Term Paper: Chile

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[. . .] However, the United States grants Chile leeway and flexibility in its policies, perhaps more than it gives other South American countries.

American support of the Pinochet military regime dwindled when President Carter was elected in 1976. Hostile to the regime because of its blatant human rights abuses, the Carter administration initiated a turnaround in American policy toward Chile. However, Reagan reestablished ties with Pinochet, continuing the cold war legacy. Grassroots efforts to oust Pinochet within Chile were summarily ignored by the United States, but were finally successful in 1980. The legitimate election of Patricio Aylwin was cause for improved diplomatic relations with the United States under President George Bush, Sr.


The three main sectors of the Chilean economy are copper mining, fishing, and forestry. Chile became a player in the global market economy under Pinochet's rule, for the dictator supported foreign investment at any cost (hence American support for his regime). Chile became the first developing nation to borrow from the World Bank in 1948, and currently holds a commitment of $3.68 billion (69 credits) to the World Bank. Chile's total foreign debt is around $30 billion. Although Chile is one of the wealthier Latin American nations, the country's economic growth has not favored fair income distribution. Disparity between the richest quintile and the poorest is among the world's highest. Since the 1990's, labor relations in Chile have improved, thanks to a series of formal agreements between business sectors, the labor movement, and the federal government. Minimum wages have increased dramatically since the Pinochet years, as have access to improved training and negotiation mechanisms, like the right to strike. Gender discrimination is prohibited by law, and there is a policy of equal pay for equal work. About 18% of the workforce is unionized. Poverty levels remain unduly high for a relatively prosperous economy, thanks to Pinochet's legacy of favoring big business over social services.

Human Rights

On September 11, 1973, democratically elected President Salvador Allende was killed in a military coup. Led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the coup was supported by the U.S. CIA, which feared Allende's Marxist philosophical stance. For the next seventeen years, the people of Chile would be subjected to rabid human rights abuses, including murders, forced exiles, and tortures. Pinochet's regime ranks as one of the world's most nefarious in modern history; an estimated 10% of the Chilean population were affected directly by Pinochet's tactics. Between 1973 and 1975 alone, an estimated 42,486 people were detained for political reasons, and according to the Rettig Report, 3,197 people died or went missing between 1973 and 1990. These are conservative numbers, as many of the military tactics used were stealthy and subversive. Forced disappearances, job dismissals, surveillance, "stray" bullets, abductions, and all other forms of state terrorism were used to squelch political opposition to the Pinochet government.

Anyone or any organization opposed or accused of opposing Pinochet were targets: members of leftist political parties, union leaders, leaders of the agrarian reform movements, intellectuals, human rights activists, and the families and friends of the above. It is possible that the U.S. FBI may have assisted in the tracking of Chilean leftists in the 1970s, as the United States preferred a brutal dictator to any trace of Marxism. During the 1980s, national civilian protests grew in strength and finally, a free election saw Patricio Aylwin Azocar replace Pinochet as head of state.


The Pinochet government, to attract foreign money, decimated forests and depleted water and mining reserves. Native forests were and still are being replaced by non-indigenous or unsustainable pine and eucalyptus. Soil loss, environmental contamination from chemicals used in agriculture and mining, and smog due to automobile and factory exhaust plague Chile. As soon as he was elected, Aylwin made improving the Chilean environment a top priority, and since 1990 some improvements have been made due to changes in political decision making. However, Santiago, a city resting in a natural basin and surrounded by high mountains, suffers from air pollution that exceeds WHO standards.


Never a leaf moves in Chile without my knowing of it." General Pinochet secured control of the nation of Chile for a decade and a half, during which thousands of people were killed, imprisoned, exiled, or tortured. This scar of Chilean history must not mar the beauty of its indigenous cultures or the richness of its natural splendor. The thin sliver of South America that is the Republic of Chile has survived centuries of trauma both at the hands of Spanish conquistadors and military dictatorships supported by the United States. Finally,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Chile."  Essaytown.com.  November 29, 2002.  Accessed June 26, 2019.