Friday, June 11, 2010

Piñera and the military

Interesting article in El Mostrador about how retired military officers are angry at Sebastián Piñera because he has shown no signs of pushing for an end to arrests and trials related to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.  They are publicly calling for the Bicentennial later this year to be the appropriate time.  Piñera had indicated in rather vague terms during the campaign that he supported such an idea, and now the officers talk in terms of him being a "traitor."  This is further stoked by the firing of Miguel Otero, now former Ambassador to Argentina, who praised Pinochet and said most people didn't suffer during the dictatorship.

Over time, the military has gone from saying the transition was over in 1990 to saying that the transition will not be over until the trials stop.  They figured Piñera, despite his long-standing distance from the dictatorship, would finally be the one to do it.  But he has strong incentives not to, as there is little to gain and much to lose politically because of the controversy it would spark.  He would find it much harder (at least in the short term) to work with the Concertación.

Nonetheless, he will be pressured, from within his own party and coalition, from the military, and apparently even from the Catholic Church, which has been meeting with the retired officer organizations.  Although the military has not been in power for a long time, and is much less politicized than it used to be, we should not underestimate its influence.


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