A Nation of Enemies: Chile under Pinochet

A Nation of Enemies: Chile under Pinochet

A Nation of Enemies: Chile under Pinochet

A Nation of Enemies: Chile under Pinochet

Excerpt

this book was born during the tumultuous Santiago spring of November 1984. It was a moment of exhilarating change in Chile. The military-ruled nation, divided by hatred and frozen by fear for a decade since the 1973 coup, was erupting in massive protests. General Augusto Pinochet, the sixty-nine-year-old president, had declared a state of siege, but each night young demonstrators swarmed into the streets, defying tear gas and water cannons, and raising their chant against the regime: "It's going to fall, it's going to fall!"

One evening, choking and trapped between phalanxes of protesters and police, we hailed a taxi. Its gray-haired driver steered us grimly out of harm's way. Then, in a voice both anguished and apologetic, he blurted, "What has happened to this country? I used to be so proud to live in a democracy. Now there is such malignancy, such power. The only ones brave enough to fight it are the youth. Today, I am ashamed to be a Chilean."

Something about this threadbare but dignified man, and the values to which he had quietly clung through a decade of dictatorship, struck us as a key to understanding the impact of political trauma and military rule on Chilean society.

For 150 years preceding the overthrow of President Salvador Allende, Chile had boasted a tradition of stable democratic rule and a culture of austere, enlightened civility. Now it had become a very different country—orderly and efficient, but suspicious and cowed. The values of the past, eroded through a period of bitter ideological warfare beginning in the 1960s and intensifying during Allende's socialist government, had been abandoned in a vortex of rage and panic. During a decade of military rule, these values had been trampled underfoot, yet they had survived in the hearts of . . .

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