christian Democrats in structuring national lists of candidates.

The success of the PPD soon created a serious dilemma for the Socialist Party, which managed to reunite its principal factions-- the relatively conservative Socialist Party-Almeyda, the moderate Socialist Party-Núñez "renewalists," and the left-wing Unitary Socialists--at the Social Party congress in December 1990. Heretofore an instrument of the Socialists, the PPD became a party in its own right, even though many Socialists had dual membership. Although embracing social democratic ideals, PPD leaders appeared more willing to press ahead on other unresolved social issues such as divorce and women's rights, staking out a distinct position as a center-left secular force in Chilean society capable of challenging the Christian Democrats as well as the right on a series of critical issues.

As the PPD grew, leaders of the Socialist Party insisted on abolishing dual membership for fear of losing their capacity to enlarge the appeal of the Socialist Party beyond its traditional constituency. By 1993 both parties, working together in a somewhat tense relationship, had comparable levels of popular support in opinion polls. In a March 1993 survey by the Center for Public Studies (Centro de Estudios Públicos--CEP) and Adimark (a polling company), 10.6 percent of Chilean voters identified with the PPD while 8.5 percent registered a preference for the Socialist Party. As the 1993 presidential election approached, PPD leader Ricardo Lagos signaled his intention to challenge the Christian Democrats for the presidential candidacy of the CPD. His move indicated the determination of the parties of the moderate left to remain an important force in Chilean politics. However, Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, the son of the former president, defeated Lagos in a convention of CPD parties held on May 23, 1993, making him the strong favorite to win the presidential elections scheduled for December 11, 1993. Frei Ruiz-Tagle won by a vote of 60 percent, while Lagos received 38 percent.

Other parties that could be placed on the center-left included the Humanist-Green Alliance (Alianza Humanista-Verde) and the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrático), an offshoot of the Radical Party, which managed to elect one of its leaders to the Senate. These new parties were successful in mobilizing support against Pinochet in the plebiscite but faltered in subsequent elections.

Chile - The Parties of the Center

The Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano-- PDC), formally established in 1957, traces its origins to the 1930s, when the youth wing of the Conservative Party, the Conservative Falange (Falange Conservativa), heavily influenced by the progressive social doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the works of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, broke off to form the National Falange in 1938. Although the PDC remained small for many years, it came to prominence in the 1940s, when party leader Eduardo Frei Montalva became minister of public works. The party's fortunes improved gradually improved as the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church shifted from an embrace of the right toward a more progressive line that paralleled the reformist bent of the Falangist leadership. The PDC came into its own in 1957, when it adopted its present name after uniting with several other centrist groups. It elected Frei to the Senate while capturing fourteen seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The party polled 20 percent of the vote in the presidential race in 1958, with Frei as standard-bearer. In 1964, with the support of the right, which feared the election of Allende, Frei was elected president on a platform proclaiming a "third way" between Marxism and capitalism, a form of communitarian socialism of cooperatives and self-managed worker enterprises.

Although the PDC grew significantly during Frei's presidency and succeeded in obtaining the largest vote of any single party in contemporary Chilean history in the 1965 congressional race, the Christian Democrats were not able to overcome the tripartite division of Chilean politics. Its candidate in the 1970 election, Radomiro Tomic Romero, came in third with 27.8 percent of the total vote.

The PDC soon broke with Allende, rejecting measures issued by decree without legislative support and shifting to an alliance with the parties of the right. Although the PDC leadership, which by 1973 had returned to the more conservative orientation, welcomed the coup as "inevitable," a significant minority condemned it. Within months, the party began to distance itself from the military government over the new regime's strongly antipolitical cast, its human rights violations, and its clear intention of remaining in power indefinitely. By 1980 the PDC was playing a leadership role in opposition to the military regime.

In the aftermath of the military regime, the PDC emerged as Chile's largest party, with the support of about 35 percent of the electorate. The PDC had been divided internally by a series of ideological, generational, and factional rivalries. A large number of party followers identified themselves as center-left, while many viewed themselves as center-right. The PDC retained a commitment to social justice issues while embracing the free-market policies instituted by the military government. However, the communitarian ideology of the past receded in importance, and the Christian Democrats remained reluctant to take issue with the Roman Catholic Church's stands on divorce and abortion.

Although the Aylwin administration was a coalition government, the PDC secured ten of twenty cabinet seats. In the 1989 elections, the Christian Democrats also obtained the largest number of congressional seats, with fourteen in the Senate and thirty-eight in the Chamber of Deputies. In October 1991, in a major challenge to President Aylwin and the traditional leadership of the party, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle was elected PDC president, placing him in a privileged position to run for president as the candidate of the CPD.

Another party that could be classified as centrist was the Radical Party, whose political importance outweighed its electoral presence. The Radical Party owed its survival as a political force to the binomial electoral law inherited from the military government and the desire of the Christian Democrats to use the Radical Party as a foil against the left. It was to the Christian Democrats' advantage to provide relatively more space to the Radicals on the joint lists than to their stronger PPD partners. The Radicals succeeded in electing two senators and five deputies in 1989 and were allotted two out of twenty cabinet ministers, despite polls reporting that they had less than 2 percent support nationally. It remained to be seen if, over the long run, the Radical Party could compete with Chile's other major parties, particularly the PPD, which had moved closest to the Radical Party's traditional position on the political spectrum.

Chile - The Parties of the Right

In 1965, following the dramatic rise of the Christian Democrats, primarily at their expense, Chile's two traditional right-wing parties, the Liberal Party and Conservative Party, merged into the National Party (Partido Nacional--PN). Their traditional disagreements over issues such as the proper role of the Roman Catholic Church in society paled by comparison with the challenge posed by the left to private property and Chile's hierarchical social order. The new party, energized by the presidential candidacy of Jorge Alessandri in 1970, helped the right regain some of its lost electoral ground. The National Party won 21.1 percent of the vote in the 1973 congressional elections, the last before the coup.

The National Party was at the forefront of the opposition to the Allende government, working closely with elements of the business community. National Party leaders welcomed the coup and, unlike the Christian Democrats, were content to accept the military authorities' injunction that parties go into "recess." Until 1984 the National Party remained moribund, with most of the party leaders concerning themselves with private pursuits or an occasional embassy post. With the riots of 1983 and 1984, leaders on the right began to worry about the return of civilian politics and the challenge of rebuilding party organizations. In 1987 three rightist organizations--the National Unity Movement (Movimiento de Unidad Nacional--MUN), representing leaders of Chile's traditional parties; the National Labor Front (Frente Nacional del Trabajo-- FNT), headed by a more nationalistic group tied to small business and rural interests; and the Independent Demócratic Union (Unión Democráta Independiente--UDI), constituted by former junta advisers and officials of the military government--joined to form the National Renewal party as a successor to the National Party. The uneasy alliance soon broke apart as the UDI signaled its strong support for the plebiscite of 1988 and a Pinochet candidacy, while the National Renewal party indicated its preference for an open election or a candidate other than Pinochet.

With Pinochet's defeat, the National Renewal party's prestige rose considerably. In the aftermath of the plebiscite, National Renewal worked closely with the other opposition parties to propose far-reaching amendments to the constitution. The National Renewal party, however, could not impose its own party president, having to concede the presidential candidacy of the right to the UDI's Büchi. After the 1989 congressional race, the National Renewal party emerged as the dominant party of the right, benefiting strongly from the electoral law and electing six senators and twenty-nine deputies. Its strength in the Senate meant that the Aylwin government had to compromise with the National Renewal party to gain support for key legislative and constitutional measures. The National Renewal party saw much of its support wane in the wake of party scandals involving its most promising presidential candidates.

While the RN drew substantial support from rural areas and traditional small businessmen, the UDI appealed to new entrepreneurial elites and middle sectors in Chile's rapidly growing modern sector. The UDI also made inroads in low-income neighborhoods with special programs appealing to the poor, a legacy of the Pinochet regime's urban policy. The assassination of UDI founder Senator Jaime Guzmán Errázuriz on April 1, 1991, was a serious blow, depriving the party of its strongest leader.

A discussion of the parties of the right would not be complete without a mention of the Union of the Centrist Center (Unión de Centro Centro--UCC), a loose organization created by Francisco Errázuriz. Because parties of the left like to call themselves "center-left" and parties of the right "center-right" to avoid being labeled as extremist, Errázuriz coined the somewhat redundant name of the UCC to show that he is the only centrist-centrist. The UCC had no party organization and no clear programmatic orientation. Yet it regularly commanded the support of about 5 percent of the electorate, enough to place the party in a privileged position to bargain for places on the party lists of either the right or the CPD, giving Errázuriz more clout than his real support would indicate.

The advent of the 1993 presidential race underscored the continued rivalry of the parties of the right. Reformers in the National Renewal party failed in their effort to provide the nation with a new generation of rightist leaders as Senator Sebastian Piñera and Congresswoman Evelyn Matthei canceled themselves out in a bitter struggle. Only after months of charges and countercharges, and in the face of the CPD's remarkable capacity for unity, could the National Unity party, UDI, and UCC succeed in structuring a joint congressional list and selecting a presidential candidate.

Chile - The 1993 Presidential Election

The compromises struck in the 1980 constitutional reform discussions between the military government and the opposition led to the limitation of President Aylwin's term to four years, half of the normal term contemplated in the constitution. This meant that by mid-1992 parties and leaders were already jockeying to prepare the succession. Leaders of the Aylwin government, including prominent cabinet members, made no secret of their desire to put forth the name of Alejandro Foxley Riesco, the minister of finance, as a man who would guarantee stability and continuity. A Christian Democrat, Foxley had presided ably over the delicate task of maintaining economic stability and promoting growth.

Within the CPD, however, there was considerable disagreement over a Foxley candidacy. Christian Democrats controlling the party organization, who had not been favored with prominent governmental positions, pushed the candidacy of Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, the son of the former president, as an alternative. Frei's candidacy was given an enormous boost when he succeeded in defeating several Christian Democratic factions, including the Aylwin group, by capturing the presidency of the PDC. In the first open election for party leadership among all registered Christian Democrats, Frei, drawing on the magic of his father's name, scored a stunning victory.

While most observers presumed that from his position as PDC president Frei would be able to command the nomination of the center-left alliance, elements in the Socialist Party and the PPD argued that the nomination in the second government should go to a Socialist, not a Christian Democrat. This was the position of Ricardo Lagos, a minister of public education in the Aylwin cabinet and the most prominent leader of the moderate left. Lagos, who was defeated for a Senate seat in Santiago by the vagaries of the electoral law, remained one of the most popular leaders in Chile and was widely praised for his tenure in the Ministry of Public Education.

A Lagos candidacy, however, implied the serious possibility that the CPD would break up. Christian Democrats pointed to their party's significant advantage in the polls and noted that the country might not be ready for a candidate identified with the Socialist Party. Lagos faced opposition within the PPD and the Socialist Party among leaders who thought that risking the unity of the CPD could only play into the hands of forces that would welcome a victory of the right or an authoritarian reversal. Lagos, in turn, argued that the Socialists could be relegated to the position of a permanent minority force within the coalition if they did not have the opportunity to present their own candidate. The constitutional provision for a second electoral round, in case no candidate obtained an absolute majority in the first round, would permit the holding of a kind of primary. The CPD candidate that failed to go into the second round of the two finalists would simply support the CPD counterpart. Lagos, however, was not able to persuade either the Christian Democrats or his own allies to launch two center-left presidential candidacies spearheading one joint list for congressional seats. Instead, he had to settle for a national convention in which Frei handily defeated him with his greater organizational strength.

The right had even more difficulty coming up with a standardbearer . The National Renewal party was intent on imposing its own candidacy this time and sought to elevate one of its younger leaders to carry the torch. Bitter opposition for the UDI and the destructive internal struggle within the National Renewal party precluded Chile's largest party on the right from selecting the standard-bearer of the coalition. After a bitter and highly destructive process, the parties of the right, including the UCC, finally were able to structure a joint congressional list and turn to Arturo Alessandri Besa, a senator and businessman, as presidential candidate.

Several other candidates were presented by minor parties. The PCCh, which had reluctantly supported Aylwin in 1989, endorsed leftist priest Eugenio Pizarro Poblete, while scientist Manfredo Max-Neef ran a quixotic campaign stressing environmental issues. In the election held on December 11, 1993, Eduardo Frei scored an impressive victory, exceeding the total that Aylwin obtained in 1989. Frei's victory underscored the strong support of the CPD's overall policies, bucking the Latin American trend of failed incumbent governments. Frei obtained 57.4 percent of the vote to Alessandri's 24.7 percent. The surprise in the race was Max-Neef, who, exceeding all expectations, obtained 5.7 percent of the vote, surpassing the vote for Pizarro, which was 4.6 percent. Max-Neef was able to translate his shoestring candidacy into the most significant protest vote against the major candidates.

The election of the fifty-one-year-old Frei marked the coming of age of a new generation of political leaders in Chile. Frei, an engineer and businessman, had avoided the political world of his father until the late 1980s when he agreed to form part of the Committee for Free Elections. Subsequently, his party faction challenged Aylwin for the leadership of the party prior to the 1989 election. Although Frei lost, he laid the groundwork for his successful bid for party leadership in 1992 and, eventually, the race for president.

Frei's election signals the intention of the CPD to remain united in a coalition government for the foreseeable future. The designation of Socialist Party president Germán Correa as minister of interior and Ricardo Lagos's acceptance of another cabinet post underscore the broad nature of the regime. Its challenge, however, will be to maintain unity while addressing many of the lingering social issues that still affect Chilean society without upsetting the country's economic progress.


The Church

The Roman Catholic Church has played a central role in Chilean politics since colonial days. During the nineteenth century, the question of the proper role of the Catholic Church in society helped define the differences among the country's incipient political parties. The Conservatives, in defending the social order of the colonial era, championed the church's central role in protecting that order through its control of the educational system and its tutelage over the principal rights of passage, from birth to death. They also supported the close tie between church and state based on the Spanish patronato real, which provided the president with the authority to name church officials. Liberals, and especially Radicals, drawing on the ideals of the Enlightenment, sought a secular order, a separation of church and state in which the state would take the primary responsibility for instruction and assume "civil" jurisdiction over births, marriages, and the burial of the dead. The Liberals and Radicals also promoted the liberal doctrine of the rights of man and citizenship, seeking to implement the notion of one man-one vote, unswayed by the influence of the upper class or the preaching of the clergy.

During the 1861-91 period, the Liberals were in the ascendancy, succeeding in their quest to expand the authority of the state to the detriment of that of the church. The de jure separation of church and state, however, did not occur until the adoption of the constitution of 1925. Although a few priests and Catholic laity embraced the progressive social doctrines inspired by papal encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), it was not until the 1950s that the church hierarchy began to loosen its ties to the Conservative Party. Keenly aware of Marxism's challenge to their core values and the growing influence of Marxist parties, church leaders responded with an increased commitment to social justice and reform. Some of the early efforts at breaking down Chile's semifeudal land tenure system were undertaken on church lands by progressive bishops, notably Bishop Manuel Larraín Errázuriz of Talca in the 1960s.

The church's shift away from Conservative politics coincided with the development of a close alliance between the church elite and the emerging Christian Democrats, which contributed to the success of the new party, particularly among women and another previously disenfranchised group, rural voters. The church, and in particular Cardinal Raúl Silva Henriquez, the archbishop of Santiago, welcomed the election of Eduardo Frei Montalva to the presidency in 1964.

Relations between the church and Allende, however, were far less cordial. Church leaders retained correct relations with the leftist government, fearful that the new authorities would make use of the public schools for Marxist indoctrination and further undermine the waning influence of the church in society. When Allende was overthrown, all of the bishops welcomed the coup and helped legitimize the new military junta with solemn ceremonies. Several bishops, including the bishop of Valparaíso, remained staunch supporters of the military for years to come.

Other church leaders, notably Cardinal Silva, shocked by widespread human rights violations and disturbed by the growing rift between the men in uniform and the church's Christian Democratic allies, soon distanced themselves from the military authorities. The church, and particularly the archdiocese of Santiago, responded by gradually assuming a critical role as a defender of human rights and providing an "umbrella" of physical and moral shelter to intellectuals and party and union leaders. Antagonizing the regime and its many supporters in upper-and middle-class sectors, the Vicariate of Solidarity (Vicaría de la Solidaridad) helped provide for the legal defense and support of victims of the dictatorship. Silva's successor, though more conservative, supported the church's work in the human rights field and, in 1985, sought to broker the National Accord for Transition to Full Democracy. As the plebiscite approached, the Episcopal Conference made clear that it did not consider the junta's plan to be democratic and urged Pinochet to step down, further aggravating the relationship between the authorities and the church.

With the restoration of democracy, the church retreated from the political arena. Following dictates from Rome and the appointment of more conservative bishops, relations between the hierarchy and the Christian Democrats cooled. Church leaders also made it clear that, in recognition of church support for the democratic opposition in the difficult years of the dictatorship, they expected support from the new government for the church's own more conservative agenda. In early 1994, Chile remained one of the few countries in the world that did not recognize divorce, and issues such as abortion and the role of women in society were not fully addressed. Chile's political right made clear that it hoped to capitalize on these "moral" issues and revive an alliance between clerical authorities and the parties of the right not seen since the 1940s.

Although the challenge from the Marxist left had waned, the Roman Catholic Church appeared to be engaged in a losing struggle to stem the extraordinary growth of Protestant Evangelicals. Evangelical groups grew rapidly during the years of military rule, primarily as a result of severe social and economic dislocations. While the Roman Catholic Church gained adherents and supporters through its politicized Christian Base Communities (Comunidades Eclesiales de Base-- CEBs) and the work of highly committed priests, tens of thousands of other Chileans were seeking a new meaning for their lives by responding to the far more flexible and spontaneous religious appeals of hundreds of storefront churches. Surveys in Santiago indicated that Evangelicals made up close to 15 percent of the population, with far larger proportions in shantytowns (callampas or poblaciones) and other low-income neighborhoods. What is perhaps more significant is that active Evangelicals were as numerous as active Catholics.

<>The Media

Chile - Business

Chile's business community has long played an active role in the nation's politics. During the years of import-substitution industrialization, businesses developed close links with political leaders and state agencies, seeking subsidies, tariffs, and other forms of regulation that would protect them from the rigors of market competition domestically and internationally. Indeed, the expansion of the state, in particular its decentralized semiautonomous agencies, led to the creation of semicorporatist boards whose members included formal representatives of large business associations. As the parties of the right began to decline in importance, business leaders became increasingly "apolitical," preferring "independent" candidates such as Jorge Alessandri to those with strong party ties.

In the early 1990s, most businesses in Chile employed only a handful of workers, and business trade groups probably represented less than 20 percent of all business establishments in the country. Small businesses were represented by the Council of Small and Medium Enterprises (Consejo de la Pequeña y Mediana Industria-- CPMI), and large businesses were represented by the Chamber of Production and Commerce (Cámara de la Producción y Comercio--CPC). Small and medium-sized business groups were in turn divided into associations, such as the Truck Owners Association (Asociación Gremial de Dueños de Camiones) and the Federation of Retail Business of Chile (Confederación del Comercio Detallista de Chile). The most important of the associations affiliated with the CPC were the Industrial Development Association (Sociedad de Fomento Fabril- -Sofofa) and the National Agricultural Association (Sociedad Nacional de Agricultura--SNA), both of which had considerable political influence and clout.

During the Allende years, the associations of both small and large businesses played a critical role in combating the parties of the left and undermining the Allende government. Smallbusiness associations, particularly the truck owners, brought the country to a standstill, aggravating an already difficult economic and political situation. Large-business associations also worked hard to depose the Popular Unity government. Sofofa, in particular, played an important role by supporting a highly cohesive group of economists critical of the Allende government who prepared a document that served as the basis for the military regime's shift in economic policy. Because of their prominent role in bringing down the Allende government, business leaders assumed that they would have influence over economic policy and be able to reestablish a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the state. Much to the business leaders' surprise, the far-reaching structural adjustment policies pursued by the military government proved extraordinarily disruptive, contributing to the bankruptcy of hundreds of major firms.

Business leaders, already weakened by the reform and revolutionary policies of the previous two civilian presidents, were too dispirited to oppose the determined economic advisers of the military. Small business, which had the most to lose, made some gestures toward joining the growing opposition movement after the dramatic economic downturn of 1981, only to be kept in line by the regime's strategy of using tough measures when necessary and moderating its policies at key points just enough to retain private-sector allegiance.

Overall, the lack of strenuous resistance to the regime, particularly from medium-sized and large businesses, was attributed to memories of the traumatic Allende years. Entrepreneurs and business managers feared that any strong opposition on their part might weaken the military regime and create the possibility of a return to the leftist policies that they felt had practically destroyed the private sector in the past. A weak business community, in combination with the private sector's determination not to risk a return of the left, gave the military regime wide latitude to restructure the economy as it saw fit.

Because of the weakness of the parties of the right, business groups remained influential in right-wing politics after the return to democracy. In 1989 they were instrumental in imposing an "independent" candidate of the right to run for president and actively supported one of their own in the presidential race of 1993. Yet business associations were less influential in politics in the early 1990s than previously, largely because of the changes resulting from Chile's opening to world markets and, ironically, because of the decreased importance of the state in regulating and controlling business. Political leaders and government officials, however, solicited the views of business interests on labor and environmental questions because of their common desire to encourage continued expansion of the Chilean economy.

Chile - Labor

For many decades, Chile had one of the most extensive labor movements in the Western Hemisphere. Large increases in unionization through the 1960s occurred in response to efforts by the authorities to organize working-class groups. Intense competition between the Christian Democrats and the left added further to the extraordinary efforts to mobilize previously disenfranchised groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Under center-left administrations, Chile's workers obtained an array of workers' rights and established a collective bargaining system in which the state played a significant role as mediator. During the Popular Unity years, unions closely tied to the parties of the left played important roles in the management of enterprises taken over by the state. However, Chile's organized workers hardly constituted the revolutionary vanguard envisioned by some sectors of the far left. They were proud of their "conquests" and envisioned the policies of the Allende government as a continuation of favorable treatment for workers. Despite the size of Chile's labor movement, labor had little autonomy from party leadership. Most labor demands, outside of particular collective bargaining situations, responded to the strategies and calculations of party leaders both in and out of the government.

When the coup came, despite the rhetoric of the far left there was no independent working-class movement capable of resisting the imposition of military rule. With the arrest of labor and party leaders, any possibility of resistance vanished. The military regime was extremely harsh on organized labor because of its close ties to the parties of the left. The principal labor federation, the United Labor Federation (Central Única de Trabajadores), was disbanded and many of its leaders were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. The authorities adopted a new labor code, which prohibited labor federations, sharply restricted the right to strike, and gave significant latitude to employers in the hiring and firing of workers and in procedures for settling disputes.

Structural changes in the Chilean economy, particularly the collapse of large traditional industries that had depended on state subsidies and tariff protection, combined with the highest levels of urban unemployment in Latin America during the 1980s, also exacted a harsh toll on the labor movement. By the mid-1980s, the number of unionized workers was only one-third of its highest level, while the growing numbers of women in the labor force, particularly in commercial agriculture, remained nonunionized. By 1987 only about 10 percent of the total work force was unionized; approximately 20 percent of industrial labor belonged to unions. Only in select areas, such as copper mining, where 60 percent of the workers were unionized, was the union movement able to hold its own.

Despite organized labor's decline, when the military authorities attempted to develop an alternative labor movement with a "renewed" leadership to their liking, they failed. Even in government-mandated elections for new union leaders at the plant level, workers tended to select union members who were hostile to the government and had close ties to opposition parties. It was this "tolerated" labor movement, spearheaded by the Confederation of Copper Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre--CTC), that ignited the widespread protests and strikes of 1983 coordinated by the National Workers' Command (Comando Nacional de Trabajadores--CNT). Less militant was the centrist (pro-PDC) Workers' Democratic Federation (Central Democrática de Trabajadores--CDT). The government moved swiftly, however, to curb all labor activism through repressive measures and threats to fire workers, particularly in the copper mines. Party leaders soon replaced labor leaders as the principal organizers of the growing opposition to the military government.

In the early 1990s, the principal labor confederation in Chile was the Unitary Confederation of Labor (Confederación Única de Trabajadores--CUT), established in 1988 as the successor to the National Trade Union Coordinating Board (Coordinadora Nacional de Sindicatos--CNS), a grouping of industrial, professional, and mining unions led by leftist Christian Democrats and elements of the left. With the return of democracy, labor pressed for a more favorable labor code and for social policies that would improve poor people's standard of living. Although the Aylwin government was constrained in approving new labor legislation by the opposition majority in the Senate, some modifications were made to the labor code. The strong climate of opinion in the country in favor of free markets and minimal government restrictions on labor markets, a position embraced by the Aylwin government, has hemmed in labor's room for maneuvering.

The weakness of the labor movement reflected not only the low incidence of organized labor in Chile's new economic context but also the degree to which labor continued to be controlled by Chile's principal parties, parties that were able to exert substantial "labor discipline" during Aylwin's transitional government. There were indications, however, that this discipline may have been obtained at a cost. There appeared to be dissatisfaction among rank-and-file workers with the close relationship between union and party leaders and some bitterness about the low priority the government accorded their interests, despite government success in changing some of the labor laws.

Chile - The Media

Chile has a long tradition of an active press, closely tied to the country's competitive political parties. Prior to the 1973 coup, Santiago had ten daily newspapers spanning the ideological spectrum. These included, on the left, the Communist El Siglo, the Socialist Ultima Hora, and the far-left papers Puro Chile and Clarín. The Christian Democrats owned La Prensa. Newspapers identified with the center-right or far right included El Mercurio (founded in 1827), Las Ultimas Noticias (founded in 1902), La Segunda (founded in 1931), La Tercera de la Hora (founded in 1950), and La Tribuna.

The wide ideological range of Chile's major newspapers did not mean that circulation was evenly distributed. All of the newspapers supporting the Allende government had a combined circulation of less than 250,000, while, for instance, La Tercera de la Hora, a center-right paper, had a circulation of 200,000. By far the most important newspaper in Chile has been El Mercurio, with a Sunday circulation of 340,000 and wide influence in opinion circles. The El Mercurio Company, easily the most powerful newspaper group in Chile, also owns La Segunda, the sensationalist Las Ultimas Noticias, and regional papers. With its close ties to the Navy of Chile (Armada de Chile), El Mercurio played a critical role in mobilizing support against the Allende government, openly supporting the military coup.

After the coup, Chile's independent press disappeared. The papers of the left were closed immediately, and the centrist La Prensa stopped publishing a few months later. Newspapers that kept publishing strongly supported the military government and submitted to its guidelines on sensitive issues; they also developed a keen sense of when to censor themselves. The print media became even more concentrated in the hands of two groups: the Edwards family, owners of El Mercurio, with approximately 50 percent of all circulation nationwide, and the Picó Cañas family, owners of La Tercera de la Hora, with another 30 percent. Only toward the end of the military government did two opposition newspapers appear--La Época, founded in 1987 and run by Christian Democrats, and Fortín Mapocho, a publication run by groups on the left that became a daily newspaper in 1987. By 1990 Chile had approximately eighty newspapers, including thirtythree dailies.

During the years of military rule, opposition opinion was reflected in limited-circulation weekly magazines, the first being Mensaje, a Jesuit publication founded in 1951. Over time, magazines such as Hoy, a Christian Democratic weekly started in 1977; Análisis and Apsi, two leftist publications that began reaching a national audience in 1983; and the fortnightly Cauce, established in 1983, all circulated under the often realized threat of censorship, confiscation of their publications, and arrests of reporters and staff. In perhaps the worst case of government suppression, Cauce, Apsi, Análisis, and Fortín Mapocho were all shut down from October 1984 to May 1985. After the restoration of democracy, two conservative weekly magazines were founded that were opposed to the Aylwin government were the influential ¿Qué Pasa? (founded in 1971) and Ercilla (begun in 1936). By 1990 Chile had more than twenty major current affairs periodicals.

The return of civilian government did not lead to an explosion of new publications. Both Época and Fortín Mapocho, which had received some support from foreign sources, faced enormous financial challenges in competing with the established media. Fortín folded, and Época finally was sold to a business group, which retained the paper's standards of objective reporting. El Mercurio continued to dominate the print medium and remained the most influential newspaper in the country. The El Mercurio Company remained closely tied to business groups that had supported the military regime but made efforts, particularly through La Segunda, to present balanced and fair reporting. The only openly pro-CPD newspaper in Chile was the government-subsidized financial paper, La Nación, which reflected the views of the authorities.

Radio traditionally has been dominated by progovernment stations, the most notable exceptions being Radio Cooperativa, run by Christian Democrats, and Radio Chilena, run by the Roman Catholic Church. At first the size of the audience for these two stations did not approach the listenership levels of Minería, Portales, and Agricultura--stations identified with the business community. Radio Tierra, claiming to be the first all-women radio station in the Americas, had identified exclusively with women since its establishment in 1983.

Although the opposition had some print outlets, it had no access to television. Not until 1987, in the months leading up to the plebiscite, did opposition leaders gain limited access to television. The medium was strictly controlled by the authorities and by network managers: the University of Chile, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and the National Television Network of Chile--Channel 7 (Televisión Nacional de Chile--Canal 7).

Competitive politics transformed television news broadcasting, introducing numerous talk shows that focus on politics. Channel 7, the official station of the military government, was reorganized by the junta after Pinochet's defeat as a more autonomous entity presenting a broad range of views and striving for more impartial news presentation. The station with the widest audience in Chile in the early 1990s was the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile's Channel 13, offering a right-of-center editorial line. Other channels with a more regional focus included Channel 5 of Valparaíso, operated by the Catholic University of Valparaíso (Televisión Universidad Católica de Valparaíso--Canal 5); Channel 11, operated in Santiago by the University of Chile (Corporación de Televisión de la Universidad de Chile--Canal 11); and two commercial channels, Valparaíso's Channel 4 and Santiago's Red Televisiva Megavisión--Channel 9, owned by the Pinto Claude Group and directed by Ricardo Claro. In May 1993, the Luksic Group entered the private television market by acquiring a 75 percent share of Maxivisión (TV MAX), broadcast by microwave on UHF (ultrahigh frequency) in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago.

The National Council of Television (Consejo Nacional de Televisión) was charged with regulating the airwaves and setting broadcast standards. Its jurisdiction in matters of censorship was unclear in the wake of Supreme Court rulings challenging its decisions.


Since the early decades after independence, Chile has always had an active involvement in international affairs. In 1837 the country aggressively challenged the dominance of Peru's port of Callao for preeminence in the Pacific trade routes, defeating the short-lived alliance between Peru and Bolivia, the Peru-Bolivia Confederation (1836-39) in an international war. The war left Chile an important power in the Pacific. A second international war, the War of the Pacific (1879-83), further increased Chile's regional dominance and international prestige, while adding considerably to its territory. In the twentieth century, although Chile did not become involved in an international war, it continued to maintain one of the largest standing armies per population size in the region.

Because of the prestige of Chile's democratic institutions, Chile's diplomatic service is well respected, and Chile has influence far beyond the country's size or geostrategic importance. Over the years, Chile has played an active role in promoting multilateral institutions and supporting democratic and human rights principles. Because of its strong ideologically based multiparty system, Chileans have widespread contacts with counterpart parties in Europe and are present in the international federations of Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists. These contacts contribute to Chile's European orientation.

During the nineteenth century, Chile's commercial ties were primarily with Britain, a country that had a decisive influence on the organization of the navy. Culturally and intellectually, Chileans felt close to France. The French influenced Chile's legal and educational systems and had a decisive impact on Chilean culture, including the architecture of the capital in the boom years at the turn of the century. German influence came from substantial German immigration to southern Chile and the organization and training of the army by Prussians. Aside from important markets for Chilean wheat in California, the United States played a decidedly secondary role.

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Chile - Relations with the United States

Chile has never been particularly close to the United States. The distance between Washington and Santiago is greater than the distance between Washington and Moscow. In the twentieth century, Chile's giant copper mines were developed by United States economic interests, although Europe remained a larger market for Chilean products. Chile's democratic governments distanced themselves from European fascism during the world wars and embraced the cause of the Allies, despite internal pressures to support the Axis powers. Chile later joined with the United States in supporting collective measures for safeguarding hemispheric security from a Soviet threat and welcomed United States support in developing the Air Force of Chile. But the advent of the cold war and the official Chilean policy of support for the inter-American system exacerbated internal conflicts in Chile. The growing presence of the Marxist left meant a sharp increase in anti-American sentiment in Chilean public opinion, a sentiment that was fueled by opposition to the United States presence in Vietnam, the United States conflict with Cuba, and increased United States intervention in domestic Chilean politics.

During the 1960s, the United States identified Chile as a model country, one that would provide a different, democratic path to development, countering the popularity of Cuba in the developing world. To that end, the United States strongly supported the candidacy of Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1964 with overt and covert funds and subsequently supported his government in the implementation of urban and rural reforms. This support spawned considerable resentment against the United States in Chile's conservative upper class, as well as among the Marxist left.

The election of Allende was viewed in Washington as a significant setback to United States interests worldwide. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger was particularly concerned about the implications for European politics of the free election of a Marxist in Chile. Responding to these fears and a concern for growing Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere, the United States embarked on a covert campaign to prevent Allende from gaining office and to destabilize his government after his election was ratified. Although the United States did not have a direct hand in the overthrow of Allende, it welcomed the coup and provided assistance to the military regime.

The widespread violations of human rights in Chile, combined with a strong rejection of covert activities engaged in abroad by the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, galvanized United States congressional opposition to United States ties with Chile's military government. With the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, the United States took an openly hostile attitude toward the Chilean military government, publicly condemning human rights violations and pressing for the restoration of democracy. Particularly disturbing to the United States government was the complicity of the Chilean intelligence services in the assassination in Washington of Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and one of his associates, a United States citizen. That incident contributed to the isolation of the Pinochet government internationally and led to a sharp rift in relations between both countries. The Chilean military turned elsewhere for its procurement needs and encouraged the development of a domestic arms industry to replace United States equipment.

With the defeat of Jimmy Carter and the election of Ronald Reagan, the pendulum in the relations between both countries swung the other way. Reagan argued that anticommunist authoritarian regimes should not be antagonized for fear that they might be undermined, leading to the triumph of a Marxist left, as in Nicaragua. Chile would be pushed to respect human rights through "quiet diplomacy," while the United States government reestablished normal ties with the dictatorship.

The new policy did not last long. After the riots in Santiago in 1983, the United States began to worry that the Pinochet government was no longer a solution to a potential threat from the far left, but part of the problem. United States officials increasingly began to reflect the concerns of prominent conservatives in Chile, who believed that Pinochet's own personal ambitions could stand in the way of a successful transition back to civilian rule.

The shift in policy became far more apparent in Reagan's second term, when the Reagan administration, struggling to oppose the leftist government of Nicaragua, sought to show its consistency by criticizing the right-wing government of Chile. The United States made it clear that it did not see the Pinochet government's plebiscite as a satisfactory step toward democracy supported the option of open and competitive elections. Whereas in the early 1980s the United States government had embraced the military regime while refusing to take the democratic opposition seriously, by the end of the decade the United States was actively backing the opposition in its effort to obtain a fair electoral process so that it could attempt to defeat Pinochet at his own game. Pinochet's defeat was considered by Washington to be a vindication of its policies.

With the election of Patricio Aylwin in Chile, relations between the two countries improved greatly. The administration of George Bush welcomed Chile's commitment to free-market policies, while praising the new government's commitment to democracy. The United States also supported the Aylwin government's human rights policies and came to a resolution of the Letelier assassination by agreeing to a bilateral mediation mechanism and compensation of the victims' families.

A few issues have complicated United States-Chile relations, including the removal of Chilean fruit from United States supermarkets in 1991 by the Food and Drug Administration, after tainted grapes were allegedly discovered. The United States also objected to Chile's intellectual property legislation, particularly the copying of drug patents. However, these issues pale by comparison with the strong ties between the two countries and the admiration that United States officials have expressed for Chile's remarkable economic performance. As evidence of this "special" relationship, both the Bush and the Bill Clinton administrations have indicated United States willingness to sign a free-trade agreement with Chile in the aftermath of the successful negotiations with Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA). Although Chile has pressed strongly for the agreement as a way to ensure access to United States markets, the United States in 1991 was replaced by Japan as Chile's largest trading partner, with the United States accounting for less than 20 percent of Chile's world trade. Ironically, in the post-cold war era, anti-Americanism in Chile is more prevalent in military circles and among the traditional right, still bitter about United States support for democratic parties prior to the plebiscite and concerned that the United States has hegemonic presumptions over the region.

Chile - General Relations

With the military coup of 1973, Chile became isolated politically as a result of widespread human rights abuses. The return of democracy in 1990 opened Chile once again to the world. President Patricio Aylwin traveled extensively to Europe, North America, and Asia, reestablishing political and economic ties. Particularly significant was Chile's opening to Japan, which has become Chile's largest single trading partner.

In Latin America, Chile joined the Rio Group in 1990 and played an active role in strengthening the inter-American system's commitment to democracy as a cardinal value. However, Chile has shied away from regional economic integration schemes, such as the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercado Común del Cono Sur-- Mercosur), arguing that the country is better off opening its economy to the world, rather than building regional markets with neighboring countries. Where in the past Chile drew on the prestige of its democratic institutions to bolster its international standing, the extraordinary success of Chile's economic performance in the early 1990s has given Chile the status of a "model" country, with a global rather than regional focus.

Chile's relations with other Latin America countries have improved considerably with the return of legitimate governments in the region. However, serious border disputes still cloud relations with the country's three contiguous neighbors. Chile's victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific meant that Bolivia lost the province of Antofagasta and became landlocked, while Peru lost its southern province of Tarapacá. The quest to regain access to the sea became the major foreign policy objective for Bolivia and is still a source of tension with Chile. The two countries do not maintain full diplomatic relations. A treaty signed in 1929 resolved major boundary disputes with Peru that arose following the War of the Pacific, but many Peruvians do not accept the terms of the treaty. Tensions between the two countries reached dangerous levels in 1979, the centennial of the War of the Pacific.

Chile's most serious border conflict was with Argentina and concerned three islands named Picton, Lennox, and Nueva that are located south of the Beagle Channel. The two countries agreed to submit to arbitration by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. In May 1977, the queen ruled that the islands and all adjacent formations belonged to Chile. Argentina refused to accept the ruling, and relations between the two countries became extremely tense, moving to the brink of open warfare. In 1978 the two countries agreed to allow the pope to mediate the dispute through the good offices of Cardinal Antonio Samoré, his special envoy. The pope's ruling resulted in the ratification of a treaty to settle the dispute in Rome in May 1985. With the inauguration of democratic governments in both countries, relations improved significantly. In August 1991, presidents Aylwin and Carlos Saúl Menem signed a treaty that resolved twenty-two pending border disputes, while agreeing to resolve the two remaining ones by arbitration. Chile continues to claim a wedge-shape section of Antarctica, called the Chilean Antarctic Territory (Territorio Chileno Antártico), that is also claimed in part by Argentina and Britain.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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