We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The General’s Slow Retreat

Chile after Pinochet

Mary Helen Spooner

Publication Year: 2011

In her acclaimed book Soldiers in a Narrow Land, Mary Helen Spooner took us inside the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Carrying Chile’s story up to the present, she now offers this vivid account of how Chile rebuilt its democracy after 17 years of military rule—with the former dictator watching, and waiting, from the sidelines. Spooner discusses the major players, events, and institutions in Chile’s recent political history, delving into such topics as the environmental situation, the economy, and the election of Michelle Bachelet. Throughout, she examines Pinochet’s continuing influence on public life as she tells how he grudgingly ceded power, successfully fought investigations into his human rights record and finances, kept command of the army for eight years after leaving the presidency, was detained on human rights charges, and died without being convicted of any of the many serious crimes of which he was accused. Chile has now become one of South America’s greatest economic and political successes, but as we find in The General’s Slow Retreat, it remains a country burdened with a painful past.

Published by: University of California Press

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.3 KB)
pp. i-viii

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.6 KB)
pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.5 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.6 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

...Returning to Chile after so many years seemed a daunting task, and I am deeply grateful to Odette Magnet, whose encouragement, friendship, and extraordinary networking skills helped reconnect me with the country, and to my editor, Naomi Schneider, who gave me this opportunity. In addition to those interviewed for this book, I would like to thank Barbara Thompson for giving...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (115.5 KB)
pp. 1-10

...The Chilean presidential palace, La Moneda, began life as a Spanish colonial mint in 1805, five years before the country was even a republic. During Chile’s brutal 1973 coup, the palace survived a military bombardment, which destroyed the beams supporting the upper floors and reduced much of the Italian-designed edifice to a shell. For several years afterward La Moneda was boarded up, until General Augusto Pinochet, having won a dubious referendum extending...

Part I: An Uneasy Transition

read more

Chapter 1. Transferring Power

pdf iconDownload PDF (229.7 KB)
pp. 13-34

...Around midnight on October 5, 1988, the commanders of Chile’s air force, navy, and national police entered La Moneda. They had received a summons from General Pinochet, who had just lost a one-man presidential plebiscite, in which Chileans had been asked to approve an eightyear extension of his regime. But there had been no official announcement, and the partial returns broadcast...

read more

Chapter 2. The Conciliator

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.9 KB)
pp. 35-53

...A photograph taken in La Moneda shortly after the inauguration is suggestive of the conflicts ahead, though outwardly the two men appear to be engaging in polite conversation. In the photograph Pinochet wears the army’s white dress uniform and stands less than two feet from Aylwin. Though slightly shorter than the new civilian president, he looks the more confident: his posture erect...

read more

Chapter 3. The Commander

pdf iconDownload PDF (170.7 KB)
pp. 54-72

...A few days after President Aylwin’s inauguration, Pinochet had a meeting with the civilian official who in theory would be his new boss: Defense Minister Patricio Rojas, a Christian Democrat. Rojas had known Pinochet since the 1960s, when he had been interior minister during the Frei government and Pinochet had been a division general in the northern city of Iquique. Toward the end of this period, the Frei government...

read more

Chapter 4. Truth and Reconciliation

pdf iconDownload PDF (186.4 KB)
pp. 73-94

...It was a visit she had been dreading for several months. One of her children had said that two men had arrived at the family home, wanting to speak with her. In the days that followed, her old insomnia returned and her health began to suffer. But she had already decided to tell everything she knew, and when the men returned, she made sure to open the door herself. “My heart started beating faster when...

Part II: Building Democracy

read more

Chapter 5. Elections and the Military

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.0 KB)
pp. 97-118

...As Chile approached its first presidential election since Pinochet left office, the general mood was unmistakably optimistic, as if the country wanted to leave its polarized political past behind. An opinion poll published in March 1993 by the conservative Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP) showed that 68.5 percent of respondents thought the country was progressing and that just over half felt their own economic...

read more

Chapter 6. Politics and Free Speech

pdf iconDownload PDF (169.8 KB)
pp. 119-136

...It is also the location of the country’s new congress and senate complex, a project the Pinochet regime considered one of its proudest public works. Constructed at a cost of $40 million, its brutalist, geometric design makes it an imposing landmark. From its rooftop patio, lawmakers and their staff can enjoy a panoramic vista of the city and the coast, although the complex...

read more

Chapter 7. Justice Delayed

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.0 KB)
pp. 137-155

...The most feared man in Chile, retired army general Manuel Contreras, was beginning to have fears of his own. Since organizing and directing the Pinochet regime’s secret police agency, the DINA, he had amassed a vast network of contacts throughout the country and was used to calling in favors or resorting to blackmail to achieve his goals. After leaving the regime and retiring from the army in 1978, he had...

read more

Chapter 8. London and Santiago

pdf iconDownload PDF (190.7 KB)
pp. 156-178

...This year the army had given him special honors as the institution’s longest-serving commander, and now he was looking forward to a trip to the United Kingdom. Many of his past travels to that country had been very brief, stopovers on the way to China or other Asian countries. But this forthcoming trip would be a real visit, with plenty of sightseeing and time for relaxation...

Part III: Consolidating Democracy

read more

Chapter 9. The Dictator’s Last Bow

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.2 KB)
pp. 181-204

...Augusto Pinochet Ugarte arrived home in Chile to find that a man he had once imprisoned was about to become president. Ricardo Lagos, a Socialist, had defeated Christian Democrat Andrés Zaldivar to become the Concertación’s candidate in the December 1999 presidential election. His opponent was Joaquín Lavín of the Union Democrática Independiente...

read more

Chapter 10. Unfinished Business

pdf iconDownload PDF (190.2 KB)
pp. 205-226

...Olga Weisfeiler, sister of the Pennsylvania State mathematics professor who disappeared in southern Chile in 1985, was horrified to find information about her brother’s disappearance in some of the documents the U.S. State Department had declassified in 2000. She read and reread the documents, which suggested the U.S. embassy had neglected to pursue the case. “The ‘Mickey Mouseing’...

read more

Chapter 11. Michelle Bachelet

pdf iconDownload PDF (182.9 KB)
pp. 227-247

...She had been Latin America’s first female defense minister and would soon become president, one of the few female heads of state in the world whose career owed nothing to a husband. She was a Socialist and a general’s daughter, a pediatrician and a specialist on defense matters who had studied at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and obtained a master’s degree in military science...

read more

Chapter 12. Chile, Post-Pinochet

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.0 KB)
pp. 248-262

...It was the first presidential campaign since the dictator’s death, and it initially looked like a tired political rerun featuring political actors already well known to Chilean voters. By law Michelle Bachelet was prohibited from running for a consecutive presidential term, though her approval ratings had ascended to 78 percent, according to a survey by the Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP). The same...

A Chilean Chronology

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.1 KB)
pp. 263-268


pdf iconDownload PDF (366.7 KB)
pp. 269-280


pdf iconDownload PDF (253.1 KB)
pp. 281-312


pdf iconDownload PDF (86.5 KB)
pp. 313-318


pdf iconDownload PDF (167.5 KB)
pp. 319-334

Production Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (26.3 KB)
p. 335-335

E-ISBN-13: 9780520948761
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520256132

Page Count: 338
Publication Year: 2011