Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Chilean official recalls struggles

Chilean ambassador Heraldo Munoz addresses UW community members on his book Monday.[/media-credit]

The current Chilean ambassador to the United Nations told a University of Wisconsin crowd how his country cycled from democracy to dictatorship and back again, advising beware of what you want as it may come true.

Heraldo Munoz’s lecture was based on his book — “The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet” — regarded as one of the best books of 2008 by The Washington Post.

Munoz gave the lecture chronologically, from the Chilean coup of 1973 when Army General Pinochet gained power up to Munoz’s participation in the executive committee of the campaign against granting Pinochet a second term in 1988.


Munoz began by speaking on the coup of 1973 that overthrew the Allende government and how the people of Chile were blind to the idea of the country becoming even more corrupt than it already was.

“We saw these other countries and their dictators, but we didn’t think we would have a dictatorship,” Munoz said. “We lost our sense of innocence.”

Following the coup was the potential rise to power of eventual dictator Pinochet. Pinochet was a radical reformer who supported government policies that severely hurt Chile’s economy, Munoz said.

Munoz said Pinochet was known for killing over 3,200 oppositionists and sending many more into exile to maintain his dictatorship. According to Munoz, it was not long before the people agreed something must be done peacefully.

“The only way to defeat Pinochet was through popular mobilization,” Munoz said.

According to Munoz, resistors began protesting, but Pinochet still would not leave.

Munoz said Pinochet simply began shooting the protestors.

“We came to a moment where we said, ‘What can we do to defeat this guy?'” Munoz said.

He added it was during 1988 that Chilean oppositionists in favor of democracy created a ratification referendum to fight for free elections, a new democratic regime and to make sure Pinochet was not brought back for his second term.

According to Munoz, it was not long before Pinochet became irrelevant and finally gave up all power in Chile, leading up to the formation of Chile as a democratic nation.

Anca Matioc, a UW junior who attended the lecture, saw the parallel between other nations’ struggles with democracy and Chile’s success in achieving it.

“Most countries take a classical challenge to democratization, and so [the lecture] was really relevant to struggling democracies all over the world.”

Like many other emerging democracies, Chile had to first confront a violent overlord.

“Will Pinochet be remembered as a reformer or a brutal dictator? I would say brutal dictator would win, hands down,” Munoz said. “You couldn’t even implement those changes without [murdering people] or without making them disappear.”

Fabiola Sigala-Diaz, a UW senior who also attended the lecture, found Munoz’s words helpful in putting her human rights course in context.

“I was interested in coming here because we haven’t gotten to Chile and I wanted some background,” Sigala-Diaz said. “This was a key for me to get an account from someone who experienced it firsthand.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *