Books by Arturo Valenzuela

Released: Sept. 9, 1991

Constable and Valenzuela use quotes gathered through interviews with members of every sector of Chilean society to present a varied, if somewhat superficial, view of life under the 16-year dictatorship of General Pinochet. The authors stress that President Allende was elected with less than 50 percent of the popular vote and show how his accelerated course toward socialism eliminated powerful sectors of the nation, including the army, the business elite and a larger portion of the urban middle class. But the military dictatorship that followed similarly alienated a large part of the population after it became apparent that Pinochet planned to maintain his seat rather than return to a Democratic tradition. The authors recount how Pinochet's ``Chicago boys''—hard-core believers in the free market theories they learned at the University of Chicago—caused a bust and boom of the national economy. The boom had 14,000 citizens rushing to get their first credit cards, and the following bust saw small businesses fail and their owners and managers become taxi drivers who worked ``in tweed jackets and ties, invariably with a tale of dignity destroyed and dreams evaporated.'' Just as the dictatorship's first economic boom was based on credit and unsustainable growth, so too was Pinochet's social program based on appearances rather than on improved life for the poor. While infant mortality—an internationally recognized measure of prosperity—fell dramatically, the gains were made at the expense of health-care access for the elderly and indigent. In the end, however, the authors argue that the lessons learned from the brief presidency of Allende and the 16 years of Pinochet taught Chileans ``a new appreciation for the values of moderation and compromise.'' While many of the statements of the average Chilean Joe help to present a picture of life under the dictatorship, one wonders whether some of the comments, especially those made by Pinochet's collaborators, can be taken at face value. Read full book review >