Former Chilean president Lagos lucidly recounts the extraordinary efforts to end the Pinochet dictatorship and lead the country to truth and reckoning.
The author was a protégé and colleague of Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile who was just three years into his term when a CIA-backed coup led by Pinochet precipitated Allende’s suicide during the storming of the presidential palace in 1973. Lagos was brought up in middle-class Santiago by his pianist and teacher mother; he was educated in left-wing politics and economics in the mid-’50s, and he received his doctorate at Duke University and became an academic. The work during Allende’s administration to render Chile a more just, equal society was shattered by the Pinochet dictatorship, which favored the neoliberal economics theory of the “Chicago Boys,” who advocated open markets and deregulation. Pinochet used economics as his ideological weapon, privatizing, deregulating, arresting labor activists, opening markets and inviting in private investors, thereby creating huge profits for the dictator and his cronies. After the initial economic success (used as a model by Margaret Thatcher and others), the exacerbation of the inequity between rich and poor and the ongoing repression of all opposition began to corrode Chilean society. As a result, Lagos and other idealists attempted to restructure the country’s socialist thought. By the mid-’80s, the Democratic Alliance became the first real challenge to Pinochet and was able to crack the prevailing fear and win the plebiscite in 1988, forcing Pinochet to step down. Because of the truth commissions advocated by Lagos and others, the enormity of Pinochet’s crimes were revealed.
A deeply affecting eyewitness account of a despicable period in Chilean history.