Allende does not enjoy majority support. Socialists want an accelerated transition to socialism. Communists want a more gradual approach. The Democratic Party shifts to the right. A center-right coalition denounces Allende's administration as illegitimate and unconstitutional. General Pinochet leads a violent 1973 attack on civilian authority during which Allende dies, allegedly by his own hand.
Pinochet begins his military rule by decree and declares a state of siege throughout Chile. The armed forces operate under a National Security Doctrine with the primary task of defeating "domestic enemies." Military commanders dissolve Congress, censor the media, outlaw political parties, and attempt to stamp out Marxism through violence and terror. Members of leftist parties go underground.
World opinion of Pinochet's regime keeps Chile isolated from international affairs. Relations with the U.S. fall just short of ending when the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S. is assassinated, allegedly by the Chilean Secret Police. Pinochet makes himself commander in chief of the military, and the government evolves into a one-man dictatorship. Political "disappearances" are frequent.
Claiming to have received 67 percent of the vote, Pinochet institutes a new "Constitution of Liberty," calling for military domination of the government. This constitution allows Pinochet to remain president through 1988, when a plebiscite is to determine whether or not to grant him another eight-year term. The Communist Party (PCCh) considers options for violent opposition amid economic collapse.
Pinochet hesitantly legalizes political activities. Dire economic conditions embolden opposition and catalyze protest against his regime. Support for Pinochet from the business community and the armed forces weakens. Political parties reemerge and openly oppose the regime by holding large, nationwide demonstrations.
The scheduled 1988 plebiscite ends Pinochet's regime and forces the dictator to allow elections. The state of emergency is lifted. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, running as the candidate of a center-left coalition known as the "democratic opposition" (Concertación), wins the 1989 election.
Operating under the motto "Growth with equity," Aylwin begins the transition to democracy. His government passes laws that increase the number of elected senators. Pinochet remains a prominent figure, announcing his intention to stay on as commander in chief of the armed forces until 1997. Presidential elections in 1993 keep the Concertación in power.
Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei, son of former President Frei, continues his predecessor's move toward civilian-controlled politics. He eliminates nine senatorial positions filled by army appointees. Pinochet, now senator for life, is arrested in London and charged with human rights violations. The Concertación's Ricardo Lagos wins a close presidential election amid economic turmoil.
Former education and public works minister Lagos faces the task of completing the transition to democracy and eliminating the last holdovers from Pinochet's dictatorship. The right wing, led by Joaquín Lavín of the Independent Democratic Union, becomes politically acceptable again. Midterm elections leave the parliament split between center left and center right.
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