From Allende to Pinochet until today
Salvador Allende (1970-1973)
In 1970, Salvador Allende, the candidate of the left-wing electoral alliance Unidad Popular, was elected president. He himself was a member of the Socialist Party. Poverty and unemployment were high in Chile at the time. The land was also still in the hands of the large landowners.
Allende implemented reforms: wages were increased, rents were frozen, schooling became free, and every child received free milk every day. Industries were nationalized or placed under state control, foreign companies were expropriated. The state economic control led to a crisis. Unemployment rose sharply. In just under three years, inflation rose to over 700 percent.
The USA had already supported the conservative candidate financially during the election campaign. After Cuba, the second country in Latin America was ruled in a socialist way. The USA wanted to prevent further left regimes and its secret service was also active in Chile. General René Schneider was murdered as early as 1970 because he did not want to support a military coup against Allende. To get more information on Chile and South America, check getzipcodes.
The USA no longer bought copper from Chile (purchase boycott), so no more money came into the country from there either. Inflation rose rapidly. The US also influenced Chilean newspapers, which influenced the people again. There were strikes, street battles and terrorist attacks.
The 1973 parliamentary elections did not bring the Unidad Popular enough votes. An attempted coup in June 1973 was prevented. Augusto Pinochet became the new commander in chief of the army. It was he who himself led a bloody military coup on September 11, 1973. The presidential palace was bombed and stormed. Allende committed suicide.
Military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990)
Pinochet repealed the constitution, banned all parties and censored the media. Political opponents were arrested, tortured and disappeared in secret prisons. They became Desaparecidos. Around one million Chileans fled abroad during the military dictatorship. Even as far as there some were persecuted and murdered.
Allende’s decisions in the economy were reversed: State companies were privatized again, tariffs lowered. Social benefits and spending on education have been cut sharply. The economy recovered. The inflation fell. However, poverty and the unequal distribution of income rose sharply again.
From 1982, however, the economy collapsed again due to the global crisis and there were massive protests by the population. The oppression increased again. After the political opponents were largely eliminated and the economy grew again from 1984, the dictatorship slowly showed signs of greater freedom. Political parties were re-allowed. The democratization was initiated from the 1988th A referendum called for the admission of further presidential candidates besides Pinochet. In 1989 the first free elections took place. Pinochet resigned.
Chile’s transition to democracy
Patricio Aylwin became the first president of democratic Chile in 1990. Influences of the old regime remained, however. The military remained in a position of power and an amnesty law protected the perpetrators of human rights violations between 1973 and 1978. Pinochet had also taken care of his own financial well-being. The process of coming to terms with human rights violations began only slowly. The economy grew and social programs alleviated poverty.
Only in 1998 did Pinochet resign from the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army. When he went to London, he was arrested there. Several countries applied for extradition because their citizens were among the victims of the military dictatorship, and Chile also wanted the trial in their own country. In 2000 he was actually allowed to return to Chile. He was declared incapable of standing and died in 2006. So there was never a verdict against Pinochet.
Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006)
After the Christian Democratic presidents Aylwin and Frei, the socialist Ricardo Lagos was elected president in 2000. In 2005 there was a constitutional reform that removed the military’s prerogatives.
Since 2006: Michelle Bachelet and Sebastián Piñera
In 2006 Michelle Bachelet was elected president, she too belongs to the Socialist Party. In 2010 she was not allowed to run again directly. The elections were won by Sebastián Piñera, candidate for the right-wing liberal Renovación Nacional party.
In 2011 there were protests by school and university students who called for educational reform. The police acted harshly on the demonstrators and were late for talks. Piñera’s reputation among the people fell as a result of this behavior.
In March 2014, Michelle Bachelet took over the presidency again as his successor. In March 2018, Sebastián Piñera took over the office again.
Protests against inequality 2019
A series of protests broke out in Chile in October 2019. They were directed against social inequality in the country. They were triggered when prices were increased, for example electricity prices. Piñera declared a state of emergency. Several people died, many were injured, and many more were arrested. The government eventually gave in and reversed some changes. Nevertheless, the protests continued in 2020.