January 17, 2010


Chile's Turning Point (Katherine Hite & Peter Kornbluh, January 17, 2010, The Nation)

A Pinera victory will mark a major turning point in the post-Pinochet transition, and perhaps a return to power of some of the hardcore rightists who collaborated with the military regime. (Pinera's brother served as Pinochet's Minister of Labor.) For twenty years the Chilean center-left political elite has governed in a stable if cautious approach to Chile's economic and political evolution; the coalition is now paying the price for failing to build and mobilize a mass base. The historically strong political parties that make up the twenty-year governing ConcertaciĆ³n alliance have failed to excite or incorporate young people. (Current legislation requires all registered voters to cast ballots, but it is not obligatory to register to vote. Of a total of 12 million potential voters, close to four million, or 31 percent, are unregistered. A law is pending that would make registration automatic and the vote voluntary.)

The museum reflects a similar political dynamic. Bachelet's administration initiated the project with little participation of the human rights constituencies who might have played a role. Still, the existence of the museum is the culmination of a persistent struggle by human rights groups for a major public recognition, in a major public space, of the state terror that took place under Pinochet. Over the past decade, organizations of victims and their families have led successful efforts to establish a range of memorials, which now dot the country. Until now the administration resisted representing the past in any way that would be interpreted by the Chilean right, particularly, as "taking sides."

Indeed, the right has attacked the project for focusing exclusively on the state terrorism of the Pinochet era, and excluding a "context" for the coup.

Chile billionaire wins presidency, ousts left (Reuters, 1/17/10)
Conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera won Chile's presidential election on Sunday, ending two decades of center-left rule in Latin America's most stable economy and the world's top copper producer.

The series of democratic elections and transitions from center-right to center-left to center-right in an economically developing country is Pinochet's only significant legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 17, 2010 5:59 PM
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