Chile: the ways in which the country’s transition to democracy and experiences thereafter demonstrate the usefulness of the theories of democracy, democratization and other factors.
Since the Independence Wars in the 19th century, Latin American countries had debated between long dictatorships and democratic process. There were manytrials to obtain democratic stability, however most of those trials ended by the power of the arms of the “caudillos”. Chile had during great part of the XIX and XX centuries a high grade of stable democracies, characterized of being one of oldest in Latin America. At the beginning of the 70’s, the democratic government got into a crisis, mainly due to the high grade of polarization andinflexibility from the various actors in play in keeping up the configuration of previous alliances. With the military coup and support from the United States in 1973, the authoritarian regime of Augusto Pinochet, placed at the top of its agenda to overcome “the mistakes” from the previous political regime that eventually will turn into a restricted democracy with different foundations from the last one. Thisproject could not be sustained for long as less dictators remain in power and democratic governments were appearing in the new Latin American political map. Now the United States policies changed to support and approve more democratic governments mainly because the Cold War ended.
Pinochet was under pressure to negotiate the transition ironically with the same political parties he tried toeliminate. After he declared himself President in 1974, he called for a new Constitution in 1980 that will give him the mechanism to consolidate himself as President with a plebiscite scheduled for 1988 in order to legitimize his presidency or keeping him in power for life. During his government he imposed economic policies bringing the “Chicago Boys” and applying Milton Friedman’s “Free marketEconomy Theory”, returned to free markets, cut tariffs, a full privatization program was placed in effect (except cooper); taking total control of workers and keeping close ties with multinationals and lending agencies.
In 1989 after he lost in the plebiscite, a new democratic president was elected from an alliance of left and center parties “concertacion”. Patricio Aylwin obtained the majority of thevotes and was elected the first democratic president after sixteen years of a dictatorship. This first democratic government on the post dictatorial period was focused on winning the resistance and authoritarian inertia that were still remaining in the country and to establish a new democratic regime.
In the process of re-democratization that the new government was looking for the country, itwas not a return to old institutions and pre-dictatorial political practices, or a complete new democracy. The new transformations within the international concert, the changes introduced and imposed during Pinochet’s long government were a legacy to the new governments that will come. These were important factors that the new main political players could not ignore. With this legacy, like it ornot, the actual Chilean democracy was build.
This essay will show how Chile and the process of Democratization is a success mainly due to a hard but strict and accurate application of Politics of Agreement, outstanding fiscal discipline, the use of neo-liberalism with a human face; all these elements had turned Chile into an era of impressive economic growth, in which not only inflation,unemployment and poverty were significant reduced but also Chileans learn how to live in democracy again and elect a right-left socialist female president. In other words, in some cases the experience has been consisted with the theory but also was influenced by the structural changes in the international economy, the public opinion for increasing support for democratic institutions and world political...