Borzutzky, Silvia, and Gregory B. Weeks, eds. The Bachelet Government: Conflict and Consensus in Post-Pinochet Chile. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2010. 240 pages. Cloth, $69.95.
Chile is generally seen as the most successful Latin American country today. It is a stable democracy; it has the highest per capita income in the region; and, it is perceived to have the lowest level of corruption in Latin America. Export-based economic growth averaged 5.5% between 1990 and 2007. By the end of 2008, Chile had free trade agreements with fifty countries. Inflation is low, as is the public debt. Inequality is the highest of OCED countries, but the poverty rate was reduced from 40% in 1990 to 14% in 2006.
In Germany, the background to all politics is the Nazi period. In a similar fashion, the background to all Chilean politics is the seventeen-year dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, from the bloody military coup against Marxist Salvador Allende in 1973 to its end in 1990. From 1990 to 2010, Chile was ruled by a remarkable coalition called the "Concertaci6n" between Christian Democrats, Socialists, and some smaller political parties. This book deals with the last four years of this era, when Michele Bachelet served as President of Chile. The book's importance is magnified by the fact that Bachelet remains popular and is expected to run for president again in 2014. Wealthy businessman Sebastian Pinera of the conservative "La Alianza" coalition was elected president in 2010.
The editors of The Bachelet Government are some of the best-known experts on Chile today: Silvia Borzutsky teaches political science and international relations at Carnegie Mellon University; Gregory Weeks is a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The book is blessedly free of social science jargon. The contributing authors evaluate the institutions and public policy accomplishments of the last Concertacion government from a generally "progressive" perspective. The essays are relevant to students of international development; only one is heavily ideological. Bachelet's government is evaluated within the context of what was then a remarkably conservative, consensus-based political system. Pinochet tore socialism out by the roots in Chile. He established an export-based,, free enterprise economy with weak labor unions and substantially privatized education. Pinochet's timing was impeccable, given the era of globalization and high...