Monday, July 16, 2007

Chilean exiles

I had mentioned taking a look at academic papers—my second choice also happens to be on Chile (but no, I won’t always focus on Chile). Unfortunately, for journal articles I am not sure how to get around the problem of linking to the full text. It might just be impossible unless the authors have posted a version, which does not seem to be the case here.

Chilean Political Exile
Thomas C. Wright & Rody Oñate Zúñiga
Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 34, No. 4, 31-49 (2007)

Abstract: Forced exile was important to Chilean politics both during the military regime and after the dictatorship's end in 1990. Exile was central to Pinochet's strategy for eliminating the left in Chile and consolidating and retaining absolute political power. At the same time, exile kept the opposition alive when the left was decimated in Chile, as exiles reconstituted their parties abroad and fought the dictatorship from the "external front." Exiles' return in the mid-1980s contributed to the success of the opposition effort to defeat Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite. Finally, the exile experience was central to the reconfiguration of Chilean politics, particularly the "renovation" of the Socialists, which led to the breakup of the long-standing Socialist-Communist alliance and the formation of the Socialist—Christian Democrat alliance, the core of the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia, which has elected presidents and majorities in the Chamber of Deputies in each election since 1989.

I was struck by this article because I think the issue of exile is understudied (it is part of a special issue on the topic). The authors’ analysis—especially with regard to the “renovation” of Socialists--goes along with what I’ve heard over the years as I’ve interviewed Chilean politicians. Many Socialists fled or were forced out, then went to live in places like East Germany. That experience then convinced them that such a system was not really what they wanted. An important addition to this fact is that the experience—much more so than for the Christian Democrats—prompted Socialists to seek better ties with the military after 1990.

One issue the article does not mention is the current debate over whether to allow Chileans abroad to vote in presidential elections. There is a perception (which may or may not be accurate) that Chileans abroad are more likely to be exiles or family members of exiles, so they would be more likely to vote for the left. As a result, the right does not want the voting law to change.

It would be interesting to generate some hypotheses—to what degree can we generalize about the political effects of exile? Empirically, it would difficult because I’m not sure any numbers are available, since no one “registers” as an exile.


Boli-Nica 11:38 AM  

We knew a lot of exiles from South American regimes - some from development/international organizations, others just random family friends.

The level of terror in Argentina and Chile got to the point where college students/recent graduates, people in certain professions, were being targeted, and many left the country. Some of these folks might have vague leftist sympathies, maybe even attended a rally or two, but were hardly "hardcore" militants.

As far as Allende key people -while some went to E. Germany, others were put up by Western European governments, and the Socialist International.

Would not underestimate the impact of the Socialist International, in particular of Felipe Gonzalez - he of the "small muscular state" , in this whole process. He sponsored exiles from all over South America in Spain.

Lastly, many of the technocrats, had plenty of time to get into heated exchanges about development with other South American exiles and expats. Seen more than a few of those at my dinner table.

Greg Weeks 1:10 PM  

I'd say your experiences reflect the problem of relying on anecdotal accounts--I'm not sure how to come up with hard data.

Another issue with exiles is timing, e.g. comparing a 1970s to a 1980s exile.

As I said, it is understudied.

Boli-Nica 3:58 PM  

You could break down the first wave of post-coup exiles exiles by category through their connection with the Allende coalition: i) Very top, upper end of the parties' hierarchy/high government officials ii) government officials/mid level militants/union leader, iii) grass roots party members/trade unionists/student activists iv) loosely-affiliated persons who might have sympathized - union members, students,

Then you could do a break down by years in which they left of the next groups. Seen surveys done of Cuban exiles where they are broken down by date of arrival.

Problems with getting representative samplings of Chilean exiled during Pinochet, is the different countries they left to and people still in destination countries.

Greg Weeks 10:10 AM  

Yes, we could easily come up with categories, but counting is the problem.

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