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Assignment: Military-bureaucratic Rule

Assignment: Military-bureaucratic Rule

Assignment: Military-bureaucratic Rule

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Assignment: Military-bureaucratic Rule

The states of Latin America (formerly colonies of Spain or Portugal) gained independence in the 1820s—long before Europe’s colonial empires were dismantled elsewhere. With few exceptions, military-bureaucratic rule was the norm in Latin America until quite recently. Only in a few countries, such as Colombia, Venezuela, and Costa Rica, had popularly elected civilian government ever succeeded. The wave of liberalizing reforms that swept across Latin America in the 1980s ushered in a whole new age in the region’s history and opened a fresh page in its politics.

The ABCs of Reform: Argentina, Brazil, and Chile

In the 1980s, one Latin American military dictatorship after another stepped aside in favor of a democratically elected civilian government. Today, virtually every government in the region qualifies as a liberal democracy.

What drove these regime changes was the need for economic reforms, evidenced, above all, in the huge foreign debts many Latin American countries had amassed. The burden of these debts, combined with outmoded economic structures and uncompetitive (protected) industries, high inflation, mass unemployment, widespread poverty, and gross inequality between the rich and poor plunged the region into a crisis of self-confidence and underconsumption. Millions of people, especially campesinos (peasants) in rural areas, continue to struggle to survive at a bare subsistence level.


Although in most of Latin America political change preceded economic reforms, Chile instituted market reforms before it democratized its political system. Under General Augusto Pinochet, who seized power in a bloody coup in 1973 by overthrowing the elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende, was one of the harshest military dictatorships in the region.

Pinochet’s seventeen-year rule was a reign of terror in which more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared. But the Chilean economy—spurred by market forces and a cozy relationship with the United States—marched ahead.