Military Casts Long Shadow in Chile
Incoming civilian president denounces last-minute efforts to grant military sweeping powers. LAME-DUCK EDICTS
WORRIES that Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte may try to upstage his civilian successor, Patricio Aylwin Azocar, in Sunday's transition ceremony mirror deeper fears that the Chilean strongman is not yet resigned to his loss of power. Both men will leave the single entrance of the half-built congress in Valpara'iso to military salutes, but General Pinochet, who remains commander in chief, is not expected to take a political back seat.
The symbolism of the ritual reflects the long tug of war between the incoming civilian administration and Pinochet who, with the help of other top commanders, has been busily granting the armed forces broad future powers and guarantees in a flurry of lame-duck measures.
Mr. Aylwin was elected last December to be Chile's first civilian president in 16 years.
He and his advisers have criticized many of the last-minute laws and vowed to undo them - if they can.
Pinochet's 1980 Constitution makes it impossible to remove him as commander in chief.
Though he is theoretically subordinate to the new president, he nevertheless has declared the armed forces' essential autonomy from civilian control.
Many of the laws now being approved by the four-man junta will require more than a simply majority of congress to repeal.
And with nine of the Senate's 47 members appointed by Pinochet or his allies, Pinochet sympathizers can easily block reforms they don't like.
One law Pinochet sent to the junta gives the four branches of the military a guaranteed budget and free rein over spending it. The law, passed in January, also obstructs what Pinochet terms ``political persecution'' of armed forces personnel once he leaves office.
The law would prevent embarrassing trials on human rights violations or corruption during the military regime's years of repressive rule.
A prominent right-wing politician, Julio Dittborn of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), welcomes Pinochet's continued presence as military helmsman as a sort of national ``bogyman'' who can intimidate ``imprudent'' persons who make unreasonable demands.
Others see Pinochet's posture as outright insubordination.
To an incoming minister set to investigate Pinochet family members' financial dealings, Pinochet replied, ``That gentleman can investigate, but I'm going to investigate him too.''
Senator-elect Jorge Lavandero of President-elect Aylwin's own Christian Democratic Party terms Pinochet's behavior ``a bother and an irritation for the country,'' but expresses guarded optimism about Aylwin's chances to untie the knots left behind.
On the military budget, for example, Mr. Lavanadero advises the generals to ``avoid splendor while the rest of the country suffers misery.''
Otherwise, he warns, they run the risk of popular fury.
Another last-minute law prohibits dismissals of civil servants so that the new ministers must keep veterans of the military regime in their employ. Planning minister Sergio Molina says he cannot name his own private secretary.
The lame-duck edicts have a certain petulant tone on occasion, such as the transfer of all presidential vehicles to the Army. By the terms of this edict, Aylwin is left without an official automobile.
The country's cowed judiciary also shows few signs of shifting with the democratic winds.
The Supreme Court recently drummed out of service the only judge who dared to charge secret police officers for torture.
At the same time, newly elected Popular Socialist Union Party deputy Mario Palestro was indicted for ``insulting the commander in chief'' after he criticized Pinochet in a radio interview.
Despite the trench-warfare atmosphere, formal meetings and information exchanges between the two sides have been polite and helpful, spokesmen say.
Some last-minute measures have flopped, such as the attempt to privatize the huge Colbun-Machicura hydroelectric complex. Foreign bidders apparently were scared off by threats to void the sale, and the auction thus collapsed.
In an interview, Luis Maira, Christian Social Movement Party president, said that the right wing's unexpected electoral strength last December reduced the chances for thorough reform.
Mr. Maira says that some of the items on the opposition's wish-list are now ``impossible,'' such as as Pinochet's removal, a new constitution, full airing of human rights abuses, and restitution for those fired from their jobs for political reasons.
Lavandero agrees that Aylwin's Mar. 11 accession does not mean automatic democracy.
``It will be a four-year process of transition,'' he says, but adds: ``Once dictators cede power, they never recuperate it.''