Allende's Chile: An inside View

By Edward Boorstein | Go to book overview
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Constitutionality -- Myth and Reality

I n early 1971 I happened to voice an opinion to a colleague at the Chile Trading Corporation in New York that Chile would soon be facing disorder and violence. "No," he said, "that is not the way we Chileans settle things; you have to understand 'the Chilean idiosyncrasy'; our tradition is to settle things peacefully, according to law." Later in Chile, as my wife and I were talking politics with the wife of a friend, we referred to the possibility of a coup. "No," came the reply, "we are not one of those tropical countries."

Like the people of other countries, Chileans have myths about themselves. One of the most prevalent is that in Chile everything is always done peacefully, according to constitution and law.

To call this a myth is not to deny that for long stretches Chile has enjoyed bourgeois democracy, and that this fact is of great political importance. But to understand both Chile's history and its attempt at socialist revolution it is essential to measure carefully -- to attribute to bourgeois democracy in Chile neither more nor less significance and strength than it had, to understand why bourgeois democracy prevailed during certain periods, while at times open force came into play.

The following table summarizes civil wars, coups, and near


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