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New Left Review I/54, March-April 1969

James Petras


Four years have gone by since the Christian Democrat régime of Eduardo Frei took power in Chile. In every election since, the voters, especially the urban workers and the rural peasantry, those most concerned with basic social reforms, have expressed their disapproval of Frei’s policies. In the municipal elections of 1967 the Christian Democratic candidates obtained 36 per cent of the vote, almost 20 per cent less than in the presidential elections of 1964 and 7 per cent less than they obtained in the congressional elections. [1] This article, written before the February 1969 congressional elections, has only been confirmed by the results: further losses by the Christian Democrats, both to the left and to the Right. In a senatorial by-election in the provinces of O’Higgins-Colchagua in June 1967 Frei’s handpicked candidate and leading ideologist of the right-wing of the party, Jaime Castillo Velasco, was defeated by a marxist candidate. The results of a senatorial by-election in southern Chile, considered one of the more traditional and under-developed areas and made up of many smallholders, created the greatest surprise. Here, in 1964, Frei gained over 60 per cent of the vote. The Christian Democrats led by Frei nominated a recent convert who was not long ago a member of the right wing Conservative Party, rejecting a staunch supporter of radical agrarian reform, for this by-election. The candidate supported by the Frei government was defeated, gaining less than 40 per cent of the vote, by a left-wing Radical with Communist support. In union election after union election (steel, metallurgy, or cement) the pro-Frei state—if it existed at all—has been defeated. In industries such as the copper mines where there was a minority of pro-Frei union leaders prior to his term of office they have been defeated (many Christian Democratic trade unionists have attempted, usually unsuccessfully, to disassociate themselves from Frei’s mano dura hard hand policy toward the working class).

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James Petras, ‘Chile’, NLR I/54: £3

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