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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 21 / 46





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Chile                                    457

rupt because they could no longer turn over their debt at cheap interest rates. Unemployment soared to 33 percent. The middle classes lost their savings.

This economic crisis shook Pinochefs regime to the core. His support for the Chicago Boys and their unflagging adherence to orthodox deflationary policies in a depressed economy aroused a powerful opposition movement. As discontent mounted, the union movement began to mobilize protests. The first mass mobilization, held in May 1983, was successful beyond the wildest dreams of its organizers. Opposition political parties quickly took over the protest movement, and mass demonstrations against Pinochet^s rule were held on an almost monthly basis until 1986. Two blocs quickly vied for control of this movement: the Christian Democratic-led Democratic Al­liance and the Communist-led Popular Democratic Movement.

The military government, however, managed to defuse the political op­position. It played for time by engaging the Democratic Alliance in negoti­ations for a transition from authoritarian rule. The Democratic Alliance wanted to substantially amend the 1980 constitution to remove the tutelary powers of the military and overrepresentation of conservatives. Pinochet temporized, fighting for time to blunt the political impact of mass mobi­lization. He accomplished this by retaining the loyalty of the armed forces, the private sector, and much of the middle class. He divided the opposition by insisting that, as a condition for negotiation, the Democratic Alliance re­main steadfast in its rejection of the Popular Democratic Movement. The restoration of vigorous economic growth as of 1984 further dulled the power of the opposition. After a failed attempt on Pinochet's life in 1986, mass mo­bilization ended. As the opposition movement spent its force, it missed an opportunity to change the conditions of the transition and the political sys­tem that was to replace military rule. Thus, the transition followed the timetable and institutional structure set by the junta.

Despite these setbacks, the opposition to Pinochet did not come away com­pletely empty-handed. It struggled successfully for free and fair elections for the 1988 plebiscite, a significant accomplishment as it turned out. More­over, the Democratic Alliance emerged as the more important of the two op­position movements, and its member parties learned how to work together more efficiently. This political force, now calling itself the Coalition of Par­ties for the No (the "no" vote was a ballot against Pinochet), soundly de­feated him in the plebiscite (54.7 to 43 percent). The military, agreeing to abide by the terms of the 1980 constitution, accepted defeat and set presi­dential and congressional elections for December 1989.

The resurrection of political parties in the mid-1980s also extended to the center-Right, which, being in full agreement with the military government, had disbanded their political organizations. The more traditional conserva­tives of the old National party formed National Renovation, while libertar­ians (free-marketeers connected to the military government) established the Independent Democratic Union. Military hard-liners formed the fleeting Na­tional Vanguard (Avanzada Nacional).

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