454 Politics of Latin America
power to help set that stage. The United States contributed to economic destabilization—making the economy scream—by denying loans to Chile from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Export-Import Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank. Its intelligence services helped organize Chilean Rightists and financed the survival of crucial conservative news media (El Mercurio) as well as key events, such as the trucker's strike. Yet despite high levels of confrontation, the ferocity of the military's coup against Allende on September 11, 1973, took everyone by surprise. It was a well-orchestrated combat operation against a revolution that was mostly rhetoric with respect to its capacity for armed resistance. In the terror that followed, thousands lost their lives, thousands more were arrested and tortured, and tens of thousands went into forced or voluntary exile. Chile's largest sports venue, the National Stadium, became a symbol of that terror. That was where famed folk singer Victor Jara was brutally murdered along with U.S. citizen Charles Horman. General Sergio Arellano Stark's whirlwind helicopter tour through several northern cities— the "Caravan of Death"—became another icon of terror. His committee left a wake of dead to place both moderates in the military and the Chilean people on notice that this military government was committed to zealous repression.
The Popular Front, the Christian Democratic government, and Popular Unity were reformist political moments in a secular trend that, however modestly at times, progressively chipped away at the privileges of the well-born and powerful and increased the well-being of middle and laboring classes. Land reform, economic nationalism, and labor rights were at the center of the struggle. That trend came to a head in the sharp political polarization and escalating class conflict of Allende's government. The military government that replaced democracy in September 1973 reversed the trend. It restored the privileges and prerogatives of the propertied classes, albeit not those of the traditional upper-class groups.
The Chilean armed forces had intervened in politics to resolve a deep societal crisis, which they attributed to the failings of a developmental model that fed class conflict. Therefore, during its first year of rule the military junta searched for a development model altogether different from Chile's past. The junta found it in neoconservative free-market economics. This economic ideology offered a vision of the economy, society, and the state capable of eradicating state-led development and Marxism. The military had largely achieved its goal when it handed the reins of power over to civilians in 1990. Since the second half of the 1980s, Chile has enjoyed a healthy, growing market economy and political stability in a political system in which traditional Leftists have little place.
The military inherited a chaotic economy. Extravagant fiscal deficits fed hyperinflation, expropriation had left much of industry and commerce par-