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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 41 / 46

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476                           Politics of Latin America

dence in the nation's ability to overcome the conflicts of yesteryear. The Pinochet affair was very salutory for Chile. On the human rights front, his absence precipitated renewed calls for truth (full disclosure of where bod­ies were buried and who killed them) and justice (trials for some of the perpetrators). Once Pinochet was back in Chile, the Lagos administration established a negotiating committee (mesa de dialogo) that included repre­sentatives from the military. Initial agreements centered on the issue of dis­closure. Persons with knowledge of where bodies were buried were not re­quired to reveal who had committed the killings. Human rights organizations saw this as an attempt to protect the perpetrators from pros­ecution. However, there was nothing they could do to oppose the agree­ment, which became the basis for a bill that sailed through the legislative process. The matter of prosecutions, including that of Pinochet, would be addressed in due course. Meanwhile, the military has begun to make pub­lic startling, painful, and highly embarrassing accounts of what happened to many of the disappeared.

Some progress was also made on the constitutional reform front. The Lagos administration reiterated the Concertacion's commitment to abolish all of the antidemocratic institutions and to bring the military firmly back under civilian control. This was an improvement over the Frei administra­tion's foot-dragging. Moreover, in a significant turnaround, the center-Right Alliance for Chile agreed to one major change: to abrogate the designated senators, including those who held the office by virtue of having been Pres­ident of the Republic. The concession was based on the pragmatic realiza­tion that eventually most of those seats would be held by supporters of the Concertacion (two presidents so far, a third one in six years, and the right to either appoint more directly or to influence the composition of the insti­tutions from which they are drawn). In May 2000, the legislature amended the constitution, abolishing the right of former presidents to become sena­tors for life. Unfortunately, this change of heart did not mean the right wing felt comfortable leaving socio-economic policy up for democratic debate. The Alliance for Chile sought to protect the socio-economic system by propos­ing a clause that gave key socio-economic policy (that related particularly to property) constitutional protection, and at the same time significantly raised the number of congressional votes necessary to approve changes on those matters.

In its first year in office the Lagos administration has presided over a re­sumption of economic growth after the steep recession of 1999, albeit at a slower pace than had been the norm in the 1990s. Stimulated by interest rate cuts and a partial lifting of controls on the capital account for international firms, gross domestic product expanded by about 5 percent in 2000 and was estimated at slightly higher for 2001. Employment lagged behind growth figures but finally responded, falling from a high of approximately 11 per­cent in 2000 to 8.5 percent in the first quarter of 2001. True to the pragma­tism of "Third Way" renovated socialism, the Lagos government has kept the privatization of utilities on track.

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