Chile: from 9/11 to the end of neoliberalism
A cardboard figure depicting former Chilean President Salvador Allende is seen on the roof of a car after people voted during a referendum on a new Chilean constitution
The coup d’état against socialist President Salvador Allende on 11 September 1973 flung Chile into a long, brutal dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet, who implemented far-reaching neoliberal reforms. After this traumatic experience, the country returned to democratic rule in 1989. The following elected governments opted for a gradual approach, adopting measures which, while shoring up economic growth, did not challenge the pillars of neoliberalism erected by Pinochet.
Until very recently, precisely this approach was considered to be a success, vaunted as a model both for other Latin American countries and, not infrequently, for nations across the world. Yet, despite the impressive decline in rates of poverty since the transition to democracy and over three decades of political stability, Chile has now entered into a period in which social conflict and economic tensions are defining its political landscape.
In late 2019, widespread protest and serious rioting extended across the country, with thousands taking to the streets to demonstrate against the various ways in which inequality and the neoliberal model still define Chilean society. In view of the sheer magnitude of the movement, the political class agreed to offer a referendum in which citizens would have the power to decide if the time had come to change the neoliberal constitution and to attempt a complete reconstruction of the country’s institutions.