Chile in a Spanish mirror

A LONG dictatorship ended in a negotiated transition to democracy. The centre-left took office with a moderate programme, reassured the right by pursuing pro-market economic policies, added better social provision and reconnected the country to the world. Power later switched to the right, which persuaded the country that it had become democratic. Then the centre-left returned, this time as a new generation critical of the compromises of the transition. It veered further left but faced economic difficulties.

Spain? Yes. But Chile, too. Since the dictatorships of Generals Franco and Pinochet, politics in the two countries has run along uncannily parallel tracks, with Chile lagging Spain by ten to 15 years. In Spain, Felipe González, the Socialist prime minister in 1982-96, laid the foundations of democracy, combining liberal economic reforms with a new welfare state and leading the country into Europe. When José María Aznar of the conservative People’s Party (PP) took over, he continued many of Mr González’s policies. Then the Socialists returned under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who confronted the right through progressive social reforms (such as abortion and gay marriage...

Read More