Introduction: Latin America’s lack in growth and Chile’s situation
For a long time, Latin America stagnated in economic growth. Especially in the 1980s, most countries were totalitarian dictatorships, where the economies lacked in openness and liberalisation. Most of the companies were state-owned and international business was impossible due to high restrictions. The residents were suppressed in their human rights by military forces, suffered from high poverty rates and bad living conditions whereas the leaders continued enriching themselves (partly compared to Hill, p.23).
In Chile, when Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Augusto Pinochet took over power by his coup d’état in 1973, a lot of people were tortured and killed by the fascist regime until the end of the dictatorship in 1990. Society was split in two halves: On the one hand the tortured opposition, on the other hand the torturers loyally serving the government. This caused a worldwide discussion on human rights and the necessity of an adequate punishment for the ex-dictator.
As a consequence, it is important to analyse closely the circumstances that led to the brutal coup, the period of the dictatorship itself, the consequences for the society, the influence on literature and media as well as the discussion on Pinochet’s conviction in order to fully understand the situation of the Chilean citizens today.
Background knowledge: Reasons for a coup d’état
The circumstances that led to the takeover can be categorised into three main sections: First, there are often political reasons that cause a violent government change. Political instability is generally one of the main reasons: If the residents do not feel comfortable with the decisions a government is making, they will protest against the situation either verbally or violently depending on the seriousness of the ruling. In case of Chile, there have been several additional problems of political character. One example is the U.S. government who decided to prohibit trade with the communist Chile under Salvador Allende which made it difficult for the country to have sufficient goods for its inhabitants.
Second, there are economic reasons, such as inflation, poverty, unemployment or, as already mentioned, trade barriers and restrictions. All these phenomena affect the living conditions of the society in a negative way. As a result of the import restrictions, black markets were created in Chile Chile: Pinochet's dictatorship and the consequences for the Chilean society and citizens could receive at least a few scarce goods. However, prices were very high and the unstable currency as well as the enormous poverty hindered trade.
Third, there are social problems, for example disbelief or uncertainty concerning the actual conditions or the feeling of hopelessness and desperation ending up in unrest, strikes and demonstrations. Different political ideologies, as in Chile with the communist Allende and the fascist Pinochet, describe a critical country where revolutions may occur (see Hill, p.77 f.).
As a conclusion, all the reasons are more or less applicable on every coup or political change in history: the hyperinflation and the high unemployment rate were reasons for Hitler’s takeover in Germany like the high poverty and the lack of necessities of life led to the run on the Bastille, the beginning of the French revolution. As seen above, the transitions in the three different groups are often fluent so that e.g. economic problems cause social problems or political and economic problems are intertwined. The sum of all problems finally caused the coup d’état in Chile.
Pinochet takes over power: Coup d’état and Installation of DINA
It was September 11th in 1973, when the president’s palace was bombed and the streets were blocked by Pinochet’s armed forces. Salvador Allende was found dead, the reason was either murder or suicide, a case that has not been solved clearly. Afterwards, the USA, with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, stated that "We didn't do it" [referring to the coup itself]. I mean we helped them….created the conditions as great as possible" (www1) because they wanted to eliminate Allende’s Marxist regime. Pinochet was able to enlarge his power within the military junta and was finally elected president on December 18th in 1974. Experts believe that the majority of the victims died in connection to the coup.
Immediately after it, Pinochet installed the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), an organisation with the incentive to observe the population and to let the residents “disappear” who were loyal to the former government. Those were violated, tortured, raped or murdered and most of the crimes have not been resolved by today. Pinochet tried to create a catholic corporate state like Franco did in Spain and managed to succeed by systematically disabling the opposition (translated from www2).