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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 30 / 46





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466                         Politics of Latin America

These included such disasters as the heterodox stabilization plans of Ar­gentina, Brazil, and Peru in the mid-1980s, as well as the collapse of the So­viet Union in the early 1990s, and the end of Communism. Moreover, the world economy had expanded dramatically and was more tightly integrated through commodity chains, trade, and the explosive growth of international finance. These conditions made it difficult for nations (and especially de­veloping nations with heavy foreign debt loads) to pursue economic mod­els based on state-led developmentalist planning and economic nationalism. On the domestic front, electoral laws encouraged coalition-building among political parties, which blunted more extreme ideological posturing in the center-Left. Moreover, during the transition from authoritarianism, the Con­certacion had promised the military government it would not substantively alter the free-market socio-economic system. This became a fundamental point of trust between the forces of the opposition to the dictatorship and the right wing, a trust which was not broken through 1999. The very suc­cess of that model in generating sustained economic growth meant that no government could run the electoral risk of ruining such stellar performance. By the same token, the authoritarian enclaves of the 1980 constitution rein­forced moderation in socio-economic policy. The veto powers of the Senate obliged the Concertacion to obtain the support of some conservative politi­cal party members to get its legislation passed. Conservative forces exacted a heavy toll for that support.

Given all three of these domestic conditions, the politics of consensus-building dominated policy making in Chile throughout the 1990s. In Chile's strongly presidentialist system, the executive initiated most legislation. But the policy-making process involved extensive negotiation with the socio-economic and political forces directly affected. The result was generally a compromise bill in which the core interests of the center-Right were strongly protected, or else the bill died (as occurred with some environmental policy related to forests). During such negotiations. National Renovation was the party most amenable to negotiation and compromise with the Concertacion. In any event, its leaders seemed to be more pragmatic and flexible than those of the Independent Democratic Union. Business organizations and labor unions also participated in the policy formulation process. Generally, busi­ness interests received a much more favorable hearing than did labor and other groups.

Despite these constraints, the two Concertacion governments (1990-1999) were mildly reformist, which differentiated them strongly from the military dictatorship or a government of the center-Right. They addressed many is­sues that required urgent attention because they were ignored by the pre­vious regime. Human rights and poverty were high on the list. New social issues, such as the rights of women and ethnic minorities and environmen­tal degradation, were also taken into account. A third term for the Con­certacion, under the administration of Ricardo Lagos, continued in the same vein and renewed efforts for constitutional reform.

Human rights were a pressing matter, given the state terror the military unleashed, especially between 1973 and 1977. The issue divided the Chilean

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