Democracy is a Greek word that means “popular rule.” The Greeks laid the foundation for democracy way back in 508 BC in Athens. There are two underlying principles of democracy accepted universally– Equality and Freedom.
Salvador Allende was a member of the Socialist Party in Chile, and was actively involved in his country’s politics for over forty years before getting elected its President in 1970.
He redistributed land to the landless farmers, reformed the educational system, provided free milk for children and opposed foreign companies taking over his country’s natural resources. Allende’s people-friendly policies were upsetting the Government of the United States. The United States was interested in Chile’s mineral wealth, including the vast deposits of copper. The United States financed a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet of the Chilean Army.
The coup was staged on the 11th
September, 1973, beginning with the military commanders ordering Allende to resign or leave the country. Allende refused and the Chilean Army killed him. General Augusto Pinochet installed himself as the President of the country, and ruled it for 17 years. Amongst the people who opposed the coup and wanted democracy to be restored was General Alberto Bachelet. General Bachelet was subsequently imprisoned and tortured on Pinochet’s orders.
Pinochet’s military dictatorship was in its last stages in 1988. Political freedom was finally restored in 1990 and Pinochet was tried in the court of law for crimes against humanity. Chile has held four presidential elections successfully. In 2006, Michelle Bachelet became the country’s first woman President.
In 1980, Poland was ruled by a communist party known as The Polish United Worker’s Party. Under the communist regime, all factories and big property were owned by the government. Strikes to show grievances were illegal, and so were independent trade unions.
Poland's transition to democracy came with the formation of the workers union known as Solidarity under the leadership of Lech Walesa. Lech Walesa was elected the President of Poland. Chile was a military dictatorship, while Poland was ruled by a communist political party. Chile witnessed a transition from democratic to non-democratic and back to democracy, whereas Poland witnessed a transition from non-democratic to democratic.
There were many differences between the two governments. The government of Poland claimed that it was ruling on behalf of the working classes, whereas the military dictatorship of Chile under Pinochet made no such claims and supported foreign businesses.
The similarities, between the two:
- The people could not choose or change the rulers.
- There was no freedom of expression.
- The people could not form political associations or organise peaceful protests, and could not take political action.