Chile in Transition: From Pinochet to Democracy

Essay by fenisnadCollege, UndergraduateB-, March 2007

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Before diving into this paper, it is helpful to set up basic definitions of the concepts within; mainly, those of democracy and authoritarianism.

The definition of democracy we will use is necessarily vague. Democracy is a system of governance in which political competition exists and is protected within the system of governance and is open to participation from all people; in which there are protections built into the system for dissent and political minorities; in which the law is considered universally applicable, and the use of physical force is not a common political tool. Since this definition is only the ideal and not the practical or "real", democracy can only be measured relative to the expectations of those who define democracy. Woodrow Wilson's pledge to "Make the world safe for democracy" in 1917 brings to light the importance of the definer in the evaluation of democracy. Ironically, World War One helped change the definition of democracy to include true universal suffrage in both the US and the Britain.

An "authoritarian regime" is one in which the vast majority of government activity is centered on maintaining or increasing the power of the governing group, person or party, and competition is not protected by any government institutions.

From 1973 to 1988, Chile was controlled by the authoritarian government of General Augusto Pinochet. The move towards democracy began in the early 1980's, when the right-wing politicians, prompted by economic and political crisis, began to reemerge after being marginalized by the military regime. During these times and the years that followed, right-wing political parties became fragmented, weakening Pinochet. Meanwhile, the government continued to implement the transition timetable outlined in the 1980 Constitution (Passed by plebiscite). When, in 1988, Pinochet's government called for a plebiscite on his continued rule, the General lost, and a...