The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet

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The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet

By Heraldo Muñoz
Basic Books, 2008
376 pp. $27.50
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In his final heartbreaking radio broadcast, from a besieged presidential palace, Salvador Allende prophesied that "the grand avenues will open again through which free men will pass to build a better society." Thirty-five years later, Chile is a successful democratic society. Yet for those Chileans who were marked by the fierce ideological battles of the Allende and Augusto Pinochet years, deep psychological scars persist. Chilean to the core -- sober, self-critical, smart -- the diplomat and scholar Muñoz writes, with remarkable moral clarity, that "Pinochet summed up the faults of a generation" of Chileans fatally divided among a confused, utopian left; an inflexible, shortsighted center; and an uncompromising, selfish right. In this quietly powerful personal reflection, Muñoz indicts Pinochet for transforming a military coup into a ruthless, self-serving power grab and for unleashing an unprecedented wave of political violence. Muñoz recognizes Pinochet's talents, including his tactical astuteness and his selection of skillful advisers, while deploring his intellectual mediocrity and ethical cowardliness. effectively weaves in the author's own political journey, documenting the brutalities suffered by many of his comrades, his own narrow escapes, and the sweet resurrection of his democratic allies. Muñoz and his colleagues, who now govern Chile, drew the right lessons from their historical tragedies; fittingly, Muñoz currently serves as Chile's ambassador to the United Nations.