The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet

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Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator’s Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Chile, the United States, and the world.

Pinochet’s American backers saw his regime as a bulwark against Communism; his nation was a testing ground for U.S.-inspired economic theories. Countries desiring World Bank support were told to emulate Pinochet’s free-market policies, and Chile’s government pension even inspired President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. The other baggage—the assassinations, tortures, people thrown out of airplanes, mass murders of political prisoners—was simply the price to be paid for building a modern state. But the questions raised by Pinochet’s rule still remain: Are such dictators somehow necessary?

Horrifying but also inspiring, The Dictator’s Shadow is a unique tale of how geopolitical rivalries can profoundly affect everyday life.

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Editorial Reviews

Joshua Partlow
…anger, verging on disgust, toward Pinochet is the driving force in Munoz's meticulous and vivid new book, The Dictator's Shadow. He calls it a "political memoir," but it reads more as a compendium of crimes, whose specificity—names and dates, weapon calibers, entry wound locations, torturers' techniques—has a prosecutorial flavor, as if Munoz seeks to secure the conviction that Pinochet, who died in December 2006, successfully avoided during his lifetime…Munoz's memoir is part of a long, collective effort to uncover what the dictator and his henchmen buried in secrecy, fear and blood; in that sense, this book is a contribution to Chile's healing process. It can be slow reading, particularly when the author dwells on the minutiae of opposition politics, the endless meetings and internal disputes. But Munoz delivers a compelling, personal account of life in a police state and a strong reminder of how far Chile has come.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's reign (1973-1990) still resonates for its brutality and its role in pioneering controversial free-market development policies. This thoughtful retrospective explores that history from a unique perspective. Muñoz, an official in the Allende government overthrown by Pinochet in 1973, found himself vainly confronting the coup with a revolver and a fistful of dynamite, dodging arrest while friends disappeared into the junta's dungeons. In the 1980s he became a leader of the moderate left opposition. His first-hand account of the political movement that, with crucial help from abroad, forced Pinochet from power in 1990, is both shrewd and inspiring. Muñoz, who is now Chile's ambassador to the U.N., is measured in his condemnation of the dictatorship and cognizant of the unstable political environment that formed it. He gives the regime's economic program mixed reviews, on the one hand crediting it with reinvigorating Chile's economy while admitting that it has left most Chileans worse off. He paints Pinochet as a complex character-a canny operator, a "man of limited intellect" and an ideological lightning rod. Combining sharp historical analysis with telling personal recollections, this is an excellent assessment of a tyrant and his legacy. Photos. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Muñoz, currently Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, is both a diplomat and a scholar. While Augusto Pinochet was president of Chile from 1973 to 1990, Muñoz (Democracy Rising: Assessing the Global Challenges) was active in left-wing dissident groups. This memoir of his political life chronicles dissent and protest for 17 years, in reaction to many incidents of arrest, torture-and killings-of the brutal Pinochet regime's opponents. The detailed stories with names, dates, and fates paint a bleak picture of life under an authoritarian ruler. Muñoz's sources are news accounts, interviews, and extensive personal contacts; the result is a detailed and horrifying narrative. President Pinochet's economic reforms, especially privatized pension accounts, received much U.S. praise at the time but are covered here only briefly. The author feels that their benefits, unequally distributed across income levels, were outweighed by the evil in the political realm. Muñoz includes briefer coverage of the multiple attempts to try Pinochet for crimes against humanity before he died in 2006. Recommended for collections on Latin America.
—Marcia L. Sprules

Kirkus Reviews
Searing account of life in Chile under the general who overthrew a socialist president in 1973, then hung onto power through internal terrorism for nearly two decades. Currently Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, Mu-oz served as a young man in the government of President Salvador Allende. Pinochet, then commander of the Chilean army, despised Allende both for his vast education and his democratic tendencies. On September 11, 1973, the general led a military coup that was, the author writes, "Chilean-made [but] undoubtedly U.S.-sponsored," a statement substantiated by the Nixon administration's haste in recognizing the Pinochet regime a mere two weeks after its violent overthrow of a democratically elected government. Fearing for his life, Mu-oz ended up in the United States at the University of Denver, where his classmates in the international-relations program included brainy, hardworking Condoleezza Rice. He could not turn his back on Chile, however, eventually choosing to return and work against the murderous totalitarian government. Although horrified by the general's thuggery, Mu-oz is objective enough to credit Pinochet with helping improve the national economy. This was no small feat, and University of Chicago economists played a significant role in it; the account of their involvement in Chilean policymaking under an immoral dictatorship provides a fascinating glimpse of academics embroiled in the messy real world. The author doubts that Pinochet ever actually understood the policies of "the Chicago boys," since in his view the dictator was not very bright and never had an original thought. Still, Pinochet somehow managed to win the allegiance of those far more intelligentthan he and thus maintain power in the face of massive internal and external opposition. The narrative seethes with palpable tension, as Mu-oz shows Chile's citizens desperately hoping for an existence free from fear. The author's shrewd insights into international relations, national politics and human nature make this a valuable text even for readers who have rarely thought about Chile.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465002504
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 1,493,880
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz was Deputy Foreign Minister of Chile in 2000–2002 and Minister Secretary General in 2002–2003 at La Moneda Presidential Palace before assuming his present post as ambassador to the U.N., where he has served as President of the Security Council. The author of several scholarly books, he is frequently quoted on international issues by the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and other journals. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

1 A Different 9/11 1

2 The Two Pinochets 22

3 The Power to Dictate 60

4 Pinochet's Global Reach 81

5 Regime on the Ropes 120

6 To Kill Pinochet or Defeat Him with a Pencil 160

7 Governing with the Enemy 209

8 Lost in London 242

9 Reversals of Fortune 274

10 Pinochet's Long Shadow 299

Sources 317

Index 327

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 13, 2009

    Underneath the shadow Munoz has turned on the lights

    Born and raised in Chile, I left long before the Pinochet regime, but my heart remains in Chile. What Pinochet did to Chilenos was unforgiveable. Although this book did clarify the good that Pinochet did for the country's economy, I still remain adamant that "the end does not justify the means." The book is well researched and written plus the personal experience of the author makes the reading even more meaningful. Close to the end of the book Munoz states "the degrading and humiliating nature of torture encourages silence." As an author of fiction, I have just finished writing a novel based on the loss of human rights and freedoms in Chile under Pinochet and have titled my book "the color of silence." Munoz reaffirms for me that the world needs to continue to hear about and learn from the sufferings of a country and its people when democracy is destroyed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2009

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