Regime Change in Chile and Nicaragua

Stephen Kinzer’s novel Blood of Brothers and Marc Cooper’s work Pinochet and Me give a brief but at the same time thorough and realistic overview of the economic, political and social situation in Chile and Nicaragua making an accent on the America’s international policy and its intervention into these countries’ lives in the 1970s. Both, Kinzer and Cooper were witnesses of the events described and that is why the credibility and accuracy of the sources should not be doubted.

Blood of Brothers is a dramatic story about difficult political situation in Nicaragua in the 1970s. The author presented interviews in his work which he took from different representatives of the country: Sandinistas, the Somoza, average citizens, heads of state, dissidents, etc. 1979 was a very meaningful year in the history of the country because this period is famous for the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

At the age of 25, in 1976, Stephen Kinzer started working in Nicaragua as a freelance journalist. He traveled to the USA and back to Nicaragua reporting dramatic events at that time. He was considered to be one of the best journalists in Central America and due to his journalist and narrator’s talent and numerous interviews given by different people he was able to create his breathtaking work.

The book concentrates on the fall of Somoza and then of the Sandinistas. These were two opposing groups in Nicaragua which, in fact, were both dictators. Kinzer, being a brilliant journalist and a good analytic gives his critical overview of the FSLN, the American government of Regan and the Catholic Church. He presents relations between the USA and Nicaraguan political forces. Still in the 1930s Cesar Sandino, the Nicaraguan leader, held an anti-American campaign which resulted in the overthrow of the Samoza ruling in the year 1979. The Reagan administration planned a “secret war” against the Sandinistas regime which only added chaos in the difficult Nicaraguan situation. Kinzer makes a conclusion and the Sandinistas group gained the power because “those most likely to shed blood are the most likely to triumph”(Kinzer 165). However, they did not only bring suffering and pain to their country, as Kinzer states: “the Sandinistas at least provided a basis upon which a genuine democracy could be built” (Kinzer, 112). Nicaragua came through a very difficult period of its history in the 1970s changing one dictation into another and resisting Reagan’s political intervention at the same time. Thousands of average people became victims of that transition period, however, these combined efforts and tragic and painful experience prepared good foundation for democracy formation.

Marc Cooper being a prominent American journalist and editor in his work Pinochet and Me exposes all the truth about events in Chile in the 1970s and America’s intervention in this country’s policy. This work presents an overview of the life in Chile from the Salvador Allende’s overthrow, a Marxist president, till today. Cooper worked as Allende’s translator and could see everything in his own eyes. He depicts chaos and violence that occupied Chile in the 1970s under the dictator Augusto Pinochet. It was the period of instability, chaos and crime.

“Indeed, Chile had already pitched itself into a dizzying dance of chaos and blood. As Allende’s reforms deepened, as he nationalised the American copper mines and the telephone company, as large rural estates were handed over to their sharecroppers, as wages soared and taxes on the rich increased, the political right and eventually the centre jettisoned their attachment to the rule of law” (Cooper, 56).

For Chile it was a  really painful moment, because people could not leave their houses, the streets were filled with armed people, extreme violence and outage dominated at that time: “Opposition groups fielded chain swinging thugs. Oil pipelines were dynamited. Industrial production was sabotaged. Just a week previous to this morning, on September 4, the Chilean left held its last great gathering to commemorate the third anniversary of Allende’s election” (Cooper, 67). Allende himself was not able to oppose the coming danger and he himself became the victim of a new regime. Allende addressed his nation after his overthrow in 1973 and the wartime state in his country: “The air force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Corporación. My words are not bitter but they are full of disillusionment. And they will serve as moral sanction for those who have betrayed their oath of loyalty: the soldiers of Chile, the branch commanders…” (Cooper, 78). Cooper presents these events and these words so bright and realistic that reading this book you feel as though you had been there and had heard these words. Cooper himself came through this bitter experience and at first being an American citizen was not able to get home because the American Embassy refused to help him. He writes about his effortless attempts to get home: “When I asked if the embassy had issued any special instructions, my respondent only laughed: “No special orders. Just stay off the streets.” She hung up” (Cooper, 61). Only later the American Refugee Department organized help for the victims of these terrible events. For Chile this change of regimes was one of the most difficult periods because it was made by force and people’s lives were sacrificed in the name of this revolution.

On the one hand, America might have had good intentions while interfering into Chile and Nicaragua’s life and policy because in the 1970s these two countries were coming through the transition period of the economic, political and social spheres of life. Owing to the political crisis, the level of the economy was also very low and people were suffering and even dyeing in the streets. However, on the other hand, America’s impact was too strong and pressing. America not being aware of all the peculiarities of these countries which were formed during a long period of time, could not help these countries to overcome the political crisis and reformation change. Reforms can become a painful experience if they are being implemented by force and without people’s agreement, and Chile and Nicaragua brightly show it on their own examples. Kinzer and Cooper’s books are of great value not only for Chile or Nicaragua but also for the whole world because we should learn on the mistakes of others trying not to repeat them in our future. This painful experience has become an important lesson for many countries on the earth. Cooper and Kinzer did their best presenting accurate and realistic information about these two countries and their experience.

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