Saturday, December 21, 2013


In both op-eds and news stories about the Chilean election, both in the U.S. and in Chile (though admittedly more in the former, I think) you see plenty of mention of both Pinochet and transition. I published a book chapter on the latter a few years ago, looking at how no one could even agree when the transition was supposed to be over, whatever that meant.

Augusto Pinochet has been dead almost exactly seven years, and has been out of office for almost 24. So how long does it continue? There are many countries with personalistic dictatorships and traumatic pasts, but after a certain point their politics are no longer defined by that leader.

Francisco Franco died in 1975, for example, and Spain suffered a coup attempt in 1981, but then moved steadily toward a stable democracy--how long before people stopped saying post-Franco? In the Dominican Republic they even went around renaming all the streets/places Trujillo had named after himself, and eventually was no longer "post-Trujillo."

In Chile, part of it is institutional. The country still has the constitution he commissioned, and the broad contours of an economy that he was finally convinced to champion. There are calls to change them but they're very sticky. Michelle Bachelet wants to change them but votes will not be easy to come by. Let's see if the 2017 presidential election is similarly framed by Pinochet and the dictatorship.


Otto 12:13 PM  

I'd tentatively suggest a connection between the absolute strength of the Caudillo in question and the pride in which their legacy is held as the major factors. Rightly or wrongly (which is for another day), in Chile there are many who still look to Pinochet as some sort of saviour (or the watered down version, a 'least worst' that made the country better in the long run).

A potential anomaly: I'd guess Argentina still has several decades' worth of Peron to work through. Now that's a true giant shadow.

Greg Weeks 10:23 AM  

yes, though I was thinking more about dictators. And it could be true about caudillos, but Franco was even more so. In Spain, though, I think European integration played a role that was absent in Latin America.

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