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Already involved in politics before the coup that brought Pinochet to power, Ricardo Lagos was one of the leaders in the movement to restore democracy to Chile and subsequently went on to become its democratically elected President.
In this book, Lagos starts by telling the story of how many of the various opposition parties came together with one purpose – to find a way to oust Pinochet without a violent struggle. The horrors of the Pinochet era are somewhat downplayed; Lagos concentrates more on the ideological and economic effects, although he does give enough information about the ‘disappeared’ and the victims of torture to remind us of the excesses that were carried out by the regime. He is also honest about the amount of support Pinochet had within Chile – when a referendum on the regime was finally held, 44% of people voted for Pinochet to remain in power.
Lagos then goes on to describe the restoration of democracy and the social and economic restructuring that has happened in the two decades since the regime fell. As one of the group of left-leaning leaders who embraced Blair’s Third Way, Lagos looked for innovative ways to involve both private and public sectors in rebuilding Chile’s infrastructure, restoring its economy and tackling the worst effects of poverty. To go by his own account in this book, Chile would seem to have taken huge steps towards becoming a fairer and richer society, although Lagos admits there’s still much more work to be done.
In the last section, Lagos recounts Chile’s role in the UN discussions around the resolutions sought prior to the invasion of Iraq. It’s interesting to see this told from the point of view of one of the smaller countries – to read of the schmoozing and arm-twisting employed by the US and to a lesser extent the UK to get the votes of the unaligned countries. Lagos uses the epilogue to ponder on some of the political challenges remaining to Chile as well as some of the global challenges such as climate change.
Overall, this book is interesting and easy to absorb. Sometimes a little self-congratulatory, that can surely be forgiven from a man who is clearly very proud of how far his country has come in such a short time. An enjoyable, informative and sometimes inspiring read – recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.